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According to U.S. Government, it estimates that there are nearly 800,000 to 900,000 victims that are trafficked globally each year and nearly 17,500 to 18,500 are trafficked into the United States. The United States is a destination country for thousands of men, women, and children trafficked largely from Mexico and East Asia, as well as countries in South Asia, Central America, Africa, and Europe, for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. Currently women and children comprise the largest group of victims. Trafficking victims are often physically and emotionally abused ("Fact Sheet," n.d., p. 3). Human trafficking is the most sordid of the ways that labor moves around in the new global economy.
As recently as ten years ago, the term "human trafficking" was rarely referred to in debates about migration policy. Today, however, it has become both a major subject of discussion amongst governments and organizations active in the migration field. Human Trafficking has also become a priority for those working in many other policy areas such as human rights, health, gender, law enforcement and social services (Laczko, 2002).
So why is human trafficking so prevalent through the United States and Mexican border, what exactly has the government done in order to prevent this modern day slavery, and we will further discuss some of the implications that interdependency creates when attempting to combat this Transnational Crime.
Trafficking through U.S. - Mexican Border
Why is there such a high incidence of trafficking through the U.S. - Mexican Border? According to the Organization of American States, some of the individual factors motivating this phenomenon include: poverty and lack of economic opportunities, economic dependants and children, low education levels or an inability to read and write, physical and sexual abuse, lack of adequate housing, lack of information regarding safe and/or legal immigration, discrimination based on the age and gender of the person, social conflicts and historical practices of the sale of women and children (Cicero-Dominguez, 2005).
Similarly, some of the external factors that lead to the phenomenon are: abuse of minors and widespread gender discrimination, ease of immigration and weak border controls, absence of adequate legislation to deal with immigration and trafficking, government corruption, existence of trafficking and smuggling networks, demand for cheaper labor in the receiving countries, demand for sexual services in the sending and receiving countries, and restrictive immigration laws (Salicrup, 2006).
Although there has been vigorous action on the part of the Mexican authorities to address the issues of trafficking and smuggling, the Mexican legal framework remains largely untouched and hence limited in its crime-fighting scope and effectiveness. Despite their attempt to adopt international protocols to fight human trafficking and increase law enforcement cooperation between the United States and Mexico, the overall lack of economic growth in the Latin American regions, coupled with historical migration patterns, have further increased the already booming industry for the illegal smuggling and trafficking of people (Cicero-Dominguez, 2005).
The U.S. has however taken steps on both sides of the border, working with our Mexican partners, to support the Mexican government's campaign against the violent cartels and to reduce contraband in both directions across the border. Under the Merida Initiative, the U.S. government invested $700 million in the year 2009 to work in collaboration with Mexico on law enforcement and judicial capacity. The Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security and Treasury all ramped up their personnel and efforts at the Southwest border (Napolitano et al, 2009).
In the announcement delivered it further advised that the funds would help to improve law enforcement, crime prevention and strengthen institution building and rule of law. It also advised that it would further assist with increasing the capacity for Mexican border security efforts in order to help stem illegal flows in both directions across the border. The fund would also provide non-intrusive inspection technologies to enhance Mexican interdiction efforts; training for rule of law and judicial reform efforts; information technology to enable Mexican prosecutors, law enforcement, and immigration officials to communicate securely. The funds would also assist to provide 5 helicopters to increase air mobility for the Mexican Army and Air Force, and a surveillance aircraft for the Mexican Navy; support and training for implementation of Mexico's new legal system and to strengthen observance of human rights by judicial authorities and police; and help for Mexican prosecutors' offices to develop an effective witness and victim protection programs (Napolitano et al, 2009). Another very important part in creating a successful program is the fact that the Department of Defense has also continued to work with Mexican officials in order to increase information sharing, interoperability, and training and equipping of counter criminal forces.
Now that we have a general idea on some of the efforts being provided to Mexican officials in order to combat Human Trafficking let us take a further look at what the U.S. is doing domestically in order to prosecute, protect and possibly prevent further proliferation of Human Trafficking.
Human Trafficking and Protocols to Combat
During the last decade governments have made a great attempt at creating laws and increasing security to combat the problem of Human Trafficking (Chuang, 2006). The U.S. has played a major role in Human Trafficking due to our many borders that surround us. We constantly hear and are told about people who seek to cross into America in search of a better future, or who are in search to migrate from their homelands into countries such as ours where there is a more attractive prospect of attaining better employment (Cicero-Dominguez, 2005); however, the search for a better future sometimes isn't all that it is made out to be. Some seek family reunification and others search for a better life in countries with higher economic growth, and in hopes of being able to provide a better future to their children (Cicero-Dominguez, 2005), but many times these people are exploited and become victims of Human Trafficking.
