smuggled in & forced into prostitution

September 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

(CNN) — In Mexico, girls dream of escaping small towns for big cities.  Such was the case of Claudia. Her dream of a better life quickly evolved into a nightmare. When she was 15, she met a man who later became her boyfriend. “He told me about the US and asked me to join him to work at a clothes factory.”  She was smuggled in and taken to NY.  She soon realized her boyfriend was part of a prostitution ring. He would beat her, burn her with cigarettes and tell her he would have her parents in Mexico killed if she tried to escape.  Claudia now speaks, nervous but wants to share her painful secret. A story of false promises, illegal immigration, abuse, drugs, forced prostitution and a risky escape. “The first day I started working, I had to sleep with 20 men in rapid sequence.”  For several months she saved up tips, just a few dollars at a time, that she would hide in a refrigerator. She discreetly would ask older women, who were also forced into prostitution, about directions to a bus station and streets around the area.  When she had enough for a bus trip, she bought a ticket to a city she didn’t know.  Free for several years, she suffers from nightmares and says her life has been scarred.  The prostitution ring for which she was forced to work had a  list of clients who knew the price they had to pay, who to call and where to go. It’s a well-organized and lucrative  industry: Luis CdeBaca monitors human trafficking at the State Department. He says there are no reliable figures, but forced prostitution from Mexico and Central America is a big part of it. “They know that their victims are not going to go to law enforcement. They know that their victims are afraid. In fact, sometimes one of their threats is to turn people over to Immigration.” Claudia was 15 when she was forced to become a prostitute, but there are younger victims, as CdeBaca found out when he worked as a federal prosecutor.  According to the International Labor Organization, there are about 12.3 million victims of human trafficking around the world. The ILO also estimates that at least 1.4 million of those are victims of commercial sexual servitude in their own countries or abroad. Trafficking from Mexico and Central America is of special concern for CdeBaca. “We have cases that I’ve worked on, involving women who had to serve as up to 50 customers a day; just a crushing amount of what in fact is a daily set of rapes.” Several cases have been successfully prosecuted against prostitution rings that operate in the same way. They lure women with promises of a good job only to be forced into sexual slavery once here. ICE Agent Brock Nicholson says that victims fell into the same trap. “They were brought in with romantic promises, with job promises, young girls, from a certain state of Mexico, brought up, smuggled in, immediately forced into prostitution.” Ten years ago, Congress passed a law that allows victims of human trafficking to stay in the country if they testify in court against perpetrators of the crime. Danielle Conley, an immigration attorney who helps victims of human trafficking, said this law known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act helps both victims and prosecutors. Victims get a visa to live in the US and prosecutors get powerful testimony to build strong cases against suspects of human trafficking. “They actually have quite a few rights, but unfortunately that’s not widely known among the immigrant community and American citizens,” said Conley. Claudia has now moved to a different city where she tries to live a normal life. She’s still afraid of retribution and wants to remain anonymous. “This is a problem and a serious one. I want parents to know that sometimes because of their work they forget about their children, especially girls, and leave them abandoned.”

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