Articles

Unveiling the Shadows: Human Trafficking Amidst Immigration Struggles in 2024 

By Maria Jose Fletcher, Esq. Director BWJP’s National Center for Systems Change and Advocacy  

As we welcome 2024, we are unfortunately confronted by global events that continue to cause massive movement of people escaping conflict, violence, and economic instability. It is only appropriate that during January, Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we call attention to the impact that wars, political instability and the responses from recipient countries have on hundreds of thousands of individuals who are trying to find a safe place to settle and a job to support themselves and their families.   

UNHCR recently estimated that by the middle of 2023, for the first time in recorded history, the number of people forcibly displaced is over 110 million, with over 36.4 million refugees[1]. We are certain that for many, unplanned and forced migration exposes them to a myriad of dangers, including being the target of dishonest labor recruiters and other human traffickers.  Worldwide, women and children continue to be the most vulnerable to this type of violence, although for numerous men their journey can also culminate in forced labor.  

Given these statistics, it is not surprising that many of those who have been displaced will attempt to seek protections by coming to the United States. In their efforts to enter and remain in our country, people encounter unsurmountable challenges and most depend on the unreliable advice and guidance offered by dishonest individuals seeking to profit from their distressing circumstances. More recently, in addition to the violence experienced in the country of origin, during the migration journey and while being forced to work or provide services, immigrant survivors are met by local, state and national immigration policies designed to reject and punish those seeking refuge in the United States. These strategies contradict most efforts made to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and eventually eliminate human trafficking[2].  

If survivors fear the systems designed to protect them, they will remain silent about the abuses suffered. Silence will only protect the traffickers and generate further exploitation.   

Some of the most important lessons learned directly from survivors before and since the enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act[3] is that those who have access to social, emotional, and legal support, who are meaningfully involve in the resolution of their cases and become familiar with their rights in the United States are less likely to be exploited and revictimized.  For many it is critical to know that the government is there to respond to their needs and that the legal system will protect them and their families, when necessary.  For others it is essential for their reintegration that the members of their community in the United States understand what human trafficking is, become informed about the available protections and benefits, and provide a safety net to all survivors.  Multidisciplinary, inclusive, cohesive, and comprehensive responses to labor and sex trafficking send a message to traffickers that their actions will be seriously penalized. In every state, in every city, in every town in the United States, immigrant and refugee survivors, irrespective of their immigration status should continue to be protected.  

Systems, service providers and communities – including corporations and other employers – play a critical role in preventing human trafficking.  

Every decision and strategy designed to address this matter should incorporate the advice and leadership of people with human trafficking and gender-based violence lived experience.  Therefore, I leave the last word to those who are the experts. As stated by the National Survivor Network (NSN), “social policy and norms (like immigration policy, anti-Black racism, and homelessness policy, for example), can either prevent or drive trafficking by decreasing or increasing vulnerability”. Furthermore, the NSN affirms that “effective anti-trafficking efforts should support meaningful changes in immigration reform, asylum, homelessness policy, 2SLGBTQIA+ protections, and child welfare practices”, among other[4].  Public awareness of the harmful impact on survivors of laws and policies intended to curtail the rights of many is critical to prevent further abuses. One can never underestimate- the power of meeting with, calling, or writing to elected officials to question what they are doing to address human trafficking. 

Educating oneself and others about human trafficking, its signs, and available resources is vital. By spreading awareness within communities and workplaces, individuals can contribute to creating safer environments and support networks for survivors. Learn more through our systems change and advocacy center here: 

https://bwjp.org/our-work/systems-change-and-advocacy/

Further education and resources can also be found with these organizations: 

www.freedomnetworkusa.org 

www.tahirih.org 

www.asistahelp.org 

[1] https://www.unhcr.org/global-trends-report-2022 

[2] See U.S. Immigration Policy and Human Trafficking: Two Sides of the Same Coin by Hailey York | Aug 11, 2022 

https://traffickinginstitute.org/u-s-immigration-policy-and-human-trafficking-two-sides-of-the-same-coin/

[3] https://www.govinfo.gov/app/details/PLAW-106publ386 

[4] The National Survivor Network (NSN) is a values-based, survivor-led professional membership community for survivors of human trafficking who are engaged in or preparing for leadership in the many movements to end violence, whether as professionals, activists, or community organizers. https://nationalsurvivornetwork.org/values/ 

TAGS: #BWJP Announcements #Gender Based Violence #News #trafficking #Women

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