US President Donald Trump is misleading Americans about human trafficking at the border with Mexico, with anti-trafficking experts flagging his wildly inaccurate stories about the crime.
Trump has repeatedly talked about human trafficking at the border in an effort to shore up support for a border wall.
Related Campaign: Protect US Youth from Human Trafficking.
At a speech this Monday to the American Farm Bureau, he claimed women were being gagged and thrown into the back of cars by traffickers who take them across the border into the US.
“They tape their face, their hair, their hands behind their back, their legs,” he said. “They put them in the back seat of cars and vans, and they go — they don’t come in through your port of entry, because you’d see them. You couldn’t do that.”
Yet six human trafficking experts say they have never met a victim whose story matched that of Trump’s narrative.
The Toronto Star reports:
These experts said such border kidnappings might occur on rare occasions but are, at most, extremely uncommon — a tiny fraction not only of all U.S. trafficking cases, many of which involve U.S. citizens who never cross a border, but of the subset of cases involving women brought in through Mexico.
A high proportion of trafficked Latin American women, the experts said, come into the country legally, on U.S. visas. Others enter illegally but are not bound and gagged, nor driven in vehicles through remote unfenced areas.
“Either he’s watching action films or he’s watching some other type of movie that involves handcuffs and tape over people’s mouths. But in neither case is it based in any reality of what individuals helping trafficking victims see,” said Lori Cohen, director of the Anti-Trafficking Initiative at Sanctuary for Families, a New York service provider for sex trafficking victims.
“His depiction of human trafficking is practically unrecognizable to those of us who have spent decades in the trenches combating these abuses,” said Martina Vandenberg, president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center.
Several experts also took issue with Trump’s claim that a border wall would “eliminate” human trafficking from Mexico. In fact, many victims arrive in the US on visas fraudulently obtained by traffickers or are exploited by traffickers after coming to the US on legal visas.
Furthermore, kidnapping and gagging victims is an extremely rare occurrence. Vandenberg searched her organization’s database of federal trafficking cases and found just 26 cases in which kidnapping charges were also filed — less than 2% of all cases.
Still, anti-trafficking activist in San Antonio, Dottie Laster, believes a border wall is worth a shot. “I’m for throwing anything in the way of traffickers that trade on rape and torture for money,” she said.
Other experts disagreed, saying a wall would just prompt traffickers to take more risks and impose higher debts on victims.
They also pointed out that the Trump administration has made it harder for victims of human trafficking to be granted “T” visas, which protect a victim from deportation if they work with US law enforcement to go after their traffickers.
As Cohen noted, if President Trump is serious about combating human trafficking, he would drop policies that “play into the hands of the pimps.”