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Cheap heroin linked to human trafficking

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In the United States, human trafficking hugely increases each year as Mexico’s problem with sex trafficking increases annually. As Mexico’s diversification of organized crime increases, so do the sex trafficking cases- with the victims getting younger every year.

Mexican drug cartels made over $10 billion last year in the sex trafficking trade, and from forced sexual exploitation and enslavement of thousands of women and girls.

Teresa Ulloa, regional head of the Coalition against Trafficking of Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean (CATW-LAC), told El Universal that “70 percent of the sex trafficking cases seen by her organization each year were linked to drug gangs. Women were often tricked into the trade or taken by force.”

Mexico treats human trafficking seriously, and nothing says that more than former President Felipe Calderón publicly recognizing the role of the Blue Heart Campaign, which reinforces Mexico’s no tolerance rule for human trafficking.

“4 August 2011--- In a move to toughen the law against human trafficking in Mexico, President Felipe Calderón recently signed a draft amendment to three articles of the country's Political Constitution. During a ceremony held at the official residence, President Calderón noted that the constitutional amendments would provide more protection for victims of human trafficking and afford Mexico better tools and laws to counter that crime in an efficient and coordinated manner. One such amendment will protect the identity of human trafficking victims and guarantee their personal security, particularly when testifying in a trial. Further measures include better social reintegration of survivors. Another amendment classifies human trafficking as an offence for which prisoners are not eligible for parole.”

Since 2011, the legislative branch issued a new general law that enables human trafficking to be dealt with jointly at the federal, state and municipal levels. President Calderón also stated that “as a result of this new law, we will all be obliged to act, and no authority will be allowed to close their eyes to the terrible crime of human trafficking.” The amendment to the Constitution strengthens the efforts already undertaken by the Government of Mexico to fight human trafficking. President Calderón reiterated the commitment of his administration and encouraged initiatives such as the National Programme to Prevent and Sanction Trafficking in Persons and the UNODC awareness-raising Blue Heart Campaign. President Calderón also encouraged Mexican society to report the crime, saying, “When a Mexican citizen knows of a place where women, migrants, children, young people, or even people with disabilities, are being exploited, they should go to the authorities.”

It’s not that human trafficking isn’t being taken seriously in Mexico, but the Mexican government has failed to effectively combat the human sex trade, especially when prostitutes are forced into prisons to entertain jailed drug bosses.

The Mexican NGO, The Foundation of Social Assistance and Humanitarian Aid (ASAHAC), estimated that more than half of Central American migrants on their way to the United States end up as victims of some form of trafficking, reported by The Guardian. Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) came up with their own numbers, and had estimated there were between 16,000 and 20,000 victims of sexual exploitation in Mexico.

Human trafficking and forced prostitution have afflicted Mexico for decades, but the growing involvement of cartels in the trade has developed in recent years, and made it much more dangerous. While in part this could be driven by increasing competitiveness, and reducing profits within the drug trade, which forces organized crime to diversify, or it may be inspired by the territory-based business model introduced by Mexico’s cartel, the Zetas.

Since their emergence first as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel and later as an operation in their own right, the Zetas have emphasized territorial control rather than simply overseeing illegal operations. Simply phrased, this means Zetas are controlling key trafficking corridors and settlements along them, and involves taxing criminal activity within their territory. With all contraband shipments, including of people, utilizing many of the same trafficking routes, it is perhaps a natural evolution of this tactic that has increased cartel involvement in human trafficking. It may also simply be that while a drug shipment can be bought and sold a finite number of times, a person can be sold multiple times, making sex trafficking extremely lucrative.

You may be asking yourself the million dollar question, why don’t Mexican immigrants wait for the proper forms to legally live in the United States? Whatever the reason(s) may be that Mexican immigrants are risking their lives to cross dangerous borders to get into the United States, it can take decades and furthermore it may even be impossible in many cases to secure the paperwork for legally entering into the United States.

