by Joey White – Director of Media & Events
January is Human Trafficking Awareness month, and the COHRE team is exploring how immigration and migration intersect with human trafficking.
So what is human trafficking? The United Nations use this graph to define human trafficking:
Linkage Between Migration and Human Trafficking
Our sister organization, Human Trafficking Center (HTC) are the experts on the matter of human trafficking and use academic rigor, sound methodology, and reliable data to promote understanding of human trafficking and its causes, conditions, and cures. In a recent blog, HTC defines the connection between trafficking and migration:
“Trafficking is migration gone terribly wrong.” – David Feingold. These words given by David Feingold in his piece Trafficking in Numbers: The Social Construction of Human Trafficking Data give a whole new insight into what human trafficking is, what realms human trafficking occurs within, and how human trafficking happens. Indeed, human trafficking and migration are inextricably linked. Human trafficking is heavily influenced by migration. Any policies regarding one have a tremendous effect on the other. This is why it is so vital to examine immigration policies and take into account what impacts they will have in the anti-trafficking sphere, particularly in today’s political climate.”
The Trump Administration’s Stance on Human Trafficking
In February, President Donald Trump publicly committed to battle human trafficking stating he would “direct the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies that have a role in preventing human trafficking to take a hard look at the resources and personnel that they are currently devoting to this fight.”
However, as the Trump administration aims to tighten immigration policy, human trafficking is expected to skyrocket as exploited migrant workers are less likely to report exploitation in fear of deportation.
The Effects of Tight Immigration Policy on Human Trafficking
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more commonly referred to as ICE, is one of the primary federal agencies that fights human trafficking. On its website, ICE claims to use a victim centered approach that acknowledges the fact that victims must be free from fear and intimidation to be effective witnesses in prosecuting traffickers. However, in the volatile climate that is U.S. immigration policy ICE is one of the most feared organizations in the nation, especially amongst those in this country without legal documentation.
An excerpt from another HTC blog on immigration and human trafficking elaborates on the hypocrisy of a nation to claim dedication to combat human trafficking while simultaneously restricting access to legal immigration:
“The criminal justice system works to capture and punish perpetrators of this heinous crime. While there is nothing wrong with such efforts, they often fail to effectively address many of the root causes of human trafficking, such as socioeconomic conditions and migration issues.
“It is severely hypocritical for a government to claim it is effectively combating human trafficking while simultaneously enacting policies which make people more likely to become trafficking victims. People who are forced into illegal channels of migration, or who are made to remain in countries with limited opportunities are inherently more vulnerable to exploitation… The best way to start to have an impact on a crime as complex and multi-faceted as human trafficking is to address the root causes leading individuals or populations to become vulnerable in the first place.”
For more information on human trafficking, be sure to check out the Human Trafficking Center.
For more information on human rights issues surrounding migration and immigration stay tuned for COHRE’s next blog!