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Human Trafficking in Latin America

Human Trafficking in Latin America

On November 3, 2018, Posted by , In Information Reports,Latin America, With Comments Off on Human Trafficking in Latin America
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Written by Brennan Albrecht

 

One of the most egregious crimes of the 21st century is human trafficking. This phenomena is not new, but it has increased in scope and scale in the past several years as international travel and technological development have increased to be able to hide it better and spread it more rapidly. Latin America remains one of the most troubled regions of human trafficking, as heavy migration and a lack of anti-trafficking laws has permitted widespread sexual slavery and human smuggling [1]. This report focuses on trafficking in northern Latin America, from Central America to Mexico and into the United States.

As debates surrounding immigration within North America have drawn attention to the plight migrants face, significant attention has come to cross-border trafficking. Much of this trafficking happens between the US and Mexico. There are three main types of human trafficking that occur in these areas: sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and migrant trafficking. Sex trafficking is the most widespread throughout the world, and the United Nations estimates that some 48,000 or more women and children were victims of some form of sex trafficking in Latin America in 2016 [2]. Most of these traffickers belong to larger gangs or drug cartels and act as a branch of the overall business [3]. Although most sex trafficking stays within Latin America, some has entered the US from Mexico or the Carribean, and vice versa. Worldwide, some estimate that nearly one million people are trafficked across international borders every year [4]. Border police in nearly every country in the world have to deal with this issue, and at great cost.

Between the US and Mexico particularly, human smuggling has become even more widespread. Human smuggling is different than trafficking in that it does not coerce the person smuggled into forced labor or sexual activity [5]. It is just the act of illegally transporting a person into a new country. In the effort to reach the US or Canada, some desperate migrants allow themselves or their children to be smuggled, which in turn opens the door for these migrants to be forced into trafficking or being separated from their families [6]. Worse yet, smuggling cartels have monopolized parts of the Mexican border, thus coercing or tricking desperate migrants to pay large sums of money to be smuggled into the United States [7]. The United Nations estimates that such cartels that operate throughout Latin America earn billions of dollars a year, with some estimates placed at over $6 billion in revenue in one year alone [8]. These smugglers often subject their passengers to harsh conditions and at times even abuse. Smugglers will often force their female or adolescent passengers into sex or labor trafficking if the pay is better than what migrants pay [9].

Due to the convoluted nature of smuggling and trafficking between Mexico and the US, the US Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies have taken controversial measures to protect children, the most famous of which includes the family separations happening at border crossing checkpoints [10]. Homeland Security officials claim that much of this stems from smuggling fraud which is when smugglers claim to be the parents of the children they are carrying but, in reality, are not.  The Border Patrol recently reported that they positively identified over 400 cases of this kind of fraud within the last five years, and they believed that by separating the children from the adults in suspicious cases, they can further the reduction of migration fraud and trafficking [11]. Pundits debate the effectiveness and morality of such policies, but some solutions have been offered to reduce fraud and family separation simultaneously. Among them is DNA testing. The availability of DNA tests could make it simple to identify if apprehended individuals and smugglers are truly related and if the group merits being separated [12]. Others believe that established training on identifying trafficking and smuggling fraud is enough and simply needs to be utilized better by the Patrol [13]. Either way, the issues of smuggling and trafficking are widespread at the border and must be addressed effectively and justly.

 

Sources:

 

[1] United States State Department. “Trafficking in Persons Report”. June 2018. https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/282798.pdf

[2] United Nations. “Global Report on Trafficking in Persons” December 2016. https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/2016_Global_Report_on_Trafficking_in_Persons.pdf

[3] Vayrynen, Raimo. “Illegal Immigration, Human Trafficking and Organized Crime.” Poverty, International Migration, and Asylum. Pp 143-170. 2005. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9780230522534_7#citeas

[4] Aldeguer, Christine. “A Critical Analysis Of Cross-Border Human Trafficking: An Opportunity For The Development Of An International Framework” Academia.  https://www.academia.edu/11821414/A_Critical_Analysis_Of_Cross-Border_Human_Trafficking_An_Opportunity_For_The_Development_Of_An_International_Framework

[5] U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Report. “Human Trafficking and Smuggling.” January 16, 2013.  https://www.ice.gov/factsheets/human-trafficking#wcm-survey-target-id

[6] Wood, Stephen. “The Intersection of Human Trafficking and Immigration” Harvard Law: Bill of Health. June 27, 2018. http://blog.petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/2018/06/27/the-intersection-of-human-trafficking-and-immigration/

[7] UN Office on Drugs and Crime. “Smuggling of migrants: the harsh search for a better life” UNODC Reports. https://www.unodc.org/toc/en/crimes/migrant-smuggling.html

[8] UN Office on Drugs and Crime. “Smuggling of migrants: the harsh search for a better life” UNODC Reports.  https://www.unodc.org/toc/en/crimes/migrant-smuggling.html

[9] UN Office on Drugs and Crime. “Smuggling of migrants: the harsh search for a better life” UNODC Reports.  https://www.unodc.org/toc/en/crimes/migrant-smuggling.html

[10] Hennessy-Fiske, Molly. “Migrants, young and old, are not always related. Border Patrol says fear of child trafficking forces separations” LA Times. May 8, 2018.  http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-border-patrol-dna-20180508-htmlstory.html

[11-13] Hennessy-Fiske, Molly. “Migrants, young and old, are not always related. Border Patrol says fear of child trafficking forces separations” LA Times. May 8, 2018. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-border-patrol-dna-20180508-htmlstory.html

 

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