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Increase in child sex trafficking, missing migrant children raise concerns over Biden's border policies

The U.S. Justice Department’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit has warned that some migrant children get trafficked into prostitution or forced into child pornography rings

February 15, 2022 11:06am

Updated: February 15, 2022 2:21pm

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, ranking member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, revealed last month that the Biden administration is unaware of the current location of roughly 80% of undocumented migrants that received a notice to appear (NTA) in court in 2021.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security could not reportedly locate 40,348 of the 50,683 migrants that were issued NTAs between March 21,2021 and December 5, 2021. An additional 50,000 did not report to their deportation proceedings over the same time period.

Similarly, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently stated that by the end of 2021, 45,000 of the 107,000 unaccompanied minors who entered the U.S. could not be located by the Federal Government.

Yet this number does not reveal the whole truth.

As nearly 1.6 million of the more than 2 million unauthorized migrant cases are currently backlogged in the courts, some elected U.S. officials believe the true figures of undocumented migrants that have gone off the legal radar is surely much higher.

Many politicians like Gov. DeSantis have viewed the border crisis as a security issue, focusing mostly on the rule of law.

“We have a responsibility to stand up for the rule of law, we have a responsibility to the Constitution, and we have a responsibility to stand up against an administration that has decided they don’t want to have a secure border,” DeSantis recently said. “The laws of our country require us to enforce the law and that is what needs to be done.”

Some of those trafficked become victims of crimes.

According to the Child Welfare League of America, families often pay traffickers thousands of dollars to smuggle their children to the United States in search for a better life, but “children may then find their way into forced labor or sex trafficking once they arrive.”

In August of last year, the U.S. Justice Department’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit warned some migrant children may have been released to labor traffickers and put to work in poultry plants and agricultural processing facilities, Bloomberg Law reported.

An subsequent email showed that the Justice Department wrote to the FBI, the Labor Department, the Department of Homeland Security and HSS in July 2021 warning them of "indicators of labor exploitation.”

“Some of these situations appear to involve dozens of unaccompanied minors all being released to the same sponsor and then exploited for labor in poultry processing or similar industries without access to education,” wrote DOJ’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit Director Hilary Axam.

Former border control agents have suggested policies similar to Biden's incentivize criminals to bring children into the country for much more nefarious purposes, too.

At the height of the border crisis, Michael Gramley, who served as a border control agent in Yuma, Ariz., from 1994 until 2019, told the New York Post that he often saw traffickers “providing” children to unrelated adults so they could more easily enter the US. 

Once adults reached their final destination, however, they would return the child to traffickers who would then send the child “back to Guatemala and repeat the cycle.”

Gramley noted that those who are simply used as props are the lucky ones, however, and warned that many migrant children eventually end up being trafficked into prostitution or forced into child pornography rings.

Traffickers “probably won’t tell a family a child will be sold into commercial sexual exploitation,” Gramley said. “But once they leave their home country and become indebted to the traffickers, they are at their mercy.” 

Similarly, Michael. P. Conlon, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York, reported that his office has prosecuted cases of “girls as young as 14 [who] have been … forced into prostitution.” 

“They are held in apartments in Queens against their will and driven from appointment to appointment to have sex with men,” said Conlon. “They see 15, 20 men in an evening and all money is handed over to the trafficker.” 

Conlon added that traffickers are eager to exploit weak border policies and have picked up activity since law enforcement appears unable to keep up with the growing number of border crossings.

“It’s no secret human traffickers are opportunists, and if they see . . . a more lucrative opportunity to bring women and make money, they would take advantage of it,” he noted.

Teresa Ulloa Ziaurriz, director of the Latin American branch of the Coalition Against Trafficking International, said she believes an estimated 60% of Latin American children smuggled across the U.S. border “have been caught by the cartels and are being abused in child pornography or for drug trafficking.”