Don’t confuse human trafficking with human smuggling. One is a form of slavery, the other is an act a person consents to. (For a good definition of human trafficking, go here.) In a report, written in 2005 titled “Trafficking in Persons in the United States, a Report to the National Institute of Justice” Kevin Bales delved into the nuances that distinguish the two:
“Many victims of trafficking in persons begin their journey by consenting to be smuggled from one country to another… Smuggling and trafficking both involve moving human beings for profit, but in… cases of trafficking subsequent exploitation for profit, such as coerced labor or sexual exploitation is also involved… This means that law enforcement encountering cases in progress will often not know whether smuggling or trafficking is occurring and will have to rely on measures against smuggling until the additional elements of trafficking are discovered.”
The discovery last week of 42 murdered migrants, allegedly at the hands of the Zeta cartel in a Mexican border town has sparked debate about immigration and border control. Many decried the vulnerability of migrants, risking their lives for a chance at a better life. Others called for tougher immigration control,to keep the drug cartel violence from seeping into the US border. Either way you look at it, human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery—and as this mass murder shows, slavery is happening today, right in our back yard.
Human trafficking is the fastest growing elicit trade in the world, second only to the arms trade in profitability. Ironically, there are reports saying “stronger police enforcement in the Mexico drug war is pushing criminal gangs” to diversify into the increasingly lucrative “side business” of human trafficking.
The BBC took a big picture look into why migrants along the US-Mexico border are vulnerable to traffickers and kidnappings:
“The National Human Rights Commission reports that “the frequency and magnitude of the kidnapping of migrants involves a criminal activity of enormous proportion, and it generates high profits for crime organisations”.
In the six-month period studied by the Commission, the revenue for the kidnappers was an estimated $25m.
Mr Solalinde, who also runs a shelter for migrants in Oaxaca, says that criminals steal “today’s, yesterday’s and tomorrow’s money” from the victims.