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.
March 21, 2021
The number of unaccompanied children and asylum-seekers crossing the US-Mexico border in search of protection has increased in recent weeks. The former president, his acolytes, and both extremist and mainstream media have characterized this situation as a “border crisis,” a self-inflicted wound by the Biden administration, and even a failure of US asylum policy. It is none of these things. Rather, it is a response to compounding pressures, most prominently the previous administration’s evisceration of US asylum and anti-trafficking policies and procedures, and the failure to address the conditions that are displacing residents of the Northern Triangle states of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), as well as Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and other countries. In Central America, these conditions include:
- Two hurricanes – Eta and Iota – that have left 8 million persons (1.8 million of them children) in need of humanitarian assistance, and have destroyed countless livelihoods and tens of thousands of homes in Guatemala and Honduras.
- Negative economic growth in all three Northern Triangle countries.
- The economic and public health devastation wrought by COVID-19.
- The ravages of climate changes.
- Gang control in many communities, breakdowns in the rule of law, and rampant violence. The homicide rates in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala remain among the highest in the world.
This is not the first time large numbers of unaccompanied children have sought to enter the United States. In the late summer of 2016, the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) and the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) embarked on a fact-finding trip to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Southern Mexico to visit migrant shelters and detention facilities, which mostly held deportees from Mexico. More than 160,000 unaccompanied children and a similar number of migrants traveling in family units had arrived at the US-Mexico border in the 18-month period prior to our trip. In meetings with public officials, community groups, and migrants, we heard repeatedly of the threats to children and adolescents living in communities controlled by gangs. Boys faced conscription, girls sexual enslavement, and family breadwinners extortion. The gangs met even perceived resistance with violence. Children without parents at home were particularly vulnerable. Many children negotiated a daily gauntlet in their trip to and from school, passing through neighborhoods controlled by competing gangs that demanded their fidelity. Gangs had also taken over many public recreational spaces, leaving little safe space for these children. Not surprisingly, some families sought to protect their children by moving, and others by placing their children with family members in other communities. Many adolescents fled their countries of birth, often in an attempt to join their parents in the United States.
Read the full article by Donald Kerwin on Center for Migration Studies
June 15, 2020
LONDON (Reuters) – Human traffickers will profit from rising nationalism fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic, the new United Nations expert on modern slavery said, warning that anti-migrant policies and rhetoric may prevent victims of exploitation from seeking help.
Lockdowns and business closures worldwide are pushing many vulnerable workers – particularly migrant labourers – into precarious jobs and slave labour, according to Tomoya Obokata, the U.N. special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.
In many nations – from Hungary to Saudi Arabia to Malaysia – migrants have been blamed for spreading the virus, rounded up and forced into quarantine, and refused entry or deported.
Human rights groups have warned that mistreating migrants may drive them further into the shadows, leaving them prey to traffickers and increasing their risk of spreading the virus.
“Tightening and closing borders only makes things worse … as it increases human trafficking,” Obokata, a Japanese academic based in Britain, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in his first interview since starting the U.N. role earlier this month.
Obokata is currently a professor of international law and human rights at Keele University in northern England, having previously taught in Northern Ireland and Scotland. He also worked for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Japan.
“Anti-migrant rhetoric could ramp up as result of COVID-19, making it more difficult for victims (of modern slavery) to come forward,” added Obokata, who has studied the issue for 20 years.
At least 131 countries had closed their borders as of late-April, found a U.N. report, with its Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warning the virus could give nations an excuse to adopt repressive measures that hit migrants and refugees the hardest.
The global migrant and refugee population hit an estimated 272 million last year – up by 51 million since the beginning of the decade – while about 25 million people worldwide are thought to be victims of forced labour, the latest U.N. statistics show.
To read the full story on Dunya News: Click Here
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.
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:
- Support the GRACE Act and NO BAN Act
US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking put together atoolkit 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.
- 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.
- 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.