Illegal Immigration & Sex Trafficking – Who Is At Risk?

Slavery is not dead. This wretched practice is alive and well around the entire world. In fact, there are around 2 million sex slaves today. I recently did a study of illegal immigrants in the U.S.  who commit sex crimes. In the process, I discovered that there are many illegal immigrants who are the victims of sex crimes. Being illegal immigrants, many times, they remain silent, and with silence, bad things prosper.

Women and girls are trafficked from many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Mexico is the number one source for young female sex slaves in North America. Tlaxcala, in Central Mexico serves as a hotbed for slave traders.  Young women and girls are abducted, tricked, and sometimes sold by poor families into a caged life. Highly prized are 12 year old girls sneaking across the border into the United States. The girls are grabbed by Los Lenones, aka pimps, and dragged to unfamiliar areas where they are ‘broken in.’ It is well known that this often occurs in Mexico. The initiation process entails  20-30 men per day having brutal sex with the girls and women. Victims are beaten, drugged, and repeatedly raped until their wills are broken. It is then that the sale is possible.

‘Buyers’ can travel to various countries and actually buy females for the sole purpose of using them as sex slaves in the United States. Once the ‘buyer’ arrives in a country, it is easy to find ‘sellers’ ready to move their ‘merchandise.’ In some instances, a buyer is brought to a secluded location, where sellers actually make the female victims strip. This is to ensure that the victim looks good and has no visible defects. Likewise, in parts of Mexico, captives are made to parade in front of potential customers, much like cattle at auction. Vendors are even present to sell snacks.

Whether they come from Russia, China, or Mexico itself, it is often easiest for traffickers to bring the females across the U.S./Mexico border because it is not sufficiently guarded. Some go through checkpoints with fraudulent paperwork. Others go by foot. The U.S. State Department estimates that 10,000 human beings are trafficked into the States as sex slaves every year. Numbers available almost 10 years ago show that there were 5,000 Asian female sex slaves in Los Angeles alone. However, it is impossible to know exact figures because victims are tormented and intimidated into silence. 

Once in the States, the women and girls are forced into isolation. Many times they do not see the outside for long periods of time until the pimps decide to rotate them to other cities. Inside their living hell, the females are regularly beaten and sometimes tied to the beds. They remain inside and are constantly pushed to service customers 24 hour a day. In fact, it is reported that there are often long lines of 30-35 offenders who are waiting to pay for sex with a pretty young girl.  If the girls resist, they are tortured, raped, drugged, threatened, or sometimes even killed. There are cases where the girls are hung by the ceiling and beaten with baseball bats, and others where the females are starved. To add insult to injury, men sometimes videotaped the sex to use as pornography.

Surprisingly, the brothels can take the form of homes, apartments, spas, massage parlors, and hotels. At the brothels, customers have  several choices: toddlers, pre-teens, and teens. Though customers are supposed to wear condoms, they often do not. Thus, the women and girls run the risk of being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. And of course, without condoms, the females can become pregnant. In the event of a pregnancy, the females are either forced to have an abortion or their children  are snatched away and used as leverage. Often, the women and girls do not speak English, and so, even if they could run away, they have no way to communicate their plights. Brothels can be located anywhere. Even middle class neighborhoods can be at risk.

The females are usually young and idealistic. Many hope to come to the United States for a better life, and in the process, they are re-routed into terror. Some make the mistake of trusting someone who lies to them. Others attempt to sneak into the U.S. and get kidnapped along the way. And yet others are simply sold by parents. These girls tend to be loyal but emotionally or physically abandoned. They are surrounded by high stress levels and are often uneducated and unskilled. They truly desire the opportunity to work in the U.S. Sadly, many come from countries where police are as corrupt as their traffickers, so when they reach the States, they are reluctant to seek the help of law enforcement.

Low socioeconomic status
No options (desperate)
High stress
Emotionally or physically abandoned
Low self esteem
Distrust police

The typical pimp is said to resemble the victims in race and background. In fact, many times, the traffickers are naturalized citizens who still have ties to their home countries. They have a network of criminal associates who provide them with females. Usually, the perpetrators work their way through criminal organizations until they have built wealth from selling sex slaves. The crime is lucrative, and the supply of females is virtually endless.

Perpetrators can be of any age and race, though kidnappers tend to be younger than those who actually run the brothels. Those who engage in such activities tend to be psychopathic and sadistic. They have no concern for the females. They keep the girls in deplorable conditions and show open contempt. As the females are broken down and become more compliant, the traffickers become more demanding and demeaning, often requiring manual labor on top of prostitution. Both women and men are perpetrators, and the females are no less brutal than their male counterparts. These offenders spend extravagantly on themselves and are less likely to have any stable work history. They make their money from criminal enterprise, and their best skills appear to be manipulating and deceiving.

