International Trafficking 101

January 11, 2012

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. As part of an effort to bring awareness to this important issue, I’m featuring a series of posts on the subject. Earlier today, I posted an informative article by my friend, Kathi Macias. I also asked Charles Powell to write a guest post for me. Charles is the coauthor (with Dillon Burroughs) of a book, Not in My Town, which exposes the scourge of human trafficking in our own American towns. 

Sometimes when I wrote about human trafficking, I’m told to avoid using too many “figures and facts.” While I have used “figures” in my writing as a necessity, I’m not a guy who likes to lean too heavily on statistics unless I know the scientific methods used to obtain them. As for “facts,” in my experience people tend to trust them at face value and then show very little indignation when they are proven wrong. What I want to share in this column is the truth . . . the truth is unchanging and that is what brings me to my topic: the economy of human trafficking.

Trafficking is about money. At the end of the day, the traffickers themselves care precious little about what they are trafficking. If little brown furry bunnies were worth billions of dollars when smuggled across international borders into the US, then that is what they would sell. Bunnies would be the commodity of choice. As it is, the most profitable products are drugs, guns, and people. From my research, the people who are trafficking women into the United States for sexual exploitation are mainly large criminal organizations, usually with a shared ethnic background, such as Russian, Albanian, Chinese or Korean.

Crime can make strange bedfellows. Recently Hizballah (Hezbollah), classified by the US government as a terrorist group out of Lebanon, has been linked to trafficking in guns, drugs, and presumably people (they usually go together) under contract so to speak for Mexican drug cartels near the US border. Their aim is not political gain—it’s money, pure and simple.

The answer to the problem of international criminal organizations trafficking people into the United States is not more law enforcement, not more prisons, nor more politician’s promises. Traffickers don’t fear law enforcement and prison—these are factored into the operation’s overhead. But, they do fear common everyday people like you saying “No more!” to trafficking in their own communities. They fear people leaving the comfort of their homes. The criminals are absolutely terrified of church and civic and grassroots political groups who decide that enough is enough and take action in the streets. More laws and moral statements do not bring social change . . . people do. That was proved by the American civil rights movement.

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