I’ve read several arguments lately about the situation at our southern border that are misinformed. The problem lies in confusing human smuggling with human trafficking. Both are criminal behaviors, but they have very different effects on and outcomes for the people being moved.
Those that are transported by human smugglers are being moved across the border voluntarily, often paying a large sum of money for assistance in getting past border patrols. Victims of human trafficking are moved against their wills.
Human smuggling ends when the people have either crossed the border successfully or have been apprehended. Human trafficking continues long past the border. Usually all passports or identification papers are taken from trafficking victims, and they are forced to do whatever their captors, or those they are sold to, tell them to do, often under threat of violence or exposure to authorities. This may continue for years or a lifetime, which is why I refer to these victims as modern day slaves.
Here’s a link for more information from ICE on how to distinguish smuggling from trafficking. ICE report
The entire month of January is designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month with January 11 highlighted as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Some will wear the color blue today to show solidarity and commitment to ending modern day slavery. Below is a helpful list from DHS on how to spot someone who might be a victim of human trafficking, followed by links for how to report to either DHS or the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Personally, I don’t have much faith in Homeland Security these days, so if the person appears to be from another country, call the Human Trafficking Hotline and not DHS, in order to protect the person from ICE and possible deportation abuses. This list is from the Department of Homeland Security.
Indicators of Human Trafficking
Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life. Here are some common indicators to help recognize human trafficking:
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
- Has a child stopped attending school?
- Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
- Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
- Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
- Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.
For more information and numbers to call to report: