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[NAFI, 2007, pg 8] on the other hand there are many adult women who unfortunately end up as forced laborers. These people happen to be victims of false promises who were lured with the idea of well paid jobs and a higher standard of living. The traffickers often employ psychological tactics in forcing their victims to submission. Routinely the travel and identification documents of the victims are seized and they are threatened with dire consequences for their family members back home if they attempted escape or to inform the local police. Many of these victims end up in brothels, massage parlors, domestic services or forced into factory labor. [ICE, 2010] the victims are often physically abused, injected with drugs and suffer from a high risk for HIV and other sexual infections.
The Problem of Arizona
Arizona, being a border city happens to be the hub of not only illegal immigration operations but also of organized human trafficking. Thousands of people from Mexico and other Central American countries are smuggled into the U.S. And coerced into prostitution and forced labor. As U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke said recently, "It occurs largely in the shadows,." The victims do not come forward to the law enforcement officials for fear of retribution. Officer Kevin Jeter, a special agent who is in charge of the ICE investigations in the Yuma region of south western Arizona says, "Running illicit prostitution rings disguised as massage parlors is a common tactic used by human-trafficking organizations," [Daniel Gonzalez, 2010]. Based on the U.S. bureau of justice statistics, in the 21 months from Jan 2007, the State of Arizona has witnessed 1,229 incidents of human trafficking with more than 80% of the cases being forced into commercial sex trade. Back in 2003, the U.S. department of Justice funded the formation of Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking (ALERT), a coalition network between the law enforcement agencies, NGO organizations, social service agencies and dutiful citizens in an all out effort to end the miseries of human trafficking victims in the state. This initiative was developed to encourage more active partnerships with the various organizations and to encourage pro-active reporting by the public and to provide direct support services to victims of human trafficking in the State.[ALERT]
The passing of the new immigration bill SB 1070 in Arizona has however, created more concern among human rights defenders. Under this bill, all illegal immigrants can now be imprisoned. Many worry that this new bill may in fact increase human trafficking as victims may no longer wish to come forward to the law enforcement agencies to report their circumstances for fear of being arrested and deported. Since these victims no longer are in possession of their travel documents, and in most cases are likely to have expired status, they will be less inclined to report their misery to police. That is to say that under this bill all human trafficking victims could possibly be considered as criminals. As a UNICEF survey reported, "trafficking is not declining at all, but has simply become less visible, with victims unwilling to seek assistance for fear of repatriation, deportation and stigmatisation." [UNICEF] This new bill by the Arizona government is thought of as a negative step that strengthens the hold of the drug cartels and other organized crime networks across the Mexican border as it hinders the innocent victims from seeking help. The bill will also affect undocumented immigrant workers who are subjected to domestic violence from seeking legal help. [Amanda Kloer, 2010]
Police Response to Human Trafficking
Though the levels of Human trafficking continues to surge, swift and well planned police response has burst many a human trafficking network across the country and released many young girls and women from bonded labor and forced sex trade. The Immigration and Customs enforcement officers are the main players in controlling human trafficking operations. As Erik Breitzke, the head of the ICE's Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit says, "One of the most disturbing trends in recent years has been the increasing sophistication of criminal networks when it comes to trafficking in human beings. This requires a sophisticated law enforcement response, and no other agency has ICE's combined authorities for enforcing immigration and customs laws, which gives us a set of powerful tools for attacking these organizations" [ICE] .
Once the police receive a tip of a sex trade, detectives are immediately pressed into detailed surveillance operations. Once the surveillance operations confirm the suspicion, police officers then employ undercover agents to get an inside view of the gang operation. One of the recent successful undercover operations in human trafficking was 'Operation Guardian Angel'. 'Guardian Angel' was a joint operation by the Human Trafficking Rescue Project, a joint task force from the Independence Police Department, the FBI, ICE, and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department. This operation was initiated in response to the growing child prostitution network in Kansas city. As mentioned earlier, Sexual predators and human traffickers come from different walks of life. This operation in fact resulted in the conviction and arrest of four people from different domains including an active duty Naval recruiter, an insurance manager, Car dealership finance manager and a truck driver.
The officers placed Internet Advertisements for underage prostitutes and the respondents were asked to come to an 'undercover location' that was fitted with audio and video recording devices. When the culprits came and paid cash for the underage girls the evidence was recorded and they were immediately arrested. as, Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, reported, "Operation Guardian Angel was launched in response to the black market that exists in our community for child prostitution. The U.S. Attorney's Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to combating child sex trafficking by investigating and prosecuting the customers who create the demand for child prostitutes. These sexual predators can come from every walk of life and any socio-economic group." [FBI, 2009]
US operations are not only restricted to sexual and human trafficking violations within the U.S. soil but also extend internationally. The Protect act of 2003 was in fact specifically meant to strengthen the laws to prosecute sexual offenses commited by U.S. citizens in places away from the country. 'Operation Twisted Traveler' by the ICE is a recent intelligence operation that helped nab three U.S. based sex tourists, who commited pedophile offenses in Cambodia. As John Morton, the Homeland security Assistant secretary of the ICE says, "Boarding a plane to a foreign land is no protection. If you molest children overseas and we find out, we will investigate you and we will seek to bring you back here to face justice. The arm of the law is long, it's determined, and it's looking for you." [William Lajeunesse, 2009] This operation was a collaborated effort of the ICE, the Cambodian police, 'Action Pour Les Enfants', a human rights organization and the International Justice Mission. These successful operations hopefully serve a warning sign to all child traffickers and U.S. based sex tourists and is part of the U.S. government's effort to breakdown the human trafficking and child sex network.. [William Lajeunesse, 2009]
Human trafficking is a huge industry ranking next only to drugs and weapons smuggling. The U.S. is an important destination for men, women and children trafficked from across the world. Poverty, globalization and the promise of higher standards of living drive countless young people to move outside their country often through illegal channels only to find themselves end up as hapless victims of human trafficking. Collaboration is the key to successful dismantling of the multinational human trafficking network. The Immigrations and Customs department, the FBI and the local police are engaged in these collaborative operations and have successfully investigated several cases of Human trafficking and brought relief to countless young women and children who were suffering the horrors of bonded labor.
International effort is the key to prevent, protect and to prosecute the offenders. While active measures by police proactive citizens and human rights organizations have saved many victims from the perpetrators of these horrific crimes, effectively destroying the human trafficking syndicate would necessitate a more ground level approach, one that addresses the important factors that contribute to the demands of the market. This would involve eradicating the drug market, destroying the drug cartels, developing programs for destitute children and women, addressing poverty and other social initiatives that limit traffickers access to these children. While we are very focused on rescuing the victims and prosecuting the offenders we should also be actively engaged in seeking out and eliminating the causes that underlie the vulnerability of the victim population. An all round effort including social, political and law enforcement policies and practices are needed for the successful dismantling of the global human trafficking menace.
1) Polaris Project, (2007), 'Human Trafficking Statistics', retrieved Apr 30th 2010,, 'http://www.cicatelli.org/titleX/downloadable/Human%20Trafficking%20Statistics.pdf
2) Alert, (2009), 'Arizona League to end regional Trafficking', retrieved…[continue]
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