Every day in Mexico, young women and girls are preyed upon and recruited into human trafficking networks that sell sex in residential brothels, through escort services, and in cantinas across the U.S. Powerful networks concentrated in and around the Mexican state of Tlaxcala enslave tens of thousands of women in an underground sex economy in the U.S.
This network recruits economically vulnerable women and girls by luring them into deceptive romantic relationships. Also known as “boyfriending,” men will shower these women with affection and promise them love and a better life. Within a few months, however, their boyfriends or fiancés change into controllers, exploiting them and often their families through deception, threats, and intimidation if they do not engage in commercial sex. These women are often transported to the U.S. without documents, money, or English fluency, and under the threat of violence to themselves or their families, these women become trapped in slavery.
If we want to eradicate this trafficking network and prevent it from recurring, we have to change the equation for traffickers and victims, disrupt the business model, and make the crime high-risk and low-profit. However, a comprehensive response to this form of sex trafficking must also take into account a nuanced understanding of migration, gender norms, and cultural context. We must respond to victims effectively and immediately with an eye towards individual empowerment and economic sustainability. Key stakeholders and communities must be equipped to recognize and address human trafficking. Law enforcement entities in both the U.S. and Mexico must reinforce rule of law and hold traffickers accountable. Finally, public outreach must focus on awareness-raising activities that will prevent further victimization of vulnerable women and girls in the region.
Our Work In Action
Polaris is focused on understanding and dismantling sex trafficking networks that target women and girls from Mexico and Latin America while simultaneously building up effective, culturally competent services on both sides of the border. To this end, we are responding to the immediate and unique service needs of these survivors, supporting them through prosecutions, launching a targeted awareness campaign that prevents victims and identifies survivors, and analyzing the network to create effective, data-driven strategies for disruption, outreach, and intervention.
Polaris has partnered with Consejo Ciudadano to support Mexico’s first national human trafficking hotline. Between the new Línea Nacional Contra la Trata de Personas, operated by Consejo Ciudadano, and the National Human Trafficking Hotline, operated by Polaris, we are creating a safety net so that victims and survivors can seek and receive help regardless of which country they are in. Together, Polaris and Consejo Ciudadano will coordinate across the border and share key insights and trends about human trafficking in order to create the most effective responses for victims.