Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking

Every day, HSI agents around the globe work to uncover, dismantle and disrupt human trafficking. They come face to face with the worst of humanity – traffickers profiting off the forced labor and commercial sex of their victims through the use of physical and sexual abuse, threats of harm and deportation, false promises, economic and psychological manipulation, and cruelty.

Human trafficking victims have been found in communities nationwide in the agriculture, hospitality, restaurant, domestic work and other industries, as well as in prostitution that is facilitated online, on the street, or in businesses fronting for prostitution such as massage parlors. Overseas forced labor can be used to produce the consumer goods that are in our homes and workplaces. These victims are men, women and children of all ages and can include U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Many of them thought they had found a good paying job or a better life, only to have their hopes dashed and work compelled.

In fiscal year 2016, HSI initiated 1,029 investigations with a nexus to human trafficking and recorded 1,952 arrests, 1,176 indictments, and 631 convictions; 435 victims were identified and assisted. ICE continues to make human trafficking cases a top investigative priority, bringing traffickers to justice and connecting victims to services to help them restore their lives.

Forced Labor, Domestic Servitude

The HSI Effort

HSI as an agency is first and foremost about the people it is here to protect and serve, therefore identifying and assisting victims is paramount. As a result, HSI employs a victim-centered approach, where equal value is placed on the identification and stabilization of victims, as well as the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.

HSI has dedicated human trafficking investigative groups in each of the Special Agent in Charge field offices with subject matter experts in outlying offices as well. Our Special Agents proactively identify cross-border criminal trafficking organizations and prioritize investigations according to the degree of risk posed by each to national security and public safety.

An integral part of the HSI effort, Victim Assistance Specialists ensure that victims have access to the rights and services to which they are entitled by law, as well as the assistance they need so that they can participate actively and fully in the criminal justice system process. Additionally, Forensic Interview Specialists conduct victim-centered and legally defensible forensic interviews.


Also within HSI but serving the entire law enforcement community, the Parole and Law Enforcement Programs Unit manages all requests from law enforcement for Continued Presence, ensuring that foreign nationals identified as victims of human trafficking who are potential witnesses can remain lawfully in the United States and be authorized to work.

Overseas, HSI investigations are carried out through ICE Attaché offices in conjunction with host country law enforcement partners. HSI leads international trainings in order to build the capacity to conduct human trafficking investigations with host country authorities. Additionally HSI investigates and works closely with CBP to share information regarding the possible entry into the United States of goods produced by prison labor, forced labor, or indentured labor under penal sanctions; any public information that could facilitate enforcement can be emailed to

Human Smuggling & Trafficking


Task Forces: HSI participates in nearly 100 human trafficking task forces nationwide, alongside other federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement. HSI also works with other investigative authorities, such as code inspectors, labor officials, and child welfare investigators who are likely to come across trafficking in the course of their work. Essential partners in the task force effort are victim services organizations who provide case management and social services that help to stabilize victims. Furthermore, HSI participates in federal Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams along with the Departments of Justice and Labor and FBI to proactively coordinate and plan significant federal human trafficking investigations and prosecutions.

Victim Service Providers and Community Based Organizations: Victim service providers offer comprehensive and culturally appropriate services to victims, including shelter, food, clothing, medical and mental health care, job training and employment placement, legal counsel, interpretation and more depending on the unique needs of the victim. HSI also works closely with community based organizations, faith based organizations, workers’ rights groups, migrant and refugee organizations and others to ensure the community is informed of trafficking indicators to provide tips for investigations and referrals.

The Blue Campaign: The Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to combat human trafficking. Through the Blue Campaign, DHS raises public awareness about human trafficking, leveraging partnerships to educate the public to recognize human trafficking and report suspected instances. The Blue Campaign also offers training to law enforcement and others to increase detection and investigation of human trafficking, and to protect victims and bring suspected traffickers to justice. To view all available Blue Campaign resources, please visit their resources page.

