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    Sexual Factors on Behavior of Immigrants in Human Trafficking

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    Immigrants, individuals who migrate, do have many forms. People move from one place to another for a variety of reasons but according to Global Citizen, the top three reasons are to escape persecution, conflict or violence, and find refuge after a being displaced due to environmental factors. (Nunez, Sepehr, & Sanchez, 2014) Other reasons for migration are to search for better healthcare and to escape poverty. When considering migration to escape persecution, violence, and to find refuge after environmental disasters, migrants often do not have the ability or luxury of having their affairs in order to migrate to a neighboring country legally.

    Migrating legally to a country often includes large fees in the form of travel documents and years-long waiting periods. Requesting asylum is a legal form of migration into the U.S. where a person can present themselves at a point of entry and claim asylum. They are legally allowed to enter the U.S. and begin the asylum process. The formal asylum process is extremely difficult. The average asylum application without legal aid has a 2.5% success of being granted whereas with the council they have a 52.7% success rate. (Eagly, Esq. & Shafer, Esq., 2016) The average council & document fees can cost anywhere from $5000 to $15,000 per person according to the complexities of their case and the country of origin. (Godinez, 2019)

    Human Trafficking is defined by the UN in three steps:

    1. The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons;
    2. by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person;
    3. With the intent of exploiting that person through prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery (or similar practices), servitude, and removal of organs. (The Global Slavery Index, 2018)

    Human Trafficking is the second largest criminal industry globally with $44.3 billion in estimated revenue. 71% of trafficked individuals are woman and children. The Global Slavery Index estimates in 2017 than 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry are woman and girls. There are two forms of human trafficking; labor and marriage. Sexual slaves for the sex industry fall under the labor category because commerce is involved.

    How this is Relevant to the Study of Sexual Factors

    The experts at the Global Slavery Index state that addressing and changing fundamental human rights including “facilitating orderly, safe, and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies we reduce the vulnerability of woman and girls to modern slavery.” (Larsen) The same reasons for migration are the same factors that contribute to the supply of individuals trafficked. According to the ACLU, “Undocumented immigrants are extremely vulnerable to trafficking because of fear of law enforcement and deportation.” (American Civil Liberties Union, 2019) It is this combination that makes migrants, especially woman and girls susceptible to trafficking.

    The U.S. sex industry is a $186 Billion-dollar industry, $14.6 Billion in the U.S. There is estimated to be 13.8 million prostitutes in the world, 1 million residing in the U.S. In the U.S., the services performed by a prostitute receives $50 to $100 ( for street prostitution). 9.1% of men in the U.S. admit having paid for a prostitute in 2012 in the U.S. (Havocscope; Global Black Market Information, 2019).

    Immigrants Impacted and How

    According to Fair Immigration, 17,000 to 19,000 immigrants are estimated to be brought into the U.S. each year as slaves. (Fair Immigration, 2016) We know that 80 percent of internationally trafficked victims are female and 70 percent are trafficked into the sex industry (U.S. Department of State, 2005) This would mean that 11,900 to 13,300 trafficked individuals end up as sex slaves. To exacerbate the issues these individuals are the least likely to report for fear of deportation, limited English and no understanding of the legal protection they are entitled to. Not just because the captors threaten deportation but because they have stolen their documents and destroyed them. They have stolen and eliminated their identities. There are T Visas available to trafficked individuals that are immigrants – documented or undocumented. There are 5000 allotted each year but on average only 500-600 are used. The burden of proof is on the victims which again, with limited English, limited understanding of the legal system, no resources and the psychological effects of their atrocities, there is a huge burden to these victims. Trafficked immigrants are some of the MOST vulnerable of all minorities.

    According to a study completed by Abt Associates, Inc. for the National Institute of Justice, the sex industry is simple supply and demand. There is a demand for sex. They further show that interrupting the supply and demand chain has been proven a failure, as the demand is so great that removing either the supply (the prostitute or victim) or the pimp, they are simply replaced by another. “Distribution requires relatively little skill, and supply is plentiful and easily acquired, presenting few barriers to entry or startup costs for pimps and traffickers.” (Shively, Ph.D., Kliorys, Wheeler, & Hunt, 2012) Their research shows that many tactics to eliminate prostitution and sex trafficking are geared toward prosecuting the supply (the trafficked person- prostitute and the pimp).

    The Chart below from the journal, Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology, shows the estimated number of people trafficked in the U.S. each year and of that, 46% are put into prostitution. (Deshpande, BA & Nour MD, MPH, 2013)

    In 2017 a report by the Global Slavery Index showed out of 110 cases of domestic work slavery, 78% were threatened with deportation by their employers, showing the majority are foreign nationals. (The Global Slavery Index, 2018) Polaris estimates from a study completed in 2018 that there are 9000+ massage businesses engaging in illicit activities. The study shows that woman performing tend to be immigrants, mothers, with limited English and low education levels. Again, citing the threat of deportation to control the slave. (Polaris, 2019)

    History of Previous Action

    Many studies show a 25% to 80% decrease when the tactics are toward the demand. Arresting, shaming, and educating the johns. By addressing the demand, the supply is effectively reduced. The majority of “reverse stings” (stings geared toward arresting the johns, not the woman) were done out of community demand because of the lack of progress in eliminating by focusing on the supply. (Shively, Ph.D., Kliorys, Wheeler, & Hunt, 2012)

    While the research shows that by focusing on the demand or johns, it reduces the demand in the area the research was conducted. But without a concerted effort for broad change for all the focus to be on the johns, economic models would say the business will find success elsewhere. This means if it is addressed in one town and not the next, the business will just migrate to the next place of economic success. Reaching deeper into the demand side of this industry is understanding the reason for the demand, possibly limiting the reason for the demand in combination with the focus on arresting the johns would address the root of the problem.

