Human Trafficking

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Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of human trafficking are young children, teenagers, men and women.

Overview of Human Trafficking

Approximately 800,000 to 900,000 victims annually are trafficked across international borders world wide, and between 14,500 and 17,500 of those victims are trafficked into the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of State. After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and is the fastest growing.

Many victims of human trafficking are forced to work in prostitution or the sex entertainment industry. However, trafficking also occurs in forms of labor exploitation, and victims can be found working in restaurants, factories, and as domestic workers, janitors and farm workers.

Traffickers use various techniques to instill fear in victims and to keep them enslaved. Some traffickers keep their victims under lock and key. However, the more frequent practice is to use less obvious techniques including:

  • Debt bondage – financial obligations, honor-bound to satisfy debt
  • Isolation from the public – limiting contact with outsiders and making sure that any contact is monitored or superficial in nature
  • Isolation from family members and members of their ethnic and religious community
  • Confiscation of passports, visas and/or identification documents
  • Use or threat of violence toward victims and/or families of victims
  • The threat of shaming victims by exposing circumstances to family
  • Control of the victims’ money, e.g., holding their money for “safe-keeping”
  • Telling victims they will be imprisoned or deported for immigration violations if they contact authorities

In October 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) made human trafficking a federal crime. It was enacted to prevent human trafficking overseas, to protect victims and help them rebuild their lives in the U.S., and to prosecute traffickers of humans under Federal penalties. Prior to 2000, no comprehensive federal law existed to protect victims of trafficking or to prosecute their traffickers.

Trafficking vs. Smuggling

Trafficking is not smuggling. The law protects someone who is a victim of trafficking. The law does not protect someone who is smuggled into the country. Here are the differences:

Human Trafficking Migrant Smuggling
  • DO NOT CONSENT to their situations.
  • Forced to work, have sex and make money for traffickers.
  • Can’t leave where trafficker tells them to stay.
  • Does NOT require physically moving a person.
  • Can be legal residents, undocumented persons & U.S. citizens.
  • Involves fraud, force, or coercion.
  • Consent to being smuggled.
  • No coercion to come here or stay here.
  • Free to leave, move, change jobs, etc.
  • Illegal crossing of an international border.
  • Smuggling is always international.

A person may start off being smuggled, and then turn into a victim of trafficking.

Victims of Trafficking and Their Needs

There are four general areas of victim needs:

  • Immediate assistance
    – Housing, food, medical, safety and security, language interpretation and legal services
  • Mental health assistance
    – Counseling
  • Income assistance
    – Cash, living assistance
  • Legal status
    – T visa, immigration, certification

Victims of human trafficking are vulnerable human beings who have been subjected to severe physical and emotional coercion. These trafficking victims are usually in desperate need of assistance. Victims of human trafficking need to know that once they come in contact with social service providers, they should feel protected and safe.

The Human Trafficking Team at TRLA: Getting Victims of Human Trafficking the Help They Need.

TRLA helps victims of trafficking by:

  • Advising victims of their rights and possible legal remedies.
  • Acting as a liaison between victims and law enforcement.
  • Applying for T or U visas that allow victims to stay in the country legally.
  • Applying for family re-unification visas that will bring the victims’ family members to the country.
  • Assisting victims to access housing, food stamps, cash, and medical assistance.
  • Filing civil lawsuits against traffickers, such as civil rights, wage and tort claims.
  • Providing legal services to victims that are minors.
  • Making referrals to social service organizations and connecting victims with resources needed to regain control of their lives.

If you suspect trafficking has occurred, please contact TRLA immediately at (956) 393-6219. We can help protect the victim’s rights. If a victim’s situation is life threatening, call 911 and report the victim’s location to the police.


Support Staff