The car headlights flashing at midnight past the windows of a farmer’s house out on a rural road in far west Texas on a sweltering, summer night attracted his attention. In the distance, he saw the car slowly approach a trailer parked in a desolate area and a man get out and open the trailer. Days later, Border Patrol officials broke into the trailer and found five Honduran women, dirty and barely clothed, shackled to cots.
Between 18,000 and 20,000 persons are trafficked into the U.S. each year with the majority of cases involving sex trafficking of women and children. Authorities say this major global problem can be discovered and dealt with if proper education and awareness is instilled in residents of the U.S. El Paso County established a human trafficking task force to combat trafficking in the area. The group includes various governmental and non-governmental institutions such as the F.B.I., the El Paso Police and Sheriff’s Departments, and the Salvation Army.
“When being asked to help out with the issue of human and sex trafficking, I was told this story about these Honduran woman by border officials five years ago and it immediately convinced me and the other Sisters to join the El Paso Human Trafficking Task Force,” 65 year-old Sister Francis of Casa Alexia explained. Casa Alexia, a Catholic border ministry that works with the El Paso Salvation Army and Rescue Mission of El Paso helps poverty stricken individuals find shelter, food and hope in times of economic hardship. Casa Alexia now helps undocumented women who have been trafficked into the U.S. find either shelter or guidance after their traumatic experiences.
“My main duty is to go inform the El Paso and surrounding communities about human and sex trafficking because many of the residents are not educated on the subject,” Sister Francis said. “They assume that these victims are just illegal immigrants but residents do not realize that they may be in danger of their lives.” Persons exhibiting the indicators of being victims of human trafficking usually lack ID, have been forced into sex trade and have been harmed or denied food, water, sleep or medical care. … Residents and government officials need to be educated and aware of this terrible trend so they can save a person’s life and prosecute those who tortured them. Without awareness, there is not much that can be done to save them.
Learn more at Christina Marie Duran’s Borderzine article: Citizen awareness is critical to the prevention of human trafficking.