Human Trafficking in Mexico

Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, or transfer of humans using any form of threat for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation could mean prostitution, forced labor or practices similar to slavery and servitude. In 2018, it was determined that the government of Mexico was not meeting the minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking. While Mexico is making strides in the number of prosecutions made and the amount of support given to victims, in 2018 the government obtained fewer convictions than in previous years, identified fewer victims, provided more limited services to victims and maintained a disproportionately low amount of shelters compared to its magnitude of the human trafficking industry. The following 10 facts about human trafficking in Mexico provide further insight into its expansive presence in the country.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Mexico

  1. Mexico has the largest number of victims of modern slavery than any other country in the Americas. Mexico, along with the Philippines and the United States, was ranked one of the world’s worst places in terms of human trafficking in 2018. Mexico is also thought to be the largest source country for trafficking across international borders. According to the Global Slavery Index, there are approximately 341,000 victims of modern slavery in Mexico.
  2. Those most at risk are women, children, indigenous people, people with mental or physical disabilities, migrants and LGBTQ individuals. The United States estimated about 70 percent of human trafficking victims in the US come from Mexico, with 50 percent of those individuals being minors. Women and children are often used for prostitution and sex trafficking, while many Mexican men are coerced into forced labor, often for use by drug cartels. Additionally, individuals traveling or migrating alone are at a higher risk for trafficking.
  3. One major reason for the presence of human trafficking in Mexico is the social and economic disparity. Many victims are also victims of poverty, and they become trapped in trafficking after being lured from poorer regions with a promise of employment and income. In 2016, 43.6 percent of Mexican citizens were living below the poverty line. UNICEF reports that traffickers specifically seek out individuals who are financially vulnerable, as they are more likely to accept illegitimate job offers due to desperate circumstances. Solo migrants traveling without family or any other individuals are often the most vulnerable victims due to their isolation.
  4. Out of 150,000 children living on the streets in Mexico, it is estimated that 50 percent are victims of trafficking for sexual purposes. Many traffickers use Mexico as a route to smuggle children into the United States and Canada. Often, these children stay and become victims in Mexico, and the numbers of exploited children in Mexico continue to rise.
  5. In June of 2019, the Mexican government announced an end to funding for human trafficking non-government organizations (NGO’s). President Andrés Manuel López Obrador justified the cut with reasons of corruption, believing that the funding for these NGO’s would end up in the wrong hands. Instead, the new plan is to open government-funded and government-run shelters for victims of human trafficking. Many people question the ability of the government to run shelters and provide victims with the care and support needed. George Mason University professor Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, who has studied the connection between organized crime and trafficking, explains: “Any mention of the topic is really very general… it doesn’t seem to be a priority.”
  6. Victims of human trafficking are at very high risk for repeated trafficking due to Mexico’s policies of prioritizing arrests of illegal immigrants and individuals engaging in prostitution. As a result, victims often have very little chance of social services or legal aid, and instead, are put at a higher risk for re-victimization and repeated trafficking. Opportunities for help and support were mostly offered by NGO’s in Mexico, and without proper funding for these organizations, the Mexican government assigns a low priority to services for victims.
  7. Mexican trafficking victims are even more vulnerable to sex trafficking due to issues of forced migration. An overwhelmingly high number of victims come from unstable countries in Latin America. In 2017, 14,596 people applied for asylum in Mexico. Due to government instability, violence due to the presence of drug cartels, and conflict within the country, migrant victims are at higher risk for vulnerability in a new country, and therefore, at a higher risk for becoming a victim of human trafficking in Mexico.
  8. In March of 2019, the Mexican government released statements announcing their goal to probe into the current “failing” anti-human trafficking policies in place. The technical secretary of the Inter-Ministerial Commission Against Human Trafficking, Felix Santana, publicly recognized the shortcomings of previous policies. With more emphasis and government dedication to supporting victims and survivors, solutions are becoming more promising for ending human trafficking in Mexico.
  9. Another step in the direction of ending human trafficking is the raising of awareness and visibility of the issue, specifically for Mexican youths. For example, the Pan American Development Foundation facilitated a partnership between MTV Americas and the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to create a mass media campaign, including a documentary focusing on real examples of trafficked youth.
  10. In the meantime, there are many organizations in Mexico dedicated to ending human trafficking and assisting and supporting victims. For example, El Pozo de Vida provides a safe-house for victims and offers food, water, shelter, education, clothing and counseling. The creation of more organizations to assist in the rehabilitation of victims is crucial in alleviating the extreme damage done by human trafficking in Mexico.

It is believed that the number of victims of human trafficking in Mexico would decrease with strengthened law enforcement, acknowledgment of the expansivity of the problem and additional training for victim identification.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

Addressing the Root Causes of Emigration from Mexico

Earlier this year, the United States encountered a humanitarian crisis at the border with Mexico that referred to the separation of immigrant parents and children. This is one of many tactics for deterring migrants from entering the country. However, this does not address the root causes of emigration from Mexico. People who live in danger and lack economic opportunity seek a better life outside their home country. Another motive for crossing the border is to participate in the United States’ drug trade. Tackling such issues can help alleviate poverty in Mexico and can benefit the United States, too.

