By: San Antonio Express News
SAN ANTONIO — Texas has the unfortunate distinction of being a sex trafficking hub, contributing about a quarter of all victims nationally.
This, the experts say, is due to the state's interstate highway network, the Interstate 10 corridor figuring prominently, and proximity to the border. Mexico and points south remain a key source for young immigrant women vulnerable to exploitation, some as young as 12. And the city of Houston seems to have become a hub within a hub.
Sadly, slavery still exists, and Texas and the United States are part of this international problem. But in 2013 public awareness of the problem increased and more law enforcement efforts were directed to the trade in human life.
As a recent San Antonio Express-News article by Guillermo Contrerasexplained, since the summer of 2012, 15 people have been arrested by the FBI working jointly with San Antonio police.
And state and federal legislation have been introduced in recent years. Texas Sen. John Cornynand Rep. Ted Poeintroduced a bill this year to stiffen penalties for the customers and the traffickers of sex slaves younger than 14.
There has been state legislation to treat the girls and women trapped in this trade by force or coercion more as victims, not criminals. Federal agencies and others have been getting the word out that services, including legal refuge in this country, are available to these victims.
It is imperative that this trend continue in 2014. We urge legislators and law enforcement to redouble efforts and urge the public to aid authorities in detecting and eradicating this trade.
There is no doubt that what occurs is slavery.
Someone other than the victim is controlling identification and travel documents. These victims lack freedom of movement; no contact with friends or family is allowed.
They are often threatened by their traffickers with violence, deportation or arrest if they do not comply. Their families have been threatened with harm if they attempt to escape. Their salaries are garnished to pay off some smuggling fee or other expenses such as food, clothing and lodging.
If you suspect trafficking is occurring, here is the number for the Department of Homeland Securitytip line: 866-347-2423.