These pimps usually target an audience of their own community. That is, if the perpetrator is a Caucasian from a middle class background, he sells slaves to others from his background. Or, if the perpetrator is an individual from Mexico or Russia, he serves a migrant community. Those in the cities often focus on using store fronts to hide their activities. Those who target migrant communities search for remote farms where the illegal activity is less likely to be discovered.

Entry into the U.S. is perceived to be relatively easy at the U.S./Mexico border. Thus, this is a main artery for this activity. Puerto Rico is another point of entry as there are only 23 U.S. border patrol for the entire island. Once individuals enter Puerto Rico, with fake paperwork, coming to the mainland is simple. This is a dangerous open back door to the U.S., and traffickers are taking notice.

Serial killers. Pimps. Gangs. Any one of the most vicious sexual offenders can prey upon illegal immigrant females coming into the States. Kidnapping these girls as they sneak across the southern U.S. border  is relatively easy. Dumping the lifeless bodies in the desert is also easy, and without identification, solving the murders is extremely difficult.

People need to become more aware of all victims of sex crimes. Whether it is an illegal immigrant committing these crimes, or whether it is an illegal immigrant who is a victim, the problems need to be exposed and addressed. No one is above the law. No one is allowed to commit sexual homicide or sex crimes and trafficking. ALL VICTIMS MATTER.

Selected bibliography for further reading:

Bode, Nicole. (2006) “Prostitution Horror for Young Women.” Daily News. August 3, 2006.

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, United. States

Hughes, Donna M. (2000) “The Natashia Trade: The Transnational Shadow Market of Trafficking Women.” Journal of International Affairs. 53(2) Spring 2000.

Human Rights Center. (2004). “Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United. States.” University of California. Berkeley, CA.

Hutchinson, Kay Bailey. (2005). Introduction of Amendment 218 to S. Con. Res. 18, The Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Resolution. Congressional Record, 109th Congress. Page: S2828.

Klein, Allison & Anderson, Nick. (2005). “Langley Park Reeling After Slashings of 5 Victims in 5 Days.” Washington Post. Tuesday August 16, 2005. Washington, D.C. Page: A01

Kralis, Barbara. (2006). “How Trafficking Scams Work.” Renew/America.

Landesman, Peter. (2004). “The Girls Next Door.” The New York Times. January 25, 2004.

Local (2006). “Florida Man Sentenced for having Sex Slave.” Bonita Springs, FL.

Miller, John. R. (2005). “A Modern Slave Trade.” Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. New York Post Online Edition.

Poe, Ted (2006). “Silent Back Door Of Illegal Entry-Puerto Rico). House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.

Raymond, J.G., Hughes, D.M., Gomez, C.J. (2001). “Sex Trafficking of Women in the United States.” Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

Rosenreid, Seth. (1997). “Global Sex Slavery.” San Francisco Examiner. April 6, 1997. San Francisco, CA.

Schreinemacher, Elisabeth. (2005). “The Slave Next Door.”

U.S. Department of Justice. (2001). Press Release. United States Attorney, Northern District of California. San Francisco, CA. Cite:

U.S. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (2003).

U.S. State Department. (2006). “Distinctions between Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking.” The Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center.

Van Sant, Peter. (2005). “Rescued from Sex Slavery.” 48 Hours Mystery, CBS News. February 23, 2005. New York.

Vitagliano, Ed. (2004). “Malevolent Bargains.” American Family Association Journal.

Whitehead, John W. (2006). “Sex Trafficking: The Real Immigration Problem.” The Rutherford Institute.

Young, Gary. (2005).”Haitian children sold as cheap labourers and Prostitutes for little more than E50.” The Guardian International. U.K. September 22, 2005.,,1575268,00.html

Miller, John. R. (2005). “A Modern Slave Trade.” Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. New York Post Online Edition.

Yang, Debra Wong. (2005). Press Release. U.S. Department of Justice. United States Attorney Central District of California. Los Angeles, CA. Kralis, Barbara. (2006). “How Trafficking Scams Work.” Renew/America.

Poe, Ted (2006). “Silent Back Door Of Illegal Entry-Puerto Rico). House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.

3 Responses

  1. Interesting article I am going have to do some more research into the subject.

  2. Wow…even though I’ve been involved as best I can trying to combat this stuff for several years…every time I read an article like this my gut still twists up the same as the first time I learned this was going on.

    Does anyone know if illegal immigrant girls who actually make it into the US without being trafficked are at high risk of becoming trafficked from within the United States? I’ve spent a lot of time in some migrant camps trying to help the people – especially the children deal with more obvious issues associated with poverty, but it hit me that if traffickers go to Migrant Camps to sell time with girls it seems likely that they’d steal/buy girls from desperate workers as well.

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