ICE HSI Chicago unites in support of human trafficking victims, enhances public awareness
CHICAGO - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents across the country will come together January 11, to show solidarity for survivors of human trafficking, while raising awareness and sharing red flag indicators to educate the community on this heinous crime.
In recognition of this important topic, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign hosts Wear Blue Day to encourage participants to dress in blue attire on January 11 and post photos on social media using the hashtag #WearBlueDay, to show support to trafficking victims, raise awareness and provide prevention information about this horrendous crime.
“On the 11th, HSI Chicago will proudly join other HSI, law enforcement and community partners as we unite to show support to this significant cause,” said Special Agent in Charge of HSI Chicago Angie M. Salazar. “HSI would be honored if Chicagoland people would join us in this effort by also wearing blue, tagging @HSIChicago and utilizing the #WearBlueDay hashtag. Together, we can show human trafficking survivors and those who hope to gain from their plight, that we are committed to the eradication of this crime.”
HSI also partners with the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking and the Blue Campaign, to educate the public, law enforcement and other industry partners to recognize indicators of human trafficking and how to appropriately respond to possible cases. The Center works closely with all DHS components, including @HSIChicago, to develop general awareness trainings and educational resources to help reduce victimization in vulnerable populations. Human trafficking is a crime that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to hold men, women and children against their will for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
In fiscal year 2021, HSI human trafficking arrests across the country increased to 2,360 from 1,746 in the previous year, with 728 victims identified and assisted.
Some of HSI Chicago’s previous human trafficking cases include the following:
- Illinois woman sentenced to prison on federal labor trafficking charge
- Owners of Chicago physical therapy company indicted in scheme to bilk Medicare, employ housekeeper against her will
- Wisconsin man sentenced to 21 years in federal prison to sex trafficking girls and young women
It is also important for the public to note that this crime has no age, gender, ethnic or economic boundaries and perpetrators may target adults, children, men, women, foreign nationals and U.S. citizens from all economic classes. Human trafficking perpetrators may also target individuals for many reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, and/or political instability.
Due to fear and intimidation by their traffickers, language barriers, and sometimes anxiety about law enforcement, many victims will not seek help even when given the opportunity in a public setting. Community members can help, and even potentially save lives, by being vigilant and recognizing some of the common indicators to identify possible human trafficking including:
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
- Has a child stopped attending school?
- Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
- Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
- Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
- Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
If someone believes trafficking may be occurring, they should not approach the potential suspect or victim(s). For the safety of the public and the victim(s), suspicious activity should first be reported to local law enforcement. Tips can also be submitted anonymously online at ice.gov/tipline, or by phone at 866-347-2423.
“There are many misconceptions concerning human trafficking,” continued Salazar. “Many people assume this crime only affects a certain demographic, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. While it’s accurate some individuals may be more vulnerable, perpetrators of this crime are very wise when pursuing vulnerable victims who can fall prey to their criminal intentions. It is our mission to protect the vulnerable and to raise awareness to combat this crime, which is one of the many reasons investigating Human Trafficking is a top priority for HSI Chicago.”
HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
Learn more about HSI Chicago’s fight against human trafficking in your community at @HSIChicago.