The tale of the tape: The reality of human trafficking is nothing like Trump’s version
In fact, immigrants comprise neither the majority of traffickers in the United States nor their victims. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 5,147 cases of human trafficking were reported in the U.S. in 2018. Most of the victims in those cases were U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.The most recent available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics on federal prosecution of human trafficking cases shows that 94 percent of defendants charged with a federal human trafficking offense in 2015 were U.S. citizens, 88 percent were male, and 57 percent were white.“That’s not to say it’s not [a] very risky journey up north for people coming from Central America and Mexico,” Chan continued. “Often the victims don’t even know they’re in trafficking situations until they’re very deep in,” she said. “The force and fraud being used in trafficking situations [is] a lot more subtle” than the scenarios discussed by Trump, which bear more than a passing resemblance to scenes from the 2018 movie “Sicario: Day of the Soldado.”Migrants run as tear gas is thrown by U.S. Border Protection officers to the Mexican side of the border fence after they climbed the fence to get to San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico, Jan. 1, 2019. (Photo: Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP) Anne Chandler, executive director of the Houston office of the Tahirih Justice Center, which provides legal and social services to immigrant women and girls fleeing violence, said that it is not uncommon for smuggling to turn into trafficking once migrants have made it over the border. Chandler, who also teaches a course on human trafficking law and policy at the University of Houston Law Center, said that an example of the kind of trafficking scenario encountered by women from Mexico or Central America is one in which the woman’s family agrees to pay a smuggler to get them through Mexico and to the border, only to be led into the hands of a kidnapper who holds them for ransom on the U.S. side.Until that extra money is paid — and sometimes even after — the women are held captive and forced to work, doing anything from cleaning bathtubs and other kinds of domestic labor to sexual services, or both.Chandler said that smugglers will assure women who cannot afford the initial fee that they can work and pay it off once they reach the United States, an agreement that she said typically turns into “debt bondage.”“This is the most common scenario,” said Chandler. “Regardless of how many years these young women [work], they have ledgers that, once you start doing the math, you realize they’re not going to be able to pay them off.”Beyond the inaccuracy of his statements, Trump’s proclaimed concerns about the issue of human trafficking ring hollow for many attorneys and immigrant rights advocates, who point to a number of ways his administration has already sought to make life harder for immigrant victims of trafficking.According to the U.S. State Department’s 2018 Trafficking in Person’s report, the Department of Homeland Security granted significantly fewer T visas –temporary legal status and work authorization for which certain victims of human trafficking and their immediate family members are eligible—in 2017 compared to the year before.“DHS granted T nonimmigrant status to 672 victims and 690 eligible family members of victims in FY 2017, a decrease from 750 and 986 in FY 2016.”While the T visa application process itself has not technically changed since Trump took office, Chan said that “a lot of policies from the administration have made it much more difficult and much more risky to apply.”In addition to the Administration’s generally tougher approach to immigration enforcement, Chan said she’s seen subtle changes in the way U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is adjudicating T visa requests. Applicants, especially those who’ve had any kind of interaction with law enforcement in the past, are facing much more scrutiny, frequently being asked to provide additional documents and other evidence to prove they are “a person of good moral character.”In the past, Chan said, “these humanitarian-based benefits were very forgiving and now they’re not.”Not only has it become harder to obtain a T visa, but under a new policy issued over the summer by USCIS, those whose applications fail to meet the agency’s rising standards are now at greater risk of deportation.Based on the enforcement priorities of previous administrations, Chan said, “traditionally the government would not actively seek removal for survivors or victims of trafficking,” even if their T visa application had been denied. Under President Trump, however, ICE has essentially stated that all immigrants who are in the country illegally, regardless of circumstance or criminal history, is a priority for deportation. As part of the new policy guidelines, which USCIS issued in June to “better align with enforcement priorities” of the Trump administration, applicants for T visas and other humanitarian benefits whose requests are denied can now be placed automatically in removal proceedings.“If the government wanted to do more to protect trafficking victims, it would not implement policies that hurt survivors for coming forward,” said Chan. “They would have a better system for accounting for minors who cross into country unaccompanied, and not implement bureaucratic hurdles in the T visa application process that make it much more difficult for them to have applications approved.”President Trump speaks to the media before signing anti-trafficking legislation, Jan. 9, 2019. