Some people will do just about anything to get a job, feed their families and keep them safe. As a case in point consider the people who live in tin shacks next to sewage ponds in Mexico. Refugees from countries mired in civil war want to escape sexual assault, physical assault, theft and death.
America is proud of its heritage as a land of opportunity. That is why so many Mexicans, refugees and people from other poor countries are willing to risk their lives to move here. They come from communist Cuba in flimsy boats or cross heavily fortified borders into the United States.
Then there are the “entrepreneurs” who offer to help desperate families get into America more safely. These so-called entrepreneurs falsely promise help getting jobs and that will allow the immigrants to provide for their families. They do indeed get jobs. They just are not the jobs these parents envisioned; they are not jobs where hard work will lead to a decent life.
I have used the term entrepreneur in this piece to make a point. I am not referring to legitimate business people. I am referring to the monsters who are human traffickers. This kind of trafficking is nothing less than a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others.
Who are traffickers? They are people or businesses who recruit, transport, harbor, obtain, and exploit victims, often using force, threats, lies, or other physical and psychological methods of control. United Nations data shows it is one of the most flourishing and profitable businesses worldwide, often quoted as the third most profitable business for organized crime after drugs and the arms trade. Human traffickers are making fortunes preying on illegal immigrants, among others.
Traffickers do not tell their victims the new jobs will entail exhausting physical labor or the sex trade. Since the immigrants are not supposed to be here anyway their traffickers do not have to give them any worker protections. They will not get a 40 hour work week; 12 hour days, seven days a week are more common. Workplace safety is not apparent in some industries anyway. On April 7, 2010 an explosion in a Charleston W.V. mine killed 25 workers. The mine had accumulated 1,300 safety violations over five years leading up to the explosion. None had been corrected.
Sex trafficking has no moral boundaries. Men, women and children are all forced into prostitution. Coercion can include violence, humiliation, threats to injure loved ones and even forced drug use to impair the victims.
Traffickers of illegal immigrants have another powerful tool to subjugate their victims. They easily convince their victims they will report the immigrants to immigration authorities and get them deported.
This leaves illegal immigrants in a twilight zone. They cannot get jobs that allow them to contribute to the economy and become self-sufficient. If they do break away from their owners they become the hidden homeless, increasing the number of people already living in misery on the street.
Immigration reform can allow the victims to escape their slavery and join the real economy. Removing the threat of deportation empowers them to take back their lives. Greater legal access to America will prevent trafficking in the first place.
Immigration reform is a crime fighting tool. It can reduce the horror of enslaving children into prostitution. Families can work in places of basic decency with essential workplace safety. We can replace the path to slavery with one to open participation in a good life. It might even be a path to citizenship.