The authorities recently uncovered a human trafficking operation in Ohio.
The Department of Justice announced that a fourth defendant in the case has been indicted for forced labor, among other alleged crimes. This case provides us with a glimpse into the darker side of illegal immigration.
While we often focus on keeping illegal immigrants out of the country, many are unaware of the fact that illegal immigration helps to support illicit enterprises like human trafficking. Unfortunately, many of the victims are illegal immigrants.
While the Trump administration is right to ensure that our immigration enforcement agencies are empowered to enforce our immigration laws, it is also important to focus on protecting potential victims of human trafficking.
The Authorities Disrupt A Labor-Trafficking Ring In Ohio
On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that a federal court had unsealed charges against a defendant who was allegedly involved in a labor-trafficking ring in central Ohio. On Saturday, Border Patrol arrested Pablo Duran Ramirez when he attempted to cross the United States’ southern border. Ramirez is alleged to have participated in a scheme in which minors were forced to work in egg farms. He is the fourth individual charged in this case.
According to the Justice Department, the indictment alleges that Ramirez, a 49-year old American citizen provided labor for Trillium Farms while “knowing or being in reckless disregard of the fact that some of the workers were being trafficked.” He is being charged with forced labor, conspiracy, and encouraging another person to enter the U.S illegally.
The other three defendants have admitted to recruiting individuals from Guatemala — some are as young as 14-years old. They lured workers to the U.S. with promises of decent jobs and an opportunity to attend American schools. After accepting the alleged traffickers’ offer, they were smuggled into the United States and taken to a trailer park in Marion, Ohio.
The immigrants were forced to live in run-down trailers and work physically exhausting jobs. For up to twelve hours a day, the workers cleaned chicken coops, loaded and unloaded chicken crates, and de-beaked and vaccinated the chickens. The victims of the trafficking scheme included eight minor children and two adults.
Illegal Immigration And Labor-Trafficking
Conservative’s most common objections to illegal immigration are the fact that jobs are being taken from Americans, the abuse of our welfare systems, and the influx of criminals from other countries. However, we tend to forget about the fact that many illegal immigrants become victims of human trafficking largely because of our failure to enforce our immigration laws.
The Federation For American Immigration Reform (FAIR) published a report last year that provided examples of the human rights abuses that arise as a result of illegal immigration. “The large and persistent influx of illegal aliens contributes to an environment of vulnerability and abuse,” they write. “ Wherever the law fails to hold people accountable; crime will flourish. The federal government’s failure to effectively address the illegal alien dilemma creates and perpetuates an environment in which exploitation runs rampant.
According to FAIR, about 17,000 to 19,000 foreign nationals become victims of human trafficking in the United States annually. Like the individuals in Ohio, many poor people living in Latin America and other areas of the world are convinced come into the country under false pretences where they are subjected to forced labor, prostitution, and other types of egregious treatment.
It is true that any person can be victimized by human traffickers, but illegal aliens are the most susceptible to being trafficked. FAIR states that several factors make illegals easy targets for traffickers, including “lack of legal status and protections, limited language skills and employment options, poverty and immigration-related debts, and social isolation.” They are put in a position where they have to depend on the very people that are victimizing them.
Human Trafficking Is Yet Another Reason To Deal With Illegal Immigration
Unfortunately, the type of labor-trafficking ring that was uncovered in Ohio isn’t a rarity. It is happening all over the United States. Criminals are smuggling unwitting people into the country with false promises, only to subject them to the some of the worst types of exploitation imaginable.
Law enforcement agencies are undoubtedly doing their best to put an end to human trafficking, but the issue can be complex — especially when it comes to illegal immigration. The Trump administration’s tougher approach to illegal immigration is a welcome change from our previous policies. However, it might have unintended consequences if we aren’t careful.
Denise Brennan, a professor at Georgetown University, told Reuters that many victims of these crimes are afraid to speak up because they fear deportation. This reality only emboldens those that would victimize them. “Policies that push migrants to live and work in the shadows make the perfect prey for abusive employers,” she said. “We cannot effectively fight trafficking when migrants fear reporting exploitation and abuse.”
It’s a tough situation.
The United States cannot afford to have lax immigration laws — especially with new threats like ISIS working with drug cartels to smuggle their operatives into the country. However, if the victims of crimes as atrocious as human trafficking are unable to alert the authorities, we will allow some of the most reprehensible criminal enterprises to flourish.
Enforcing our immigration laws is crucial — something that we cannot give up. However, while we are exerting more control over our borders, we should also make sure that we are protecting those who are vulnerable to criminals who would prey on them.