WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 1, 2019) – Polaris, a leading nonprofit in the global fight against human trafficking, issued the following statement today in response to ongoing justifications for a wall or physical barrier along the southern border as a means to stop human trafficking.
Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, said:
“A wall along the southern border is not an effective tool to prevent or disrupt human trafficking. Claims that a wall will stop vast amounts of human trafficking are not only inaccurate and misleading, they also harm our efforts to educate the public on the true nature of this crime and the field’s ability to help trafficking victims and survivors.
“We can’t let growing anti-immigrant rhetoric create a climate of fear for vulnerable populations and prevent immigrant victims from seeking help. Traffickers are emboldened by anti-immigrant statements and policies, which they can weaponize as more powerful threats.
“We understand that some people may believe a wall along the southern border is important, and the debate on that is continuing. The issue of human trafficking, however, should not be part of that debate. Human trafficking is a human rights issue, a child protection issue, a national security issue, an immigration issue, a racial justice issue, and an economic issue that has enjoyed nearly twenty of years of bipartisan support where Republicans and Democrats have unified together to combat this crime. We should not politicize the fight against human trafficking and use the issue to justify a border wall.
“Let’s get the facts straight: Human trafficking happens in the United States, to people who are already here, to citizens and to foreign nationals. In our experience, having handled nearly 50,000 cases of human trafficking over the last decade, we know that the vast majority of victims who cross a border and are then trafficked in the United States arrive here through ports of entry and other legal means. Many fly here and travel through U.S. airports.
“Many trafficking victims came to the U.S. on legal temporary work visas but were trafficked and exploited because loopholes in the guestworker system leave workers vulnerable to abuse. If we really want to make a significant dent in human trafficking, we should fix the guestworker system by untying these visas from specific employers. The current rules, which require workers to stay in the employ of the company that sponsored the original visa, hand a powerful weapon to human traffickers who can threaten to get workers deported if they complain about wages and working conditions.”