Human trafficking in the US is a hard truth

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Head should lead heart when dealing with human trafficking situation, judge says.

By Tim Hernandez

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

We want to believe slavery no longer exists, and if it does, it does not exist here in the U.S., but that is a myth, said a Bexar County judge March 8 at the Methodist Student Center Hot Potato lecture.

About 25 students listened to Judge Crystal Chandler, Bexar County Court-at-Law No. 13, and Rev. Ron Brown, Haven for Hope outreach coordinator, talk about human trafficking in Bexar County.

Chandler said she was not aware human trafficking was occurring in the country until she read the book “Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It” by David Batstone.

After reading the book, Chandler created a nonprofit, Chapter 61 Ministries, because there really was not enough attention being paid to human trafficking in the U.S.

“We want to believe that it is happening internationally but not our own people trafficking our own women, boys and girls,” she said, “It is a stark reality that human trafficking does exist here in the U.S.”

According to information provided at www.humantrafficking.org for 2001 to 2005, it’s estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually.

Chandler said the ministry started by focusing on the trucking industry. Through contact with truckers, she found herself at trucking conventions talking to truckers because as the ministry learned more, it realized a lot of trafficking is a mobile industry.

The ministry educated the industry so truckers could be the eyes and ears where law enforcement could not be, she said.

When first approached, the truckers response was to say they are not involved with smuggling, Chandler said.

Chandler called this the second myth because smuggling and trafficking are not the same.

Smuggling, when it involves people, is bringing someone across international borders willingly and normally under a contractual agreement, Chandler said.

Trafficking does not require the movement of a victim and though it can arise out of a smuggling operation, it does not require it.

There are many instances where a person who is being trafficked is held and not allowed to leave a specific location.

Chandler said trafficking is a crime committed when a person uses force, fraud or coercion to illegally gain profit from another person.

When talking about trafficking, people think of sex trafficking but there is a large amount of labor trafficking occurring in the nation, too, Chandler said.

When it comes to international victims, one of the myths surrounding trafficking is that the victims are poor, uneducated and arrived in the country illegally, she said.

The latest study reveals 70 percent of victims entered the country legally, she said.

Chandler said, Signal International and Global Horizons sought out individuals to employ, and targets usually paid the company $10,000 to $20,000 to be brought to the U.S. under a sponsored work visa with the hope of becoming a permanent resident.

In reality, once they arrive in the U.S. and begin working, they are placed in horrific living circumstances and have money deducted from their paychecks to pay for housing.

Brown talked about how to identify a victim and a captor.

One individual will walk ahead and the person being trafficked will walk 20 to 30 feet behind the captor, Brown said.

The captor is scouting ahead for someone to purchase the use of the victim of trafficking.

“It’s almost like a puppy on a long leash. It’s hard to infiltrate it because you don’t know what he has; what he might be carrying or what you might be walking into,” Brown said. “So it’s very difficult to break that bond.”

Brown said once you separate the two individuals, you might have a chance at recovering the victim, but it needs to be someone of the same sex.

This is very true with female victims because they have trust issues in regards to men.

The fear factor is a big issue, Brown said. These young men and women of all ages are very afraid.

They are usually quite a distance away from home, mostly from out of town and tend to be preyed on at the bus stations.

There are individuals waiting to bring new victims in to their operations waiting for them there, said Brown.

Chandler and Brown both stressed the importance of a concerned citizen not intervening directly should they become aware of a human trafficking situation.

Citizens should not intervene because it could put the life of the victim at risk, Chandler said.

They recommended contacting law enforcement so the situation can be dealt with properly.

The next Hot Potato lecture, RAICES: A Response to Refugees, will be Tuesday in the center.

For more information, call 210-733-1441.

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