Tag Archive: immigration

Watertown Resident Travels To Southern Border, Explains How Immigration Affects All

December 9, 2021

This month, Sister Teresa Ann Wolf, who served as the director of the Multicultural Center for several years, is at the Mexico border helping to provide temporary shelter and feed refugees and immigrants.

Wolf presented information about the current border issues at the Watertown Public Library on Nov. 1 before leaving on her latest trip.

“Anyone whose life is in danger and is at risk can approach an international border and apply for asylum. It’s an international human right,” Wolf said.

Wolf explained that although this is an international human right, the United States and several other countries fail to uphold this law and many recent immigration restrictions and policies have only caused further harm to already traumatized people.

The political tension that centers around immigration, whether illegal, legal or asylum-seeking, comes with a heavy price. That price is the failure in identifying, solving and reforming issues regarding immigration among congress. But there is also a heavy toll paid by all immigrants, regardless of their visa status. Wolf said communities also suffer from the polarization of immigration in a variety of ways.

Read the full story by Kerry Kularni on Watertown Public Opinion.

Trafficking vs. Smuggling: Understanding the Difference

June 13, 2021

A spike in the number of migrants attempting to cross into the United States from Mexico this spring has led to concerns about a surge in sex trafficking and claims that lax border enforcement is making trafficking easier. We have not seen any evidence that there is in fact, more trafficking happening. Instead, we believe that the concern and calls for policy change to address it are the result of widespread misunderstanding about the difference between human trafficking and human smuggling. Let’s lay out the facts:

Human smuggling is the business of transporting people illegally across an international border, in this case into the United States. Smuggling does not involve coercion. The people the smugglers bring from one place to another place – illegally – generally have chosen to make the trip themselves for any number of reasons. Some are fleeing violence or poverty. Most, and are in fact, paying someone to help them make the journey.

Human trafficking, by contrast, is involuntary and is integral to its very definition. Traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to get someone to sell sex or work in exploitative conditions. Trafficking – unlike smuggling – does not necessarily involve movement or transportation at all. A person can be trafficked in their very own home. Additionally, anyone under the age of 18 who is involved in sex for profit is considered a trafficking victim, regardless of the presence of force, fraud or coercion.

So while smuggling might be affected by policies related to border enforcement, trafficking would not.

That is not to say that immigration and human trafficking are entirely unrelated.

Read the full story on Polaris.

Potato Slaves: The Cost of an H-2A Visa in Texas

September 8, 2020

Workers at a potato processing plant in Texas face abuse by their employers but choose to stay silent out of fear of losing their H-2A visas. Most are unaware they’re even victims of forced labor, or that the fees they’re required to pay to their supervisors for a visa are illegal. They don’t trust the authorities either, and fear retaliation for speaking out. It’s a reality faced by some 36,000 people a year in this border state.

Pablo suffered through countless hardships to avoid losing his temporary work visa and job at a potato plant in Dalhart, in the Texas Panhandle. One day, he said his boss, Xavier López Palacios, hit him so hard in the leg that he was left with a limp. On others, Pablo was pressured repeatedly to work faster.

Palacios, who was in charge of the warehouse until June, also shouted insults at Pablo and threatened to call immigration agents to deport him; under strict orders, Pablo worked up to 22 continuous hours. Once he was so tired that he accidentally fractured his hand. In spite of the doctor’s orders, López Palacios —who has denied the aforementioned accusations—wouldn’t allow Pablo to rest, he said.

Pablo’s name has been changed and some of his personal details were omitted to guarantee his and his family’s safety, and to avoid retaliation.

To read the full story by Patricia Clarembaux & Almudena Toral on Univision: Click Here

Program Launched To Aid Foreign-Born Trafficking Victims In Detroit

May 20, 2020

Detroit — Foreign-born trafficking victims in Metro Detroit can now find sanctuary through an assistance program launched by a Grand Rapids-based family service organization.

After Bethany Christian Services’ success with the Trafficking Victim’s Assistance Program in West Michigan, it decided to replicate its model, opening offices in Detroit and New Jersey.

Karen Hanks, the coordinator of the program, said the organization has seen a spike in cases in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties where victims are often hidden in plain sight.

“Labor trafficking cases are often overlooked for a variety of reasons,” said Hanks, who has been working with the program since May. “All of the cases we currently have are all labor trafficking, almost exclusively to foreign nationals, who come here on a false promise and are vulnerable.”

