Immigration and Customs Enforcement is engaging in national and regional efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking as the agency works with law enforcement partners to identify and break apart global trafficking networks.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and the Department of Homeland Security — which combats human trafficking year-round, including with its Blue Campaign for public awareness — is ensuring that its components help spread the message.
ICE has a track record of action, with Homeland Security Investigations logging more than 9,000 arrests for human trafficking offenses since 2010. The agency’s Project Wire Watch, conducted by HSI New York and HSI Mexico City, has resulted in the rescue of 86 victims, 50 criminal arrests, and 50 indictments.
In fiscal year 2019, HSI arrested 2,197 individuals in connection with human trafficking and identified more than 400 trafficking victims, with the majority of arrests in Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Phoenix.
“With authority and responsibility for enforcing more than 400 federal statutes, I can’t think of many things more important than the work ICE is doing to identify, prevent and eliminate all forms of human trafficking – both here in the United States and around the world,” said Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence.
“Our global footprint allows us to be strategically positioned to work with our law enforcement partners as well as non-governmental organizations,” he added. “Not only are we uniquely situated to provide critical human trafficking and child sexual exploitation leads and tips to our international partners, we are able to literally work side-by-side with them to identify and dismantle these criminal networks, and to rescue the victims.”
In Tampa, Fla., HSI partnered with Clear Channel Outdoor to post billboards raising awareness of sex trafficking and forced labor that can include industries ranging from hospitality and food service to domestic work, and urging victims or those who know of a trafficking victim — regardless of whether she or he is a U.S. citizen or foreign national — to reach out at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
“Everyone has a role in combatting human trafficking and we hope this billboard campaign will encourage the public to report suspicious activity,” said HSI Tampa Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael Cochran. “Awareness and outreach are two of the most important tools to identify victims of human trafficking.”
HSI Atlanta has been delivering presentations at regional events throughout the month including the 5th annual Tapestri Human Trafficking Forum in Atlanta and the 5th annual Traffick Jam event in Savannah.
In fiscal year 2019, HSI Atlanta investigated 34 human trafficking cases resulting in 46 victims rescued and 35 convictions.
“This year is the 20th Anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which defined human trafficking and made it a federal crime. Since that day, law enforcement has worked tirelessly to rescue the victims of this form of modern-day slavery,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in Georgia and Alabama.
“Whether it is the victims of sex trafficking, labor trafficking, or the young children who are exploited to produce child pornography, each has a heartbreaking story to tell,” he added. “A story surrounding an issue we aren’t talking enough about as a society. HSI Atlanta is proud to stand side by side with our law enforcement partners and non-governmental agencies across Georgia and Alabama to bring these traditionally hidden crimes to light.”