WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recognizes January as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, a global issue the agency continues to fight to put an end to.
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of human beings for the purpose of exploitation or commercial gain. Human trafficking is a detriment to our economy, the safety and health of our nation and the very dignity of our society.
This month offers a unique opportunity to build on existing momentum to eliminate this crime and ensure all people are treated with dignity and respect. Throughout January, law enforcement works with communities across the nation to promote the work being done to prevent human trafficking and support those who have fallen victim to these crimes.
“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 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. 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 Fiscal Year 2019, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 2,197 individuals in connection with human trafficking. From those cases, more than 400 trafficking victims were identified and offered critical assistance. The top five locations for human trafficking criminal arrests by ICE were Los Angeles (344), Houston (205), Atlanta (130), Charlotte (125), and Phoenix (124).
Specialists with the agency’s Victim Assistance Program assess a victim’s needs and work with law enforcement to integrate victim assistance considerations throughout a criminal investigation. HSI can also assist a victim in getting a short-term immigration relief called Continued Presence, which is available only upon request by law enforcement. In the absence of other resources, DHS has an emergency assistance fund which is available for emergency victim assistance needs.
Nationwide, ICE participates in a variety of human trafficking awareness events in January and throughout the year. While human trafficking can occur in a variety of scenarios and industries, indicators of trafficking activities often look the same across most cases.
Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying a victim and can help save a life. It is often a hidden crime, and victims may be afraid to come forward and get help. It is vital that ICE continue to spread the word and educate the public to be aware of the signs so that victims can be identified, and traffickers brought to justice.
Since 2010, HSI has arrested more than 9,000 individuals for human trafficking offenses. This is due in large part to the investigative efforts of local field offices, such as Project Wire Watch. As part of the operation, HSI New York and HSI Mexico City conducted an investigation into a sex trafficking organization after interviewing a victim who was trafficked by a member of the organization. This investigation has resulted in the rescue of 86 victims, 50 criminal arrests, 117 administrative arrests, 50 indictments and more than 100 search warrants.
ICE also works with its law enforcement partners to dismantle the global criminal infrastructure engaged in human trafficking. The agency accomplishes this mission by making full use of its authorities and expertise, stripping away assets and profit incentive, collaborating with U.S. and foreign partners to attack networks worldwide and working in partnership with nongovernmental organizations to identify and aid trafficking victims.
Bystanders play a unique role in identifying and preventing this crime. If you notice suspicious activity, please contact ICE through its tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or www.ice.gov/tips.
Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)