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Painter noted that for clients like Isaac, who are already in removal proceedings, changes to immigration court procedure have also imposed major hurdles to securing a T visa. In May 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked immigration judges’ authority to “administratively close” a case, or temporarily put proceedings on hold before issuing a decision.“If you have a T visa pending, you should be able to stop going to court until there is a resolution,” said Painter.The Tahirih Justice Center’s Chandler said there are definitely “notable differences” in the way T visa applications have been adjudicated in the last year and a half. However, she argued that the “climate of fear” President Trump’s rhetoric and policies have created among immigrants is the “biggest factor in the drop” of T visa grants, noting cooperation with law enforcement is often part of the process for obtaining a T visa.“Survivors, to be effective in human trafficking cases, have to have fortitude and desire to share their stories with law enforcement and engage in that prosecution,” she said.Chandler and the others also expressed concern about the Trump administration’s crackdown on asylum seekers at the border, including the newly implemented policy requiring those who request asylum at the border to remain in Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings, which could take years.“The harder it is … to present oneself in honest and sincere ways along the border, the more the likelihood of exploitation increases,” said Chandler. According to the White House’s own statistics, included in a press release on Friday “[m]ore than 30% of women are sexually assaulted on the journey to our southern border” and “[n]early 70% of migrants traveling north to the United States are victims of violence.”“I have found it just amazing to see Trump kind of frame his border policy as one of exclusion as a necessary response to ensure that women and children are not trafficked and not abused, as if this is somehow a humanitarian response from the U.S.,” said Chandler. “I couldn’t think anything further from the truth.”
Asked about Pelosi’s comments during a pool spray at the White House Thursday afternoon, Trump accused the speaker of “playing games.”“If there’s no wall, it doesn’t work,” he added.Trump has cast doubt on the ability of the 17-member, bipartisan conference committee to come to an acceptable agreement since it was established last week as part of a deal to reopen government with a short term funding bill.“I personally think it’s less than 50-50, but you have a lot of very good people on that board,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal when asked about the likelihood that the newly formed committee could reach an adequate deal.In the committee’s opening meeting Wednesday, Democrats presented a proposal that included some $57 billion in new Department of Homeland Security funding but did not include any funding for the construction of additional physical barriers.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — An officer from the Transportation Security Administration jumped to his death from a balcony inside Florida’s busiest airport Saturday, creating panic that brought some security checkpoints to a halt for hours, grounded flights and caused serious delays.
Panicked passengers rushed past checkpoints leading to about half of the gates at Orlando International Airport after the man jumped, resulting in checkpoint closures for up to three hours and some flight cancelations.
„At no point were passengers in any danger,” airport officials said in a statement.
Those affected by the stoppage included Alaska, Air Canada, Delta and Southwest airlines.
By Saturday afternoon, Southwest Airlines had cancelled 49 inbound flights and 45 outbound flights, according to the airport.
„This is a peak travel time on Saturdays and two of our busiest airlines were affected, Southwest and Delta, so a couple of thousand passengers may have been affected,” Carolyn Fennell, the airport’s senior director of public affairs, said in an email.
The TSA officer, in his 40s, died from an apparent suicide, according to the Orlando Police Department, which described it as an isolated incident.
„Our hearts are with the TSA family during this very difficult time,” the department tweeted.
The man jumped from a hotel balcony inside the airport into the atrium where passengers wait to get through security.
The officer was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital, according to the police.
The airport tweeted that passengers who rushed past checkpoints were returned for a second examination out of an abundance of caution. Two airside terminals were closed to passengers during a security sweep, and all flights to and from the affected gates were stopped until security measures were reinstated, according to the airport.
„We ask that you have patience with airport personnel as they work through this tragic incident,” the Orlando Police Department tweeted.
Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., noted in a tweet that the officer’s death comes after TSA employees struggled through a partial government shutdown. Along with other government workers, TSA officers worked without pay during the 35-day shutdown.
„Our @TSA Officers have already suffered so much during the #GovernmentShutdown,” Soto tweeted. „This apparent suicide only adds to tragedy experienced at Orlando Int’l.”
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