Many assume that once trafficking victims are picked up by U.S. border patrol, they are in safe hands. Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) told Breitbart News in June, “The fact is the average age of a child arriving is 14. Half of them are girls. There’s a vast network of people trafficking in human beings. Anybody that doesn’t know that, go to the United Nations report from last month of April–Honduras, murder capitol of the world.”
He added, “And among the ten top countries, it’s followed by El Salvador and Guatamala. But why would children come from those countries? Now they’re coming here. Now we have a policy in the United States that when they arrive we have to find them a safe place. That’s a very sensible policy in the United States.”
However, according to a white paper by Brenda Zurita, a research fellow at Concerned Women For America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, that just is not the case:
In the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2013 (Section 1261, which is an anti-trafficking provision), another layer was added to the care of UACs. If a UAC turns 18 while in the care of HHS and is then transferred to the custody of the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), the alien may be placed in an alternative to detention such as “with an individual or an organizational sponsor, or in a supervised group home.” How easy would it be for traffickers to snatch this young adult from these situations and put them into debt bondage, forced labor or sex trafficking?
How did Health and Human Services get involved? Zurita gives a history of how authority was transferred through the years relating to trafficked individuals.
Zurita notes the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Section 462) transferred the authority to coordinate and implement the care of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in federal custody from the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In subsequent years after this transfer, the powers given to the HHS Secretary to care for UACs were expanded twice.
Six years later, Zurita says, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008 (Section 235), the procedure to handle UACs was altered in an effort to combat child exploitation and trafficking. Children from Mexico and Canada are interviewed and repatriated immediately if it is determined they have not been trafficked or do not face danger upon return to their countries.
“However, for UACs from non-contiguous countries, the procedure is much different. Homeland Security has 72 hours to transfer them to HHS custody, whereupon UACs ‘shall be promptly placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child.’ The HHS Secretary is supposed to ensure that each custodian with which a child is placed has their identification and relationship to the child verified,” Zurita explained.
“The HHS Secretary is also supposed to determine that the custodian is capable of providing for the child’s physical and mental well-being. Currently, the number of custodial situations to verify is 52,000 and counting. How many of these “verified” custodians are working with traffickers? How many of these children will simply walk away from their ‘least restrictive setting?'”
As of now, the influx of thousands of young illegal immigrants from Central America are being picked up by U.S. border patrol and are processed, detained and released at different U.S. facilities across the country.
The vice-president of the Border Patrol union in the Rio Grande Valley told KRGV that agents are seeing more of what they are calling “pseudo families” or “fake families.”
Border Patrol union representative, Chris Cabrera said, “It’s frustrating to know that people are you know working the system like they are.”
Illegal immigrants traveling by themselves are lying to border patrol agents and the adults are claiming to federal officials they are here with their children, KRGV reported.
“You’re having unaccompanied children with unaccompanied adults and they’re coming together and saying, ‘Hey you know what, when we get there, we’re going to be a family. You’re my uncle and you’re my nephew we’ll get through the process. Once they release us, we get passed the bus stop, we get passed the check-point then we’ll go our separate ways,'” said Cabrera.
“How do we know who this kid is traveling with? Is the person intending on doing some harm to this child?” he asked.
Zurita says the traffickers and pimps are well aware of the U.S. trafficking laws and find ways to take advantage them. In a statement to Breitbart News, Zurita writes the traffickers particularly take advantage of the 2013 VAWA reauthorization :
Traffickers understand this law and the loophole it provides. If you want to bring in a lot of trafficking victims it is a great cover. In addition, because the system was created when the average number of annual UACs was below 7000, the system cannot handle an influx of tens of thousands. By flooding the system the traffickers get the victims released quickly and without much background screening of who is taking them. The Obama Administration is even handling the transportation costs by moving them to cities all across the U.S.
“The traffickers who would take UACs from HHS as “family” members are most likely not the same people who brought them up through Mexico. Personally, I think it is MS-13 behind this influx. The MS-13 gang is very active in all three source countries where these children are coming from as well as Mexico and it would be easy for them to bring UACs through Mexico and then have members in America claim to be family members and go to HHS to claim the children. In addition, the Obama Administration signed the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 which contained TVPRA provisions and one of them states that when UACs in HHS custody turn 18 they are basically released into the “least restrictive” setting. The majority of the UACs are between the ages of 14 and 17. For many, it won’t be long before they can just walk away from a foster home or any unsecure placement.”
Zurita points out that In 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a statement that said in part, “MS-13 is being targeted for its involvement in serious transnational criminal activities, including drug trafficking, kidnapping, human smuggling, sex trafficking, murder, assassinations, racketeering, blackmail, extortion, and immigration offenses.”
It continued, “MS-13 consists of at least 30,000 members in a range of countries, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, and is one of the most dangerous and rapidly expanding criminal gangs in the world today. MS-13 is active within the United States, with at least 8,000 members operating in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia. MS-13’s criminal nature can be seen in one of its mottos, “Mata, roba, viola, controla” (“Kill, steal, rape, control”). Domestically, the group is involved in multiple crimes including murder, racketeering, drug trafficking, sex trafficking and human trafficking including prostitution.”