U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) observed National Human Trafficking Awareness Month in January to bring attention to the international crime and the work of law enforcement to deter human trafficking, bring traffickers to justice and to assist victims. Human trafficking centers on exploitation and is considered a form of modern slavery.
“ICE is committed to leveraging every resource it has at its disposal to confront the threat of human trafficking, to support the victims and survivors, and to hold traffickers accountable for their monstrous crimes,” said Angie Salazar, DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT) acting director in last month. “Though this fight continues year-round, the month of January gives us the opportunity to showcase these efforts and highlight our contribution to this global movement to disrupt and dismantle sex trafficking, forced labor organizations and profiteers.”
Human trafficking generally takes two forms. Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age. Or, the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
In October 2020, DHS stood up the CCHT, an ICE-led center that integrates DHS investigative and enforcement operations, victim assistance, intelligence, outreach and training to effectively respond to human trafficking on a global scale.
In fiscal year 2020, ICE arrested 1,746 individuals in connection with human trafficking and identified and assisted more than 400 victims. The top five locations for human trafficking criminal arrests by HSI were Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Phoenix, Arizona; and Tampa, Florida.
Nationwide, ICE participates in a variety of human trafficking awareness events in January and throughout the year to educate medical professionals, key industries and the general public to identify indicators of trafficking activities. The recognition of human trafficking by others can save a victim’s life and help the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.