Monday, October 22, 2012

Crossroads: Human Trafficking and Immigration

There are between 14,500 and 17,500 foreign men, women, and children trafficked into
the U.S. every year. Many come under the false pretense of work in America, a way to free
themselves and their family of extreme poverty or other circumstances. However, as they step off
the plane or out of a bus, ready to embark on a new life they are told they have a fee to pay back
to those who offered them a way out. Passports are taken and threats made against their families
back home, and so these young immigrants are forced into domestic servitude, prostitution,
restaurant work, and exploitive labor. With the fear of deportation, angst over the safety of family
members, and no connections in America besides those who brought them over, immigrant
women, men, and children are forcibly trafficked within the country.

In the U.S. detention, a very real threat to immigrants subjected to human trafficking, is a
billion dollar business. The purpose of detention is to deport those with severe criminal offenses.
In the past 4 years over 396,000 people have been deported from the U.S. However, according to
Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) records 45% of those deported had no criminal
records. Detention centers across America, especially those run by companies such as
Corrections Corporation of America, are places where many human rights violations occur. Lack
of medical attention, access to a lawyer or pastor, and contact with family is denied, in addition,
physical and sexual abuse by guards is not uncommon. Young people who came to the U.S. with
their parents as children are sent to countries they do not know or remember after being detained
and deported.
The fight for immigrant rights is strong in the country and with the success of the No
Crete Detention Center campaign, and new immigrant federal law and policy, activists work is
slowly making strides. However, immigrants who have been trafficked into the county and find
themselves in detention centers with their human rights being denied further is a group for which
more advocacy and awareness is needed. Right now, there is a T-Visa for which undocumented
immigrants subjected to human trafficking may apply for stay in America if they adhere to
certain obligations, such as helping to prosecute their trafficker. Yet, there are still thousands of
individuals who are unaware of this opportunity or may not qualify. The crossroads of
immigration, detention, and trafficking is one that is unique and requires the assistance of human
rights activists, social justice seekers, policy makers, and social workers. As rates of human
trafficking continues to rise a stronger response will be needed by those who are able to advocate
 for immigrants whose human rights are being thoroughly denied.


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