The search for opportunity that America so graciously promises has ended in despair once again. This time, three young Honduran teens made the long trek up to Texas and landed nice jobs at a local bar in McAllen, eager to start a new life. But rather than being greeted with aprons, cleaning rags and hairnets upon showing up for work on the first day, the three Honduran girls, ages 14, 15 and 17, were given skimpy and revealing clothes. Then, they were put to work wining and dining older men and servicing them sexually for a few small bills. Beleal Garcia Gonzalez lured the girls to work at his bar by promising a salary of $700 a — a pretty enticing chunk o' change. After making the long and risky trip up to Texas, the girls were then promised a salary of only $120 a week, most of which they never saw because Gonzalez forced them to work off nearly $5,000 in "smuggling" debt.
To the credit of a few very astute U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, the girls were spotted walking home in rather revealing clothing for a cold and rainy winter night and were promptly picked up and rescued. Now, nine months later, their trafficker and pimp has presented his case before a jury. Just last Thursday, jurors promptly handed down a decision. The verdict? Apparently upstanding citizen Mr. Gonzalez was found guilty of sex trafficking and harboring illegal immigrants.
The defense brought all its force to the trial, claiming that if the girls were so desperate to leave and felt like they were being exploited and abused, why did they stay? Why didn't they just go? While that is a common defense among accused traffickers, I find it sickening that one would even attempt such an excuse. Victims of sex trafficking are often to petrified to leave, convinced that their traffickers may hunt them down or go after their families. Also, when in a foreign country where you know no one and aren't the least bit familiar with your surroundings, staying where you know you have consistent food and shelter is safe, maybe even comfortable. In this case, the girls state that they were given food and acceptable living conditions. So what was their incentive to flee, knowing that they'd have nothing — no money, no food, no home? Sometimes the alternative seems so much worse.
The jury saw through Gonzalez's thin defense, and promptly convicted him. Perhaps justice has prevailed again.