Those at the highest risk of trafficking are immigrants here illegally, migrant workers, or foreign-born persons solicited into coming to the United States to pursue education or work opportunities. Hanks said it’s very difficult for a U.S. citizen to be pulled into labor trafficking because they know their rights and find opportunities to seek help, whereas a foreigner is already vulnerable and may not know English.

“It’s much easier to trick them and they may end up in a situation they don’t even realize,” she said. “It’s people who often come here illegally, but it shouldn’t make a difference when people are being exploited.”

Because foreign nationals don’t qualify for federal programs, Hanks said it’s difficult to locate safe housing, funding and help with re-entry. Bethany’s program is focused on helping victims return to a normal life at no cost.

They aid with counseling services, food, clothing, housing, employment and family reunification when possible. The program is funded and overseen by a grant from the U.S. Committee of Refugees and Immigrants and is time and financially limited to one year.

To read the full article by Sarah Rahal on The Detroit News: Click Here

Abused Farm Workers – Fainting And Freezing In The Fields

November 29, 2019

In 2016, “Roberto” legally came to the United States for the same reason many immigrants do — to earn a living and a slice of the American dream. But Roberto, a native of southern Mexico, says he suffered a nightmare of coercion, financial exploitation, threats and mistreatment while working on a Georgia farm and, later, at cabbage patches in southeastern Wisconsin.

Roberto arrived in the United States legally under an H-2A visa, which allows seasonal farm laborers to work for specific employers. Roberto says he was forced to pay a fee and turn over the deed to his parents’ property to an intermediary in Mexico as security for his continued work in the United States.

When Roberto arrived in Georgia, the situation was not at all what the recruiter had described. There were hundreds of workers — all men, all from Mexico — living together in cramped barracks and isolated from nearby towns, he said.

“The same day you arrive, that same day they ask you for your passport. They take all of your personal documents,” Roberto said of the contractors, who hired out workers to farms growing squash, cucumbers and cilantro in southern Georgia.

The boss warned Roberto they were there only to work and, “No matter what, they don’t want us talking to any strangers — people that are not from the work site. And that we couldn’t leave either  — work, and then back to the house.”

Roberto — not his real name — is among 14 men from Mexico who were allegedly victimized by a labor-trafficking scheme that transported legal temporary farm workers from Georgia to work illegally at a Racine-area farm, according to an indictment in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced May 22.

He spoke exclusively to Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Watch in 2017, before the indictment, and has asked through his attorneys to remain anonymous to avoid potential retribution. At their request, WPR and Wisconsin Watch delayed publication of the interview to avoid compromising the investigation.

To read the full story by Alexandra Hall and Sarah Whites-Koditschek on Wisconsin State Farmer: Click Here

September 29: World Day for Migrants and Refugees

September 21, 2019

On September 29, 2019 the global Catholic Church will celebrate the World Day for Migrants and Refugees. This is a day to set aside time to focus on the reality of migrants and refugees in our communities and around the world, and take action to live the tenants of our faith which call us to welcome and offer hospitality to those in need.

Today, an unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Every 15 minutes a family is forced to flee their homeland. Many migrants and refugees are forcibly displaced from their homes by violence, climate change, oppressive governments, and poverty. They are the faces of Christ suffering in our midst today.

US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking recognizes that migrants and refugees are particularly vulnerable populations to both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Part of the work to prevent and end human trafficking involves providing adequate support systems for migrants and refugees looking for safety, shelter, and employment in order to care for themselves and their families. The better we can care for our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters, the less likely they will be taken advantage of by traffickers.

On this World Day of Migrants and Refugees, we want to remind you of some resources we created to help you reflect on the connections between migration, refugees, and human trafficking which are free and available for download on our website.

USCSAHT Resources:

There are also a few ways you can take action to support refugees and migrants looking to resettle in the United States. Below are some opportunities for action for individuals and faith communities.

Invitation to Action:

  1. Support the GRACE Act and NO BAN Act

    US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking put together a
    toolkit for World Refugee Day back in June with information about the GRACE Act and NO BAN Act which would help raise the number of refugees accepted into the United States and repeal the ban on admissions from some Muslim majority countries. These acts have still not passed in either the House or the Senate, and we need you to continue to put pressure on your elected representatives, asking them to support the GRACE Act and the NO BAN Act. You can download that toolkit and learn more HERE. There are also prayer resources and personal stories available on that page.
  2. Welcome and Support Migrants and Refugees in your CommunityJustice for Immigrants has prepared a number of resources to help you and/or your community take action on World Day for Migrants and Refugees including a guide on accompaniment and solidarity with migrants and refugees, hosting a welcome meal, prayers of the faithful, special rosary, and church resources. You can download all those HERE.
  3. Download the official Vatican Tool Kit for World Day of Migrants and RefugeesThe Vatican Office for Migrants and Refugees has compiled a helpful kit of resources to aid in marking this important day. You can download that kit HERE.

