Mexico

State Department Report Cites Trafficking Dangers of Family Separation

The State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report last Thursday, warning governments about the dangers of separating families and institutionalizing children. Within the past three months, 2,300 migrant families have been separated at the U.S.- Mexico border, leaving vulnerable children at a greater risk of human trafficking.

“Children in institutional care, including government-run facilities, can be easy targets for traffickers,” the report reads. These institutions, it states, cannot provide the emotional and psychological support these children would get in an intact familial situation.

An immigrant child looks out from a U.S. Border Patrol bus leaving the U.S. Border Patrol Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, June 23, 2018. David J. Phillip/AP

An immigrant child looks out from a U.S. Border Patrol bus leaving the U.S. Border Patrol Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, June 23, 2018. David J. Phillip/AP

The TIP Report’s warning against child institutionalization echoes an earlier statement from Carol Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT-USA: “Children are vulnerable to human trafficking—they are easy to manipulate, trick, and control...When a child is separated from their family for any reason whether poverty, natural disasters, wars, or through government policies they become more vulnerable to human trafficking.” She also said that separation from parents can lead to greater risks later on including mental health issues, namely trauma, “[making] them easy prey for people who want to take advantage of them.”

The TIP Report also states that children leaving or aging out of these institutions do not escape the dangers. “The vulnerability to human trafficking continues, in part due to the physical and psychological damage many of these children have suffered.” Being in a family allows children to “experience common life or social situations, and practice using cognitive reasoning and problem-solving skills.” Without the ability to develop these social, emotional, and psychological skills, these children and young adults continue to be susceptible to traffickers.

The immigration policy widely referred to as the “zero-tolerance” policy was implemented in April, sending minors to government run facilities while they awaited the prosecution of their parents and guardians. Though the policy was ended June 20th, 2,047 children remain in the facilities.  

“What is happening at the U.S. border with children from Latin America is a perversion of law enforcement and migration policy,” said Ms. Smolenski. “It is the antithesis of everything the U.S. stands for (remember “give me your tired, your poor”?)”.


More Information

View the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, in particular the section on Child Institutionalization and Human Trafficking.

Read our Executive Director’s statement on the torture of children at the United States border.

 

Don’t Allow NAFTA to Undermine New Law Protecting Children from Sex Trafficking Online

Don’t Allow NAFTA to Undermine New Law Protecting Children from Sex Trafficking Online, 130 Advocates Tell U.S. Trade Rep

The new law that aims to combat child sex trafficking online could be undermined in the current NAFTA negotiations, according to a letter sent by 130 organizations and individuals to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The group, led by anti-child trafficking organization ECPAT-USA, voiced concern that the tech community is trying to make an end run around the recently passed SESTA-FOSTA law (H.R. 1865).

On May 8, President Trump signed H.R. 1865, which ended websites’ ability to rely on a legal loophole in the law referred to as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996. The bill clarifies that websites may not rely on CDA 230 when they knowingly enable trafficking. In addition, the legislation adds a new tool for criminal prosecutors by expanding an existing federal prostitution statute to cover online sex trafficking.

Tech companies want the U.S. to include Section 230 without the FOSTA exception in the new NAFTA agreement. Such a provision may undermine the bipartisan legislative accomplishment in reforming blanket legal immunity for online platforms that aid child trafficking.

“We are putting our Trade Representative on notice not to bend to the tech lobbying community," said Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of ECPAT-USA. "SESTA-FOSTA passed with overwhelming support in both Houses of Congress. We are not going to turn a blind eye while the tech lobby undermines this new law via a trade deal.”

The letter was signed by 130 organizations and individuals from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.