The connection between criminal and migrations

Organized crime has been on the rise in Mexico. Since 2006, over 109,000 citizens have been victims to homicides. As instances of murders increase, so does the rate of migration.

Mexico is the top supplier of illegal substances to the United States. Methamphetamine-induced seizures more than tripled between 2010 and 2015 along the U.S. southern border. Given this strong tie between the two countries, efforts to minimize drug transport have only resulted in other types of criminal activities. Smugglers found new opportunities with human trafficking that encourages kidnapping other immigrants at the border.

Central American leaders meeting

Much can be learned from the 2014 meeting held between the presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the United States. Actions that they proposed were similar to the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe after the World War II. President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, increased efforts to improve education and confiscate weapons used in the drug trade. He also bolstered the revenue for public services. President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras worked to limit business conducted by drug sellers as well as improve the country’s judicial system.

They said the United States focused too much attention on its own national security rather than sending much-needed funds to Central America. At this meeting, they stressed the importance of economic reform and collaboration among countries. Such insight can also help address the root causes of emigration from Mexico.

The United States would benefit from providing aid to Mexico’s economic situation and tackling organized crime within their Government. Vocational training in Mexico can ensure that workers entering the U.S. have valuable skills to contribute to job markets. Plus, it helps immigrants find employment and adjust to living in a new country. Certain areas of the Government of Mexico have been corrupted by acts of violence toward journalists and human rights defenders. It would be in the United States’ best interest to encourage transparency and due justice in Mexico, especially since they share a border.

The United States investments in Mexico

In response to such conflict, the Merida Initiative gave $2.8 billion to improve Mexico’s criminal justice system. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly met with representatives from Mexico to discuss plans for disrupting the businesses of criminal organizations. USAID gave $87 million so that judicial workers could be more qualified to handle court cases. Some of the states receiving those funds experienced a 25 percent reduction of pretrial detention. Since kidnappings are sadly a common occurrence, over $590 million was invested by the U.S. in aircraft that patrol the flow of emigration from Mexico. Part of that money also goes toward forensic equipment to lower Mexico’s impunity rate.

To discourage drug-related transactions between the countries, Mexico has imposed a limit on how many U.S. dollars can be transferred across the border. Additionally, more than 10,000 schools are teaching a lawful culture. They’re engaging youth in after-school activities to deter them from the drug industry and violence. Out of 9,000 surveyed youth who did these activities, 70 percent either remained in school or sought employment.

Some family members are sent to the U.S. for employment because of economic instability within Mexico. It provides different sources of income in case someone’s job can’t generate enough to support the family. For instance, if an entire family worked in the farming industry, there is no market stability. Increasing youth employment offers security and results in less migration.

Further research about how foreign aid benefits each sector can help the United States maximize their impact. That way, funding goes where needed most. But help from the U.S. isn’t about making people content to stay in Mexico. Reducing poverty can make sure immigrants enter the United States for reasons less dire than seeking asylum. Addressing the root causes of emigration from Mexico will return in the form of national security and economic opportunity.

– Sabrina Dubbert
Photo: Flickr

crime in mexico
On October 1, one of the biggest names of drug trafficking in Mexico was captured. His name Hector Beltran Leyva. Leyva is one of the sole survivors of his gang of brothers; the others either dead or locked up. He was 49 at the day of capture.

For the country of Mexico, this represents a great feat in both ending drug connections and allowing for an intensified concentration on the economic system.

Unfortunately, gang related issues have not stopped at drug distribution. On September 28, gang-related violence resulted in the deaths of 11 men. This area of Northern Mexico is deemed a rival area for drug smuggling and thus one of the most dangerous areas of the country.

According to Reuters, since 2007 gang violence has taken the lives of over 90,000 people. Despite this alarming number, rates over the past year and a half have declined since president Enrique Pena Nieto took office.

The gang involvement affects much more than the lives of Mexicans. As Mexico’s neighbor to the north, the United States is hit hard by Mexico’s drug cartel. This drug war directly affects the U.S., who is the primary recipient of so many of these illegal drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin.

A Huffington Post article from April of 2013 pinpoints the extent of the drug cartel’s influence in the U.S. No longer have the drugs been found primarily in areas like New Mexico and Texas, states bordering Mexico, but the cartel has embedded itself into lands as deep into the country as Chicago.

In fact, one of Mexico’s leading drug lords was named Public Enemy No.1. In Chicago, this name was given only once, to the infamous Al Capone. This modern-day Mexican drug lord has never even visited Chicago, yet his presence has clearly been felt.

Despite the disheartening facts and figures, Mexico needs to continue to capitalize on triumphs like Leyva’s arrest. Arresting those highest in power on the cartel ladder is the only way crime can truly be eradicated in certain areas of Mexico. And with a fall in drug production and distribution, the U.S. will also see major improvements to safety and declining crime rates.

Kathleen Lee

Sources: New York Times, Reuters, Reuters 2, Huffington Post CNN
Photo: Flickr