Children fleeing violence in Central America may also be fleeing human trafficking

traffickingMedium2Our last blog on human trafficking discussed the vulnerabilities of minors, many of whom are part of the child welfare system, who are at risk of becoming a victim to one of the fastest-growing criminal industries in the world.

Although human trafficking is a global issue, a common misconception is that the problem is only occurring abroad, far from the United States. This is not the case. Human trafficking puts children in danger right here in the U.S. and in Nebraska. While many victims of domestic human trafficking are from the United States, many children are trafficked from other countries into the the country. While these minors suffer similar vulnerabilities and abuse, it is important to realize the unique situations of the victims trafficked from other countries.

According to the Department of State’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, the United States is a “source, transit and destination country,” for victims of both sex and labor trafficking. This report identified victims as U.S. citizens as well as those who have entered the U.S. with or without immigration status from countries including Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand, Honduras, Guatemala, India and El Salvador at the highest rates.

Immigrants in the U.S. who are without immigration paperwork are at a much higher vulnerability to trafficking for many reasons, including “lack of legal status and protections, language barriers, limited employment options, poverty and immigration-related debts, and social isolation.”

The trafficking of foreign nationals into and within the U.S. has been further brought to our attention as we continue to monitor the children fleeing extreme violence in Central America. Many of these children are also likely fleeing human trafficking in their home countries.

Although drug trafficking is a significant cause of this violence, it is not the only type of trafficking occurring.  The force, fraud and coercion that children face to take part in the drug trade in Central America are the same tactics used in human trafficking recruitment. Tales of young boys forced to sell drugs, and stories like Andrea’s are clear examples of sex trafficking, all within the drug trade.

If children forced into the drug trade aren’t already victims of human trafficking, they are also at risk if they attempt to cross the border. The Guardian shares an estimate that “more than half of Central American migrants trying to cross into the U.S. fall into the hands of trafficking or smuggling rings, or end up in sexual or forced labour.”

Human trafficking is a crime that traverses international borders and is happening here at home.  The severity of this crime is a reminder of the importance of preserving the Trafficking Victims Protection Act which protects minor victims of human trafficking. To ensure the safety of girls like Andrea and countless other youths, an expedited deportation of children only threatens to return them to danger and to the hands of their traffickers and violence they already have risked their lives to escape.

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