Wednesday, July 20, 2011 :: Staff infoZine By Nadia Tamez-Robledo
U.S. Customs and Border Protection unveiled a human trafficking awareness campaign Tuesday aimed at three regions that are often final destinations for victims. Washington, D.C. - infoZine - Scripps Howard Foundation Wire - “Don’t Be Fooled” public service announcements will begin running Monday here and in Georgia and Florida. The ads illustrate how immigrants can become victims of forced labor or sexual slavery by the smugglers they trust to get them across the border.
“We want to bring human trafficking out of the shadows, show its ugly faces and show that it does too often happen here,” said David Aguilar, deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The campaign targets family members of potential human trafficking victims who may encourage them to travel to the United States.
“They are inadvertently putting them into a pipeline of potential exploitation,” Aguilar said.
David Aguilar, left, of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Kumar Kibble, of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, say drug cartels are becoming more involved in human trafficking. Their agencies kicked off an anti-trafficking campaign Tuesday. SHFWire photo by Nadia Tamez-RobledoCBP also seeks to educate the general public about human trafficking and how individuals can alert authorities to potential victims.
Human trafficking is often perpetrated by drug cartels, Aguilar said, and the 257,000 illegal border crossings every year present a tremendous risk of exploitation or death of immigrants at the hands of smugglers.
“These too often are the fate of illegal immigrants who literally lease their lives to smugglers,” he said.
Kumar Kibble, deputy director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that cartels’ control of drug routes allows them to expand their operations beyond narcotics into trafficking. And they can impose fees on human traffickers who want to use their territory.
He reinforced the importance of being able to indentify victims and recalled a California case involving a 12-year-old Egyptian girl who was being held as a domestic servant. Neighbors helped rescue her by calling authorities when they noticed she was never sent to school.
“At ICE, we talk about them being hidden in plain sight,” he said.
The launch of the domestic campaign comes a year after CPB initiated the Spanish-language version, “No Te Engañes,” in Mexico and Central America. The original campaign also ran in the southwestern states and has generated more than 34,000 calls to the crisis and information hotline in the United States alone.
“Don’t Be Fooled” is part of the anti-human trafficking Blue Campaign created by the Department of Homeland Security last year. The initiative is operated in partnership with the Polaris Project, which runs the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline.
“When citizens become aware of human trafficking looks like, they will step forward and report it,” Aguilar said.