Sex Trafficking from Latin America



The Problem

Every day in Latin America and in U.S. Latino communities, young women and girls are preyed on and recruited into human trafficking networks that sell sex in residential brothels, in bars or cantinas, through escort services, and in other venues across the U.S.

Criminal networks and individual traffickers target vulnerable young women and girls, often struggling with poverty, a history of sexual or physical abuse, or a lack of opportunity, and exploit them for profit. These victims are deceived and enticed with false promises of romantic relationships, good jobs, or safe passage to the U.S., and are forced to engage in commercial sex.

Often without immigration status, money, or English language skills, and facing extreme threats of violence to themselves or their families in their home countries, these women become trapped in modern-day slavery.

Polaris’s work to end sex trafficking from Latin America focuses on understanding and disrupting these networks while simultaneously bolstering the regional safety net for survivors.

The Solution

Unfortunately, sex trafficking is still an extraordinarily high-profit, low-risk enterprise. To eradicate these networks and stop them from recurring, we must flip this equation for traffickers by disrupting the business model while also ensuring a strong safety net for survivors.

However, a comprehensive response to this form of human 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 toward individual empowerment and economic sustainability.

Key stakeholders and communities must be equipped to recognize human trafficking and be elevated to play a central role in the solutions. Law enforcement 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 identify more victims and prevent further victimization.

Our Work In Action

Through Polaris’s work to end sex trafficking from Latin America, we are focused on analyzing and dismantling the networks that target vulnerable women and girls from the region while simultaneously bolstering the international safety net.

To this end, our work is centered on three key priorities:

  1. Responding to the unique service and protection needs of survivors and supporting them through the prosecution process;

  2. Increasing awareness and community-driven efforts to identify more victims, prevent recruitment, and reduce demand; and

  3. Ensuring law enforcement in both the U.S. and Mexico reinforce the rule of law and hold traffickers accountable while practicing victim-centered, trauma-informed policing.

Robust partnership with civil society, government, and law enforcement is critical to any successful effort to combat human trafficking, and is at the heart of Polaris’s work focused on Latin America.

A key example is Polaris’s ongoing partnership with Mexican civil society organization Consejo Ciudadano to support Mexico’s first national human trafficking hotline. Between Consejo’s new Línea Nacional Contra la Trata de Personas (001-800-5533-000) and the Polaris-operated National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888), we are strengthening the regional safety net so that victims and survivors can seek and receive help, no matter where they are.

Together, Polaris and Consejo will be able to coordinate cases across the border and have already begun sharing key trend data and insights about human trafficking to ensure an effective and coordinated bilateral response for victims.

Photo credit: Flickr / Eneas De Troya

Latest News

Blog post

My Story Is for You

November 9, 2017

"As a victim, survivor, and now, community member, I’m here to tell you that we can all join in the fight against human trafficking if we don’t stay silent." In the final part of her story, Carmen shares a message for survivors and community members. 

Blog post

I Got My Life Back

November 2, 2017

"I was at such a low point where trusting and distrusting were the same. I no longer cared if I lived or died, or if something happened to my family. I had to take the risk."  Read part four of Carmen's story. 

Blog post

From “Great Guy” to Trafficker

November 1, 2017

"'No!' I said once again, and suddenly, that so-called 'great guy,' who had promised he wouldn't hurt me, turned into a monster." Carmen shares part three of her story.