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Human Trafficking versus Human Smuggling

Alice Echo News Journal

According to the U.S. Department of State, the United States (U.S.) is a destination country for the thousands of men, women, and children who are trafficked from all regions of the world. Because of what the U.S. has to offer them, they become victims of trafficking for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. The many victims are enticed from their households and families with the false assurances of well-paying jobs, but instead, they are coerced or forced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor or other types of forced labor.

These victims find themselves in a foreign country, not being able to speak or understand the language. Traffickers frequently take away the victims’ travel and identity documents, telling them that if they attempt to escape, the victims or their families back home will be harmed, or the family will assume the debt.

Human trafficking and human smuggling are often mistaken in open source, intelligence, and law enforcement reporting and are not interchangeable. Human smuggling is a contractual agreement between a smuggler and the person, or family being transported through illegal means (the breaking of immigration laws). Human trafficking contains a manipulative element. Traffickers, or recruiters, use force, fraud, or coercion to move a victim from one location to the next and persuade the victim to remain working for them. Trafficking victims often face human right abuses including debt bondage, deprivation of liberty, and lack of control over freedom and labor. Can a person being smuggled become a victim of trafficking? The answer is yes.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) works closely with service providers, law enforcement, and other professionals in Texas to serve the victims and survivors of trafficking, responding to human trafficking cases, and will share information and resources.

The following statistics are based on the contacts, via phone calls, text messages, online chats, emails, and web-forms that have been received by the NHTH referencing Texas. For the protection and identity of the victims of trafficking, NHTH does not disclose exact statistics in relation to the venues, industries, or caller information. In 2019, there were a total of 2,720 contacts, with 1,080 reported cases in Texas.

Human Trafficking is a universal tragedy that is driven by greed. Those participating in the recruitment process and those who employ labor trafficking victims subject these people to inhumane conditions with little to no pay but an immense amount of manipulation and force. As a result, victims are impacted physically, psychologically, and financially. To help victims, the public needs to be aware of the signs of labor trafficking, implement laws to prevent it, and educate the public to prevent more victims. Perhaps the only saving grace with the crime of modern slavery is that the more people are aware of it, the less likely it is to flourish.

If you suspect, or know of a victim of Human Trafficking contact your local law enforcement agencies.

Hector L. Villarreal

Crime Victims’ Institute Advisory Board Member