When discussing illegal immigration, it’s impossible not to consider the human element; that is, the simple fact that many of the illegal aliens residing in our country are seeking nothing more than a better life for their families. However, the sympathy which generally accompanies such recognition often creates an acceptance of the wrong being committed without consideration of the costs to our country.
The costs go beyond those measurable in dollars and cents, though. There is a very real human cost involved as some illegal aliens fall prey to the trafficking industry, an ugly and illegal activity which involves the trading of humans for sexual purposes, forced labor and more.
According to Polaris Project, an organization seeking to free the world of slavery, between 14,500 and 17,500 human beings are trafficked into the United States annually. This number does not take into consideration the estimated thousands trafficked within the states.
While most people would not be surprised if this disgusting activity was prevalent in larger metropolitan areas like New York or Los Angeles, most would be surprised to find that Pennsylvania has a dual role in human trafficking, both as a “pass through” state and a destination for its victims.
The thread between human trafficking and illegal immigration is a difficult one to see, as the pattern of the fabric is varying. Some who are trapped in this illegal trade fell victim to coyotes promising safe (yet still illegal) passage into the United States. Others are quickly identified by their needs (read desperation) once in the states and seized upon with promises of protection, fortunes and/or a higher standard of living. These victims are often, but not always, women and children who endure not only intimidation but beatings, rape and the threat of reprisals against their family should they not comply.
Apparently, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) is full aware of this problem and taking action. In a news release on April 27, I.C.E. trumpets their Victim Assistance Program, dedicated to “ensuring that crime victims’ rights are protected.” This statement, alone, rings of a noble cause. However, it’s what follows which concerns many, as the agency states that victims may receive “immigration relief when necessary.” In other words, if the agency deems it necessary to the welfare of a particular victim, the illegal alien may be granted a cancellation of their removal from this country, rather than facing deportation.
In the end, the two issues are easily identifiable but certainly not mutually exclusive, illegal immigration and human trafficking. The challenge is in dealing with each. I.C.E. should be commended for their compassionate approach in this instance, providing victims with valuable and possibly life saving resources. The question is; at what point does the assistance go too far?