    The U.S Federal Government gives aid to victims of Human trafficking but only after proving the crime and assisting law enforcement officials with the prosecution of their captors. The Global Slavery Index sites “According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2014, 714 children were arrested for prostitution and commercialized vice offenses.” There are only 23 states that have a law in place that does not allow for the arrest of a minor in the sex industry. This is, again, focusing on the supply and not the demand which is proven to be ineffective in eliminating illicit activities.

    The most recent a detrimental to the welfare of immigrants in connection with sexual slavery is the policy shifts in the current administration. The two most recent executive orders; Executive Order on Public Safety and the Executive Order on enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking are deterring victims from coming forward for fear of deportation instead for their safety and rehabilitation. Recent shifts to penalize organization that aid undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities, the victims have nowhere to turn. Again, this focuses on the victim (the supply) instead of the demand. This drives the industry further underground eliminating the efforts to eradicate and free its victims. With the fear of deportation and the enforcement-focused approach, the efforts undermine the victim’s ability to trust law enforcement and risk escape. Those working with victims surveyed that 82% shared concerns about reporting to the police.

    In the New York Times Article, The Migrant Caravan: What to Know about the Thousands Traveling North, it references the collective group traveling as a safety net so not use smugglers and the safety of the group on a route known to have migrants disappear or end up kidnapped. (Correal & Specia, 2018) The statistics tell us that immigration has and always will be a part of our human instinct. To search for a better, safer existence towards life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When a person becomes endangered and decides to flee or is unable to find work to support their basic needs or has had their home/life destroyed by natural disasters they are inevitably vulnerable. The above statistics tell us that those choosing to migrate to another country are much more vulnerable and that woman and girls are the targets.


    In 1994, NAFTA was created which resulted in long-term job loss for Mexicans. The table below shows a sharp increase in migration during the same decade of NAFTA. (U.S. Immigration Trends, 2001-2019) U.S. Comprehensive Immigration reform is needed to protect these individuals. Studies on legalizing prostitution show results in lowered violence toward sex workers, an increase in sex workers reporting crimes and a significant decrease in trafficked woman and girls. Prosecuting the demand or the johns instead of the prostitutes or victims shows an increased elimination of illicit sexual acts where traffickers hide. Better protections and the full use of T visas can aid in better treatment and encourage more undocumented immigrants to come forward. More training for police and social workers in how to process, treat and recognize a trafficked person, especially when dealing with sex workers can encourage more to report. Again, in the U.S. there are only 23 states that outlaw marriage before 18, which encourages exploitation of minors. There seems to be a lot in studies and statistics. There is a focus on child sex trafficking and rightly so, but more can be done for the industry and for immigrants.


    1. American Civil Liberties Union. (2019). Human Trafficking: Modern Enslavement of Migrant Women in the United States. Retrieved from ACLU:
    2. Correal, A., & Specia, M. (2018, October 26). The Migrant Caravan: What to Know About the Thousands Traveling North. Retrieved from The New York Times:
    3. Deshpande, BA, N. A., & Nour MD, MPH, N. M. (2013). Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls. Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology, v.6(1).
    4. Eagly, Esq., I., & Shafer, Esq., S. (2016, September 28). Special Report; Access to Counsel in Immigration Count. Retrieved from American Immigration Council:
    5. Fair Immigration. (2016, August). Human Trafficking-Exploitation of Illegal Aliens. Retrieved from
    6. Freedom for Immigrants. (2018). A History of Immigration Detention. Retrieved from Freedom for Immigrants:
    7. Godinez, D. (2019, 2 7). Attorney. (R. Heimann, Interviewer)
    8. Havocscope; Global Black Market Information. (2019). Prostitution Statistics. Retrieved from Havocscope; Global Black Market Information:
    9. Larsen, J. J. (n.d.). Unfinished Business: Addressing the Victimization of Woman and Girls. Retrieved 2 10, 2019, from The Global Slavery Index 2018:
    10. Nunez, C., Sepehr, J., & Sanchez, E. (2014, December 4). Citizen; Why People Migrate: 11 Surprising Reasons. Retrieved from
    11. Polaris. (2019). Polaris; Freedom Happens Now. Retrieved from Sex Trafficking:
    12. Shively, Ph.D., M., Kliorys, K., Wheeler, K., & Hunt, H. (2012, June). Retrieved from A National Overview of Prostitution and Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Efforts:
    13. The Global Slavery Index. (2018). Methodology. (T. M. Ltd., Producer) Retrieved 2 9, 2019, from The Global Slavery Index:
    14. The Global Slavery Index. (2018). Prevalence. (T. M. Ltd., Producer) Retrieved from The Global Slavery Index.
    15. U.S. Department of State. (2005). The facts about human trafficking for forced labor. Retrieved November 14, 2006, from
    16. U.S. Immigration Trends. (2001-2019). Retrieved from MPI; Migration Policy Institute:
    17. U.S. Department of State. (2005). The facts about human trafficking for forced labor. Retrieved November 14, 2006, from

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