The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as the use of force, coercion, or fraud in order o obtain some type of labor from another individual. This may include nonconsensual commercial sex acts.

Human trafficking is also defined as an organized criminal activity that involves the sale, trade, or purchase of exploited individuals. Human trafficking can be considered an example of modern day slavery.

Approximately 50,000 individuals are brought to the United States every year. These individuals have been forced, tricked, or abducted from their home countries into labor or prostitution.

One common example of how human trafficking occurs is when an ad is placed in another country that promises modeling work in the Untied States for several thousand dollars in exchange for transportation fees and a passport. Individuals who fall this type of scam are sold or are forced into farm labor or nonconsensual prostitution for the rest of their lives.

They face extreme physical harm or even death if they do not comply with the demands of their trafficker. It is important to note that victims of forced labor in the United States may also be citizens.

They may also originate from another region in the world, regardless of whether they have entered the United States with or without legal status. Human traffickers frequently target vulnerable populations, which may include:

  • Individuals without lawful immigration status;
  • Individuals who have incurred recruitment debts; and
  • Individuals who are isolated, impoverished, or disabled.

Victims of human trafficking or forced labor rarely come forward or seek help to escape their situation, often due to the fact that:

  • They may be unable to escape their physical environment;
  • They are too vulnerable to seek assistance, for example, if they are children;
  • Potential language barriers may exist; or
  • They do not self-recognize as a victim of trafficking.

United States law enforcement has uncovered forced labor in many different types industries, including, but not limited to:

  • Illicit massage businesses;
  • Domestic work;
  • Agriculture; and
  • Factory work.

Specific examples of situations when forced labor appears may include:

  • Door-to-door sales crews;
  • Bars and restaurants;
  • Peddling and begging;
  • Health and beauty services;
  • Construction;
  • Hospitality; and
  • Commercial cleaning services.

Signs of forced labor may occur during the recruitment process in order to:

  • Force the worker’s acceptance of the job;
  • Deceive the worker into an exploitative job; or
  • Create debt bondage by charging recruitment fees that cannot reasonably be paid back or cannot be paid back in a timely manner.

Once the individual is working, their employer may coerce, force, or defraud the victim into doing work that was not agreed to at the time of recruitment. In addition, force, threats of harm, and other abusive practices may be used as measures to prevent the victim from leaving the job.

Threats may be made against the victim, or loved ones of the victim. In the State of Texas, the criminal act of human trafficking is also referred to as the smuggling of persons.

What is a T-1 Visa?

T-1 visas are intended to provide protection to victims of human trafficking who are physically present in the United States due to such trafficking. In order to receive a T-1 visa, an individual must have made contact with law enforcement.

This may be accomplished either by reporting a crime or by responding to questions from law enforcement. If an individual has interacted with local or state law enforcement, a federal law enforcement agency must be alerted in order for the individual to obtain a T-1 visa.

This is because only federal agencies have the authority to investigate claims of human trafficking. To apply for a T-1 visa, an individual is required to complete Form I-914, “Application for T Nonimmigrant Status.”

Is Selling or Purchasing a Child the Same as Smuggling of Persons in Texas?

No, the selling or purchasing of a child is not the same as smuggling of persons in Texas. The sale or purchase of a child in Texas involves having a child in the offender’s possession.

The offender agrees to give the child to another individual in exchange for something of value, for example, money or goods.

What Do Prosecutors have to Prove to Convict Me of the Sale of a Child?

To convict an individual of the sale of a child, the State of Texas has to prove:

  • The individual had a child in their possession who was younger than 18 years of age;
  • The individual agrees to, offers to accept, or actually accepts;
  • Something of value; and
  • In exchange for custody of the child.

What Does it Mean to have Possession of a Child?

Possession of a child younger than 18 years of age means that the an individual has or had:

  • Parental custody;
  • Conservatorship; or
  • Guardianship.

What if the Exchange was for the Purpose of Adoption?

The purpose of the transaction does not matter. It is still a crime to offer to or to agree to accept something of value in exchange for a child.

This applies even when the purpose of an exchange is the adoption of a child.

What is the Punishment for the Sale or Purchase of a Child?

In Texas, the sale or purchase of a child is a third degree felony. If convicted, a defendant may face:

  • Two to 10 years in state prison;
  • $10,000 fine; or
  • Criminal fines and prison time.

What Can I Do About Human Trafficking?

It is not advisable for an individual to confront another individual who they suspect of human trafficking on their own. The suspected trafficker should be reported to the appropriate authorities.

There are some steps that an individual can take to educate themselves so that they will be prepared to report the possible trafficking. One of the first steps an individual can take is to learn how to identify and assist a victim of trafficking.

Human trafficking awareness training is available for regular individuals as well as:

  • Businesses;
  • First responders;
  • Law enforcement;
  • Educators; and
  • Federal employees.

Some indicators of human trafficking may include, but may not be limited to:

  • Living with their employer;
  • Especially poor living accommodations;
  • The inability to speak with the individual alone;
  • Signs of physical abuse; and
  • Responses appear to be scripted, or rehearsed.

If an individual is in the United States and believes someone may be a victim of human trafficking, they should call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Human trafficking can also be reported to law enforcement by calling 911.

In addition, the United States Department Of State website maintains a list of 20 ways in which an individual can help fight human trafficking in the United States.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you are facing charges of selling or purchasing a child, you are facing a serious felony charge. Being convicted of a felon affects many areas of your life in addition to your criminal record, such as the ability to get a job.

It is in your best interest to consult with a Texas criminal attorney about your criminal case. Your attorney can advise you regarding the possible defenses that may be available to you.

If you suspect an individual is involved in human trafficking, you can consult with an attorney to determine your options for reporting your suspicions to the proper authorities.