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Immigration & Human Trafficking

Immigration is a heated subject right now, but the connection between the children at the border and human trafficking must be addressed. Maybe, this is an angle that you may not have thought of before. Hopefully, it will help you understand why children are fleeing their countries to come our border. To summarize, I’d like to give some facts on both immigration and trafficking, then connect the two.

First, let’s do a quick rundown of human trafficking.

  • There are 29.8 million people worldwide enslaved. (Global Slavery Index) 
  • While most of trafficking victims here are American citizens, there are as many as 17,500 people who are trafficked into the United States each year. (End It Movement)
  • The top countries of origin (besides the United States) of federally identified victims in the United States for 2013 were Mexico, the Philippines and Thailand. (2014 TIP Report)
  • One out of five confirmed victims in sex trafficking incidents are not U.S. citizens. (U.S. Dept. of Justice)
  • 67% of all labor trafficking victims are classified undocumented immigrants. (U.S. Dept. of Justice)
  • 50% of all international victims in the United States are children. (FBI)

Now, immigration concerning the United States:

  • Nearly 41 million immigrants lived in the United States. This accounts for 20% of all international migrants in the world. The numbers have continued to rise. (Commission of Filipinos Overseas)
  • Mexican born immigrants account for approximately 28%. This makes them the largest immigrant group in the country with India and China following behind. (
  • Guatemala and El Salvador account for 2% or less each. (
  • 51% of the immigrant population is female.(Department of Homeland Security)
  • The median age of immigrants is 42.6 years. (Department of Homeland Security)
  • There were 10.8 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. in 2009. (Department of Homeland Security)
  • Of those, about 40% entered lawfully with a visa, but overstayed, while the rest entered illegally.
  • While about 56% of undocumented immigrants come from Mexico, there are also millions of undocumented Asian, African, and European immigrants—so this is certainly not just a Mexican issue.
  • Most immigrants without legal status, like those with legal status, come to improve their economic situation (which is often very perilous in their country of origin), to reunite families, or fleeing persecution in their country of origin.

How does immigration and human trafficking connect?

Immigrants, whether legal or not, are vulnerable to traffickers. Legal immigrants can be forced to do slave labor or be sex trafficked like nationals can. Illegal immigrants can convinced to make poor decisions that lead to entrapment into slavery. Whatever the case, it’s important to know that both documented and undocumented immigrants are in danger of being trafficked. Victims of human trafficking are lured with false promises of good jobs and better lives, and then forced to work under brutal and inhuman conditions. Illegal immigrants are highly vulnerable to being trafficked due to a combination of factors, including lack of legal status and protections, limited language skills and employment options, poverty and immigration-related debts, and social isolation. They are often victimized by traffickers from a similar ethnic or national background, on whom they may be dependent for employment or support in the foreign country.

  • Marco decided to come to the U.S. to work for a forestry company after being approached by a labor recruiter in his hometown in El Salvador. The recruiter told Marco and other men in the town that he could arrange for them to obtain H-2B visas and get good-paying and steady jobs with the forestry company. Once he arrived in the U.S., Marco and the other workers were moved by the company to various locations every few weeks. The workers lived in apartments and trailers provided by the recruiter, and Marco discovered that extremely large fees were deducted from his paycheck for housing and travel fees. The labor recruiter also deducted money from each paycheck, and Marco found that he was increasingly in debt. Though the working conditions were fair at the first work site, at later work sites the workers did not have access to clean drinking water and did not have safety equipment. A crew leader threatened Marco and other workers when they complained about their working conditions, and told them that they would hurt their families in El Salvador if they tried to leave their jobs. Once, a worker was injured on the work site. The crew leader refused to take the worker to a doctor, and made the worker pay a large fee to leave the crew early when he could no longer work due to the injury. (Polaris)
  • In New Jersey, several Honduran women to worked as sex slaves and were beaten and threatened with deportation if they tried to escape. The women were smuggled into the country and forced to work up to seven nights a week at bars to pay the debt. Noris Elvira Rosales-Martinez, Jose Dimas Magana, and Ana Luz Rosales-Martinez, pled guilty to human trafficking and they received the maximum sentences for their crimes. (Jersey Journal, January 05, 2008)
  • In New York, Indonesians Nona and Samirah, testified they were forced to work long hours. For misdeeds, they were beaten with brooms and umbrellas, scalded with hot water, and slashed with knifes. Misdeeds included sleeping late or eating food from the trash. Mahender Sabhanani and Varsha Sabhanani, were convicted of forced labor, peonage, document servitude, and harboring aliens. (DHS/ICE Press Release December 19, 2007)

Child Immigration Crisis

Recently, there has been much news coverage dealing with child refugees coming over the border into the United States. Unfortunately, many politicians are using these children as political talking points. Instead, they should be seen as children who are fleeing such countries plagued with gang violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

The 2013 UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s Global Study on Homicide has named Honduras the murder capital of the world. El Salvador and Guatemala are ranked 4 and 5. A study by American Immigration Council found that 59% of Salvadorian boys and 61% of girls cited gang violence or threats as the reason for fleeing to the United States.

In all of the angry screaming matches on TV and in D.C., politicians are scrambling to find a way to get the children out. Unfortunately, some of our leaders on both sides are forgetting their humanity in the process.

The Bill that Some Politicians Want to Change

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act is the cornerstone of all anti-trafficking legislation. It helps eradicate trafficking in the U.S. as well as overseas by ranking countries on their efforts to curb their trafficking problem and threatens those who do nothing with loss of all U.S. non-humanitarian aid. TVPA also helps anti-trafficking organizations with the tools and funds they need to carry out successful solutions. Currently, some politicians are pushing to tear apart this important law. See, this law provides for immigrant children to be seen before an immigration judge to determine if they are fleeing danger and if they are to be sent back home or not. Well, this takes time. Due to corrupt law enforcement, dirty judges in their country and the fact that the traffickers are usually adults, a survivor will need time to trust someone enough to share their story. Am I saying that every one of those children are victims of violence, trafficking or sexual assault? No, not all of them. Just nearly 60% of the children crossing the border recently told refugee experts that they were fleeing these conditions. They need to be given time to trust again. I’m not alone with this opinion. ATEST, the Alliance To End Slavery and Trafficking, is made up of top global anti-trafficking organizations. Their members, like PolarisFree the Slaves and IJM, have raised their voice against changing this important legislation. Feel free to click on their names to read their published views on the issue.  Other groups are joining in for the protection of the TVPA as well,  like the Southern Baptist Convention and Sojourners.

Let me be clear, I am not pushing for open borders or amnesty. I think there is a growing middle in America that believe we can protect our borders, be compassionate and end human trafficking all at the same time. I hope that no matter what obstacles we face as a nation that we listen to those on the front lines like the anti-trafficking organizations I’ve mentioned or the many relief organizations that are in support of reform. After all, they are the ones out there who are doing angelic work. The best part is that we can join them. I hope you do just that.

Below are some recommendations for you to help bring change.


1. For the children.

2. Pray that politicians see these children as creations of God.

3.Pray that every country will become safe, peaceful and prosperous.


1.Speak up when you hear discussions. We are all connected to someone who needs to be informed about this subject. You can reach people I can’t and I can reach people you can’t. Remind others around you that these are children and that they are precious.

2. Sign this petition.

3. Call your Senators, Representatives and the President. Tell them to leave the TVPA alone.

Visit websites like Evangelical Immigration TableWelcoming the StrangerInternational Justice Mission and Polaris.

Rusty Havens
Twitter: @whygonow
Facebook: Rusty Havens, Abolitionist

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