Sadly, slavery is still alive and well throughout most of the world, including the US. People are purchased, sold, and traded for financial gain or exploitation. In fact, human trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry that is second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of crime committed across national borders.
Border patrol agents are well situated to recognize and disrupt human trafficking, since more than 52,000 officers and agents protect nearly 7,000 miles of land border along with 328 ports of entry.
US Customs and Border Protection trains its personnel on the frontlines to recognize the signs and indicators of human trafficking and to take appropriate action when they identify potential victims. The agency spearheaded a number of initiatives to combat this horrific practice.
One of these initiatives is led jointly with the US Department of Transportation. “Blue Lightening” trains airline personnel to ID potential traffickers and their victims. Once they have done so, they notify federal law enforcement. With a real-time reporting mechanism, law enforcement agents are able to research and analyze information while the flights are still in the air. Then, they coordinate an appropriate and effective response.
With the demand for labor decreasing throughout the world, impoverished workers are taking greater risks than they used to in order to survive. This situation makes them ripe for exploitation. Some migrant workers are forced to work without pay, while women may be enslaved for the purpose of prostitution.
The situation is particularly critical along the border between Texas and Mexico. Mexican cartels have begun operating a highly sophisticated network for human trafficking in this area. A report by the Texas Department of Public Safety estimates that as many as 100,000 illegal aliens became victims of trafficking or exploitation in the state in 2013.
Unaccompanied minor children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, and 28,352 such children were intercepted entering Texas in fiscal year 2013. According to the Polaris Project, which studies human trafficking, approximately 100,000 children are thought to be in the US as part of the sex trade.
Fortunately, the heightened number of border patrol agents along the Southwest border is preventing both human trafficking and drug smugglers from entering the US.