In Fiscal Year 2014, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) identified more than 440 victims of human trafficking, and arrested 1,770 individuals involved in trafficking humans, including young women kidnapped by transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) — many of which are criminal enterprise offshoots of Mexican cartels and Central American-based TCOs — and sold into a worldwide slavery black market.
With human trafficking rising, HSI this week made public the names and photographs of 10 fugitives wanted for human trafficking crimes in the hope that tips from the public will lead to the identification and arrest of these individuals.
“The Department of Homeland Security and ICE take the crime of human trafficking very seriously. We have invested countless investigative hours and victim support resources into more than 1,000 cases this past year alone,” said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña. “Now we are asking you to assist us in bringing these fugitives to justice.”
HSI is a leading agency in the fight against human trafficking and routinely works with federal, state, local and international law enforcement agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations, to identify and prosecute human traffickers and rescue their victims.
The agency’s victim assistance program also ensures victims receive services and access to resources in accordance with US law.
This week, Homeland Security Today reported, the House passed 12 bipartisan bills aimed at combating human trafficking worldwide. Most of the bills approved Monday and Tuesday passed the House in the last Congress, but didn’t get votes in the Senate. Republicans are hopefulthat will change this time around given the growing seriousness of the threat.
One of the bills, the Human Trafficking Detection Act of 2015 (H.R. 460), introduced by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) would require DHS to specifically provide a human trafficking awareness-training program for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other relevant personnel.
The bill would require appropriately trained personnel to “regularly receive current information on matters related to the detection of human trafficking, including information that becomes available outside of the department’s initial or periodic retraining schedule, to the extent relevant to their official duties and consistent with applicable information and privacy laws.”
“It is absolutely incumbent upon us to do everything within our means to protect our children from this unthinkable crime and to help those terrorized by it,” said Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), vice chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.
“Human trafficking victims are essentially modern-day slaves,” HSI said in its announcement, noting that, “They can be of any age, race, nationality or gender, although most sex trafficking victims are women. Victims of human trafficking are forced into prostitution, labor and other forms of servitude to repay debts. Vulnerable populations include at-risk youth, runaways and undocumented immigrants who may have been smuggled into the United States to an unfamiliar culture and fear law enforcement.”
HSI stressed that, “A significant part of combatting human trafficking is public education and awareness. By presidential proclamation, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Human trafficking investigations often result from a tip from the general public. HSI encourages the public to report suspicious activity by calling its toll-free number: 1-866-347-2423. From outside the US and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Tips can also be submitted online at www.ICE.gov/tips.
Editor’s note, also read the report, ICE Victim Assistance Program Working to Meet Trafficked Womens’ Needs.