Last year 1.38 million Mexican citizens were waiting in line for a United States work visa or an immigration visa through a family member. But there were only 26,000 visas made available for Mexico last year. The visa cap applies evenly to each country, but Mexico has by far the longest waiting list, according to U.S. State Department figures. Even the applications now being processed for extended family, such as the Mexico-born adult children or the siblings of now-U.S. citizens date back to late 1992 and early 1993. Simply stated, the waiting period to legally immigrate to the U.S. through a family member who has become a citizen is now 18 years. However, there is one exception. There are no limits on the number of visas for immediate family of U.S. citizens. That is defined as spouses, minor children or parents--and that process takes only about a year.

But for consecutive years, year after year, thousands of Mexican’s are endangering their own lives to illegally live in the U.S. Unfortunately what this means for the United States is a higher crime rate of human trafficking forced on women and girls, and a lower percentage of boys.

On the routes from Mexico to the U.S. to get into the United States illegally, Mexico’s drug cartels have turned the extortion of migrants into a highly sophisticated, lucrative, and criminal enterprise. Migrants are abducted and held in so-called safe houses until family members pay ransoms of hundreds or even thousands of dollars for their release. The migrants are regularly beaten. In the past, ordinary smugglers abandoned them, extorted them; but now physical abuse is the norm.

Crossing through the desert or the river to illegally try to enter into the U.S. isn’t the only risk that migrants face, but the present danger is everywhere.

A woman, Ariana, sat down to discuss how she’d been forced into the sex trade. Ariana thought she met the man of her dreams in Mexico City. Posing as her boyfriend, Ariana’s boyfriend (name omitted), was really a trafficker looking to find women to force into the sex trade. The week the two met in Mexico City, it seemed natural for the couple to get a hotel room for the weekend due to neither one actually being from Mexico City. Ariana says they made hotel reservations and checked into the hotel during the first day they met in Mexico City, but what she didn’t expect was that her perfect boyfriend was planning to traffic her. That night he drugged and attacked her, and handcuffed her to the hotel bed, and then her nightmare truly begins. Handcuffed to the hotel bed, that night Ariana was chained to a bed so 40 men could have sex with her- as they paid her now pimp to have sex with her.

Ten years later, she had been sold over 20 times to various traffickers and pimps who profited off of her repeatedly. Depending on the method used, each pimp Ariana was sold to either used drugs, physical or emotional abuse, or just pure threats to keep her controlled.

Ariana’s third pimp, who she was trafficked to, used drugs to control her. A woman who never was around drugs, never took drugs before, and never was interested in taking drugs was now a drug addict by the time her third pimp buys her through the human trafficking trade. Ariana’s third pimp (name omitted) forced her onto the bed and ties her down, and begins to shoot heroin through her veins. From that day on, she was a drug addict, and remained under control by the drugs to turn a profit for her pimp.

Atlanta, Georgia is where I sat down with Ariana-- she had been 5 years clean from drugs, with two relapses, from the date of our interview. Police were never able to make any arrests to date, but she’s optimistic that her abusers will be caught eventually and she continues to be in good spirits as she publicly speaks out against human trafficking.

Ariana took a huge risk escaping her trafficker and pimp, but after years of being in a nightmare she was eventually saved by vigilant Mexican citizens who were trained in recognizing the signs of human trafficking.

The heroin that Ariana was forced-fed by her trafficker was a cheap form of heroin, which goes on the streets for four dollars. Cheap heroin has flooded the American underground market by Mexican cartels since early 2000- with an increase of 79 percent between 2007 and 2012.

In America, the huge heroin increase in a short span of time is already frightening, but with Mexican cartels using an intricate transport system to flood America’s black market with cheap heroin it’s also increasing the human trafficking market.

Entering the U.S. without permission is a misdemeanor under U.S. law. It is rarely prosecuted, federal officials say, and instead treated as a civil violation that can lead to deportation. For someone who has entered the U.S. without authorization, whether as an adult or an infant, there is generally no recourse to change their immigration status while they are in America illegally. A Pew Hispanic Center study estimated in a 2010 study that 300,000 people per year illegally entered the United States, 150,000 of those Mexicans.

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