ICE Human Trafficking Convictions Increase

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ALTON - Immigration and Customs Enforcement national numbers show a crackdown on human trafficking.

The numbers show an increase in criminal arrests, indictments and convictions.

A local organization doesn’t believe people are speaking up to get the help they need.

In a 2015 special investigation, CHANNEL 5 NEWS interviewed human trafficking survivors. We hid their identities for their safety. They expressed how human trafficking impacted their lives. 

Related Story: Trafficked: Web of Despair

"Nowadays, I don't even know how to speak to them or explain to my children what happened to me,” said one human trafficking survivor. 

"That was how I lived my life was like his sexual play thing,” said another survivor.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement numbers show an increase in criminal arrests, indictments and convictions. The chart below shows in 2015, there were 752 indictments, 587 convictions and 1,437 criminal arrests. In 2016, these categories increased; 1,176 indictments, 631 convictions and 1,952 arrests.

A local organization who helps survivors of human trafficking in the Rio Grande Valley see the decrease in people reaching out. We spoke to program advocate Valerio Cantu.

"As far as the year to date there has been only two cases that I personally dealt with, and I can't speak for anybody else but it seems a little low to me,” said Cantu.

Cantu said they get calls every day. He points out the numbers are low; however, it doesn't mean victims are not out there.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations also takes on cases that involve human trafficking. FBI special agent Michelle Lee sent us what the bureau witnesses in their reports.

"The FBI has observed in many cases, victims are not aware they are HT [human trafficking] victims as they pass through south Texas. Many believe they are willing participants being smuggled into the U.S. and are destined for a good job and a good life,” said Lee.

Cantu explained many of the people don't know where to get help and where to report it.

The Rio Grande Valley Empowerment Zone can help with victims’ assistance and provide counseling.


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