As stated by the U.S. Department of State, three-quarters of all foreign adult victims identified during the Fiscal Year 2008 were victims of trafficking for forced labor. Some trafficking victims, responding to fraudulent offers of employment in the United States, migrate willingly legally and illegally and are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude or debt bondage at work sites or in commercial sex.
Trafficking in persons is an international criminal enterprise of such magnitude that it is the topic of U.S. legislation, regional cooperation and United Nations Protocol and Convention (Hyland, 2001). Due to the increased security threat posed by Human Trafficking (Aradau, 2004) there was a need to create laws to combat and prevent this transnational crime phenomena; therefore, there was the signing of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons. The protocol lays out the following: "Trafficking in persons' shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation" (Laczko, 2002).
The U.S. took the lead in creating and passing a comprehensive legislation that addresses the prevention and protection of victims in addition to the prosecution of traffickers. All nations that are currently creating domestic laws in response to the United Nations protocol may look at the United States and our legislation model (Hyland, 2001).
First we will discuss some of the current legislations in place that assist with the criminalization of the activity of Human Trafficking. Due to Human Trafficking being a very serious threat, it is outlined in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004: Section 7202 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 established the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center. The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General and members of the national Intelligence Community oversee the Center. The Center will achieve greater integration and overall effectiveness in the U.S. government's enforcement and other response efforts, and work with other governments to address the separate but related issues of human smuggling, trafficking in persons, and criminal support of clandestine terrorist travel. Human smuggling, terrorist travel and trafficking in persons are transnational issues that threaten national security. ("Fact Sheet," 2005, p. 9).
In the Immigration and Nationalization Act, Section 274(a)(1), (2), provides for criminal penalties under Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324, for acts or attempts to bring unauthorized aliens to or into the United States, transport them within the U.S., harbor unlawful aliens, encourage entry of illegal aliens, or conspire to commit these violations, knowingly or in reckless disregard of illegal status ("Fact Sheet," 2005, p. 4).
We must not forget to touch upon the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (Chacon, 2005-2006). The Victims of Trafficking Act is intended to offer statutory protection to the victims of severe forms of human trafficking in order to increase the penalties to the person who commits the act, and also to increase international cooperation in the efforts to combat Human Trafficking (Chacon, 2005-2006).
The United States Congress enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000 and created a new visa, called the "T-visa" for victims of "severe forms of trafficking." Some of the severe forms included "sex-trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age," as well as "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery" ("Immigration and Nationality Act," n.d.). This particular law was passed as a result of a growing national awareness of the global epidemic of international trafficking of human being, which is very close to weapons trafficking and second only to drug trafficking in terms of revenues derived (Cianciarulo, 2008).
Now that we have discussed some key Acts, we will further discuss what the U.S. does to prosecute traffickers. The United States prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through criminal statutes created and further strengthened by the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), as amended. Congress most recently reauthorized the TVPA in December 2008 and proceeded to make numerous statutory improvements ("U.S. Government Domestic Anti-Trafficking Efforts," 2009). A major group within Human Trafficking are children who are trafficked for subjection to sexual exploitation. In an effort to combat this, the FBI and the Department of Justice's Criminal Division continued to combat within the U.S. through the Innocence Lost National Initiative. Along with the federal government, state governments also play an important role in identifying and prosecuting trafficking cases. As of April 2009, there are 42 states who have passed criminal anti-trafficking legislations ("U.S. Government Domestic Anti-Trafficking Efforts," 2009).
We must also take into consideration what the United States Government is doing in order to protect victims of human trafficking. Currently we provide strong victim protection services and the Department of Homeland Security provides two principal types of immigration relief authorized by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act ("U.S. Government Domestic Anti-Trafficking Efforts," 2009). First we provide continued presence to human trafficking victims who are potential witnesses during an investigation or prosecution, and secondly we provide T non-immigrant status or "T-visas," a special self-petitioned visa category for trafficking victims (Roby et al, 2008).
Lastly, we must discuss some of the prevention efforts currently within the United States in order to provide citizen awareness to the general population. In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE launched a human trafficking billboard campaign focused on raising public awareness and prevention. This public service announcement was displayed throughout into several different languages beyond English and Spanish, including Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Finnish, and Korean in order to cause a bigger impact within the community. Also, the Department of Health and Human Services continued to fund the Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking public awareness campaign. Further, the HHS' National Human Trafficking Resource Center provided national training and technical assistance and operated a national hotline from victims of Human Trafficking ("U.S. Government Domestic Anti-Trafficking Efforts," 2009).
We now have a more general understanding of what is causing Human Trafficking through the Mexican borders, we also have data from the U.S government advising that we are in fact providing aid to Mexican officials in order to further decrease the departure of individuals from their country, and have also discussed what the U.S. has enacted as a protocol to prosecute, protect and further prevent Human Trafficking. Now, I ask myself, why if millions of dollars are being used every year to combat this transnational crime is it that we do not have a better handle on the situation. In order to further explain the reason for the proliferation of Human Trafficking we must take a further look at the Interdependency theory.