Thank you for joining us in remembering migrants and refugees on September 29th and taking action to ensure that this vulnerable population is safe from human trafficking. As Pope Francis reminds us in his message for this year’s celebration, “It’s not just about migrants.” It’s about all of us, doing what we can, to face our own fears and courageously follow the path of love.

‘I’m A Victim Of Slavery But I’m Just Seen As An Immigration Problem’

September 9, 2019

Nancy Esiovwa says the five years since she escaped slavery have been as traumatic as her captivity. Now she is fighting the Home Office in court.

Ten years ago, when she was being held as a slave in a family house in Bedfordshire, beaten and working without pay, the only thing that kept Nancy Esiovwa from despair was the belief that she would one day be free. Now she is. But her life since gaining freedom has, she says, been as traumatic and desperate as her experience at the hands of her traffickers.

Shortly after she was identified by the Home Office as a victim of modern slavery in 2014, Esiovwa was left without any kind of support. She ended up on the streets, homeless and destitute and facing violence and assault. The Home Office has turned down her application for asylum and refused to grant her leave to remain. She now lives in daily fear of facing immigration detention or being sent back to Nigeria – the same country to which her traffickers, who have threatened to kill her, have returned.

Her story is not unique. The Home Office has been under increasing pressure to improve their treatment of slavery victims. Frontline agencies say people are being abandoned and failed in their thousands by a system that is supposed to protect and support them.

Esiovwa has decided to fight back. She is taking the Home Office to court over its decision to deny her leave to remain, arguing that it failed in its legal obligation to consider her trafficking status and right to access ongoing counseling and mental health services. The case follows a landmark ruling in 2018 that forced the government to lower the threshold for allowing trafficking victims leave to remain; currently, only 12% of victims who apply get a positive decision.

“I don’t feel that my trafficking status, or my very urgent need to get mental health support to recover from what I’ve been through, both at the hands of my traffickers and at the hands of the Home Office, have been considered,” she says.

“Everyone thinks that when you escape from slavery it is a happy ending, but that’s not true. Even though the government has accepted I’ve been a victim of slavery, they have just seen me as an immigration problem that they want to get rid of.”

To read the full article by Annie Keely on The Guardian: Click Here

Human Trafficking And The Southern Border

July 4, 2019

NPR’s Sarah McCammon talks with Professor Jamie Gates of Point Loma Nazarene University about the fact and fiction surrounding human trafficking across the Southern U.S. border.


Outrage swelled this past week over humanitarian conditions at the southern border, including over the separation of children from their parents or guardians. The Trump administration has repeatedly pointed to human trafficking, both as a reason for his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and as a justification for separating children from the people they’re traveling with. Here’s President Trump on CBS News in February.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And this really is an invasion of our country by human traffickers. These are people that are horrible people bringing in women mostly but bringing in women and children.

MCCAMMON: To take a closer look at these claims, we’ve called Jamie Gates. He directs the Center for Justice and Reconciliation at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and has spent years studying human trafficking near the U.S.-Mexico border. He joins us now. Welcome, professor Gates.

JAMIE GATES: Thank you, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: What do we know, broadly, about how many survivors of trafficking are being brought across the U.S.-Mexico border?

GATES: So our research shows that the trafficking problem in San Diego County is, by far, more local, domestic than it is across the border. In our study, we found 80% of the survivors, 450 survivors that we interviewed, were born and raised in the United States. And of those 20% that were born outside the United States, very few of them were actually trafficked across the border. We know that trafficking does happen across the border. Unfortunately, people conflate smuggling and trafficking all the time. Human trafficking is very specific to having been forced through fraud or coercion – been brought across the border, not by getting someone’s help to come across the border.

MCCAMMON: As we’ve heard, President Trump and other administration officials have raised the specter of human trafficking as a reason for tightening border security and a defense of the administration’s practice of separating children from the people they’re traveling with. Is that an appropriate way to try to prevent traffickers, specifically, from taking advantage of children?


To read/listen to the full story on NPR: Click Here