Federal Government: Committed to a whole of government approach, multiple federal agencies are engaged in human trafficking prevention, prosecution and protection efforts. Specific to enforcement, HSI works closely with prosecutors at the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Offices as well as investigators at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Human Smuggling & Trafficking Center (HSTC): The HSTC is an interagency center of subject matter experts with expertise in intelligence analysis, law enforcement collaboration and support, and diplomacy. The HSTC serves as a clearinghouse for federal data related to human trafficking. The primary members are the Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security.

Foreign Law Enforcement: The success of HSI's international human trafficking operations are dependent on support from foreign law enforcement partners. Some trafficking investigations begun in the United States will link to individuals and networks in other countries, oftentimes where the victims were originally recruited. HSI bolsters these relationships with human trafficking training to foreign law enforcement partners through the International Law Enforcement Academies worldwide.

Human Trafficking - A Global Problem

Select Cases

Forced Labor of Unaccompanied Children – Eight unaccompanied children from Guatemala, some as young as 14 years old, were falsely promised good jobs and a chance to attend school in the United States. A trafficker posed as a family friend to have the minors released to her custody after entering the country and transported them to Marion, Ohio. They lived in dilapidated trailers and worked 12 hours a day cleaning chicken coops, loading and unloading crates of chickens, and debeaking chickens. The traffickers took their wages and threatened them and their relatives if the minors didn’t comply. The lead traffickers are serving 15 and 10 years in prison.

Multistate Sex Trafficking – HSI arrested 29 people in 8 states for sex trafficking more than 13 Hispanic women and girls from Mexico and Central America through a system of brothels across the southeastern United States. With 41 indictments, this case has the highest number of indictments of any HSI human trafficking investigation. The 15 month investigation was a success because of the combined support from DHS Joint Task Force – Investigations, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Emergency Management Administration and multiple state/local law enforcement agencies.

Domestic Servitude – A military official from Qatar and his wife brought two domestic servants with them to San Antonio, Texas. The couple allegedly housed the workers in primitive conditions, threatened them with arrest and jail, withheld their wages, and deprived them of cell phones, passports, visas and food. HSI made the arrest on forced labor charges.

Human Trafficking Top 10 Fugitive Captured – Paulino Ramirez-Granados was arrested in Tenancingo, Mexico through a joint investigation by HSI Mexico City, HSI New York and the Mexican Federal Police.  The Granados family and its associates would romance young women before coercing them into prostitution in Mexico, smuggling them into the United States, and then continuing the control, physical and sexual abuse, and threats in New York City.  HSI identified 26 victims and 19 other traffickers and smugglers.

Other Cases


Immigration Relief for Victims of Human Trafficking and Other Crimes – This two-page fact sheet informs law enforcement officials and answers frequently asked questions on Continued Presence through HSI and U and T visas through USCIS.

U and T Visa Law Enforcement Certification Resource Guide – When immigrant crime victims apply to USCIS for a U or T Visa, USCIS requests that law enforcement provide information regarding the crime and victim’s cooperation with law enforcement. This resource guide encourages submission of the requisite form for each visa application, answers frequently asked questions, and gives guidance on how to complete the form.

Brochure: Continued Presence – Law enforcement may request Continued Presence for victims of human trafficking who are potential witnesses to remain in the U.S. temporarily with work authorization during the ongoing investigation into the human trafficking crimes committed against them.

DHS Blue Campaign Resources – Fact sheets, indicator cards, shoe cards, posters, and trainings.

Most Wanted

For full information about the individuals below, visit their respective profiles on the Most Wanted: Human Trafficking/Smuggling page. 

WARNING: Do not attempt to apprehend any subject. If you have information about the whereabouts of these fugitives, immediately contact your local ICE office (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or call the national hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (TTY for hearing impaired: 802-872-6196) as soon as possible!

Last Reviewed/Updated: 05/28/2019