Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently delivered the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report. This annual report reviews and documents human trafficking for the prior year (2018). It reported that “the top three nations of origin for victims of human trafficking in 2018 were the United States, Mexico, and the Philippines.”
The United States is, by most accounts, the world’s leader; the hegemon. How can such a developed country be home to such rampant human trafficking?
The Sex Industry
Geoff Rogers, co-founder of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), says that the U.S. has a problem. Specifically, it has a sex problem: “The United States is the No. 1 consumer of sex worldwide.”
The State Department’s report found that specific groups were more likely than others to fall into the human trafficking vortex. These groups included those in foster care, homeless youth, those suffering from addiction, and illegal immigrants. Rogers also stated that almost half of the entire human trafficking trade in America is made up of minors from the foster care system.
Brook Bello, the founder of More Too Life, explained that “The average victim that we work with, that’s over 18, started being raped at three.” Human trafficking tends to be a lifelong prison for its victims.
A Border Problem
This issue is very complex. There is no one solution; instead, it requires a multi-faceted response. However, one major part of this response must include a secure southern border.
It’s no surprise that Mexico also ranks highly in this report. Because the U.S.-Mexico border is so weak and unprotected, criminal organizations have been able to take advantage of that weakness. In 2018, ICE and Homeland Security made 1,588 human trafficking arrests on the US-Mexico border, and identified 308 victims. Of those arrests, 1,543 were for sex trafficking violations. In fact, almost one in three women is sexually assaulted en route to the southern border.
However, many other illegal immigrants also fall victim to sexual abuse and trafficking. The ease of evading U.S. law attracts migrants from all over the world. This includes Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and South America.
Without tough border security, it becomes too easy to traffic people, drugs, weapons, and more. A wall would inhibit traffickers’ ability to travel their established routes so easily, and would deter others still. And arguably, if they aren’t as easily tempted by the journey, many women might not become abuse victims.
The Need for Stronger Security
As Secretary Pompeo said when presenting the report, human trafficking does not solely take shape in the form of transnational trafficking. It also happens within the bounds of sovereign borders, and that problem also needs to be further addressed. But arguing that we shouldn’t address it at our border because it also exists in a domestic form makes little sense.
Building a wall, strengthening security, and reforming immigration will help address human trafficking. Traffickers’ routes will be interrupted, and more people will be apprehended. These measures will have ripple effects in the countries these migrants are traveling from, while also allowing the United States to address its own trafficking issues at home.
More importantly, young children will not be seen as a product to be sold for access to our country.