A Florida man was recently charged with “transporting illegal aliens” after at least 10 people died in the back of a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, reports NPR. There were a total of 39 people in the trailer, all of whom were immigrants.
Before I continue, I want to state that I am not going to talk about immigration, rather, I am going to talk about the dangers of human-trafficking. While it may seem like these two things do not have anything in common, they actually do: the people in the truck were being illegally trafficked into the United States.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is “a modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Every year, millions of men, women and children are trafficked in countries around the world. The United States is one of them.
It’s estimated that human trafficking generates billions of dollars in profit every year. It’s second only to drug trafficking.
According to Ark of Hope for Children, 59 percent of the people trafficked are women, 14 percent are men, 17 percent are girls and 10 percent are boys. An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 women, children and men are bought and sold across international borders every year and exploited for forced labor or commercial sex.
Children are the most vulnerable to these crimes because they are often promised things such as a home, school or a way to move from their home.
As of 2012, there were 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, with 1.5 million victims in the United States.
The topic of human trafficking is something that is not easy to discuss because most people do not want to believe that such a thing still exists today. Human trafficking is a very real and dangerous problem.
Interstate 20 runs through Ruston, and most people know that it is a hotspot for drug trafficking, but it’s also a means of human trafficking as well.
It may not seem like there is much we, as citizens, can do because most of the time traffickers do a good job at hiding what they are doing.
The perpetuators of these crimes do not fit any specific stereotype. They can represent any social, ethic and racial group. Some are involved with local gangs, others are members of larger nationwide gangs and criminal organizations and some have no affiliation with any one group. Traffickers can be men or women – many women actually run established trafficking rings around the country.
These people prey on young, vulnerable children, mostly young girls, and promise them safety from their abusive home life, food, shelter or clothing. Other methods used are befriending vulnerable-looking girls at malls, movie theaters and even schools. Traffickers will do whatever it takes to get the victim to come with them so they can make a profit.
There are signs you can look for when you suspect someone is being trafficked illegally. Just like the perpetuators, there are no certain stereotypes for victims. Traffickers tend to prey on at-risk youth and runaways. According to Focus on the Family, within 48 hours of running away from home, a young person is likely to be bought or sold for prostitution or some kind of commercial sexual exploitation.
A common sign in victims is young children who show signs of physical abuse, such as burn marks, bruises or cuts; less appropriately dressed; sexualized behavior; overly tired; withdrawn, depressed, distracted, or checked out; brags about making or having lots or money; or even a young child with a new tattoo, as tattoos are often used by pimps as a way to brand their victims.
While it may be hard to see the signs that someone is being trafficked, we should all be aware of our surroundings, especially if it involves young children.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or you can text “HELP” to 233733.
This originally appeared in The Ruston Daily Leader