Interdependency plays a major role in the continuation of Human Trafficking because if in fact the relationship did not exist then there would not be some of the major problematic underlying factors in the attempts to fight transnational crime. For one, we must take into consideration the governments' interdependency with the particular transnational crime. In Farer, it states that "the state-smuggler relationship is a paradoxical one, defined by irony and contradiction: the smuggler is pursued by the state, but at the same time is kept in business by the state" (Farer, 1999, p. 91).
If there were no transnational crimes then there would not be any governmental jobs to stop the proliferation of these crimes. All of our agents who currently secure our borders, provide protection, and investigate Human Trafficking across the border would not be necessary. It is undeniable that much of the fight within the Mexican border is against Human Trafficking and we depend on it in order to continue. On the same token, the smuggler also depends on the state. The state has created and further enforced the laws which provide for the opening and high profitability of trafficking in the first place (Farer, 1999, p. 91). This paradoxical relationship is what in many ways keeps the cycle of Human Trafficking going.
In Farer's Smuggling Wars: Law Enforcement and Law Evasion in a changing world, he provides a more analytical way of looking at the issue of smuggling through the border. He goes on to say that previously people used to simply be self-smuggled in, but that do to the tightening of border controls this has now created a more specialized type of individual who has in fact become an expert in the field of i.e. Human Trafficking. As a direct impact of this, the cost to be trafficked or smuggled through the border has gone up (Farer, 1999, p. 91).
In some cases, the economic dependency on Human Trafficking can be significant. In many Latin Countries we hear that the funds derived from illegal activities go directly into their central bank and this in turn cushions their unemployment crisis and other social dislocations created by areas shifting from a manufacturing to a service sector (Farer, 1999, p. 93, para. 3). Many times the bribes and payoffs from smugglers not only supplement the meager incomes of corrupted law enforcement officials but also, in some cases, help sustain entire police agencies and departments (Farer, 1999, p. 93, para. 5).
From personal experience, in the Dominican Republic this is very prevalent. Immediately after the earthquake in Haiti we saw an increase in AMET presence (The Metropolitan Transport Authority, Dominican Police), due to the many Haitians attempting to be smuggled or trafficked into the country. Currently many Haitians within the Dominican Republic serve as servants or workers for cheap labor. Not only is the trafficking of people into the country a problem, but these same officers are usually at the center of bribe and payoff situations. Due to their low wages, they will take the opportunity during their Police Stops and question you on where you are going and what you were doing in hopes that the more they delay you, you may simply hand off your money. This like in many foreign countries is the problem. Due to the police interdependency with the crime, the many efforts to possibly prevent or stop the proliferation of the crime is practically unattainable.
When discussing interpedently we must also note the laws and their selective nature of their enforcement. When pressured by the state, most smugglers simply wish to evade rather than attack or even overtly challenge the government or state. We can infer that not only do smugglers depend on state laws for their existence, but the enforcement of such laws often creates better organized and more skillful smuggling groups (Farer, 1999, p. 92, para. 1).
As stated in Farer:
"Laws and their enforcement also means that smugglers necessarily interact symbiotically with elements of the state apparatus. While some smugglers attempt to intimidate or violently neutralize the state, the general rule is that they must buy off key state officials because they cannot entirely bypass or bully them. Smugglers may be seen as purchasers of much-needed service monopolized by the state: the no enforcement of the law. Corruption, in the form of bribes and payoffs, functions as a kind of informal tax on smuggling and is viewed by the smuggler as a necessary (even if costly) business expense. As law enforcement pressure increases, so too does the corruption tax. Moreover, smugglers may rely on corrupt state officials not only to provide protection against (and/or eliminate) rival smugglers and at times even provide protection against other state authorities (meaning different police agencies can end up shooting at each other)." (Farer, 1999, p. 92, para. 2).
Interdependency puts many things into perspective. Not only are we able to see that these laws that we have in place are the same ones that are providing smugglers and traffickers their "jobs." We are able to note that as the authorities stepped up their efforts of combating the traffickers, they in turn have needed to become bigger and more sophisticated in their attempts to traffic individuals across the border.
Now that we have a better understanding on Human Trafficking and the U.S. efforts to prosecute, protect and further prevent Human Trafficking across the U.S. - Mexican border, we can, through the use of the Interdependency theory see why it is that there has not been a clear decrease in the number of people who are trafficked through the border. As time has passed and the efforts to stop this transnational crime have increased we have also seen an increase in the sophistication on the operations to bring over individuals. While on one hand, law enforcers are becoming bigger, better, smarter players, on the other hand, the smugglers are increasingly advantaged by the same state promoted economic and technological changes (Farer, 1999, p. 95, para. 2). Although this theory is not ideal, since it basically says that as long as we have the legal system then there will be people who will go against it and will create "transnational crimes," this theory implicates a continuance of the Legal and Governmental system.