A recent image of Ecuadorian girls, aged 3 and 5, being dropped like packages over the southern border wall shocked many Americans. But it didn’t shock experts who say that human traffickers are busier than ever under President Biden, who has expedited the flow of migrants over the US-Mexico border.
The Biden policy, which puts pressure on border agents to release families and unaccompanied minors into the US within 72 hours, incentivizes impoverished Latin Americans to send their kids on the perilous journey up north — which many of them do not survive. What’s more, it has encouraged traffickers to pose as the parents of these children to slip into the US.
In his work as a border control agent in Yuma, Ariz., from 1994 until 2019, Michael Gramley saw traffickers “providing” children to unrelated adults so they could more easily gain entry into the US.
“It was, ‘You don’t have a kid? I’ll provide a kid,’ ” he told me.
When adults reach their destination in the US, they return the child to traffickers, who send the child “back to Guatemala and repeat the cycle.” And those are the lucky ones. Gramley said many of these children eventually end up being forced to work in the US sex industry, often in prostitution or child pornography.
Traffickers “probably won’t tell a family a child will be sold into commercial sexual exploitation,” Gramley said. “But once they leave their home country and become indebted to the traffickers, they are at their mercy.”
A record 18,890 unaccompanied minors have crossed the US-Mexico border illegally in March this year compared to 9,380 the same time in 2019, along with a record-breaking 53,623 family units. Gramley attributes the recent “explosion” to the Biden administration’s decision to cancel Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which forced those seeking asylum to wait in Mexico while their cases were reviewed.
Homeland Security agent Michael. P. Conlon oversees a team that monitors the direct human pipeline from Tenancingo, Mexico, to New York City for the commercial sexual exploitation of women and minors. His office has prosecuted cases of “girls as young as 14 [who] have been. . . forced into prostitution.”
“They are held in apartments in Queens against their will and driven from appointment to appointment to have sex with men,” said Conlon, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York. “They see 15, 20 men in an evening and all money is handed over to the trafficker.”
Conlon said traffickers are eager to exploit any loophole or perceived weakness in enforcement. “It’s no secret human traffickers are opportunists, and if they see . . . a more lucrative opportunity to bring women and make money, they would take advantage of it.”
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