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January 11, 2022El Paso, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

ICE HSI El Paso shows support for victims of human trafficking, educate community during awareness campaign

Agency asks for community support in effort

EL PASO, Texas - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents across the country will come together Jan. 11, to show solidarity for victims of human trafficking, while pushing to educate the community on the various signs of the various forms of the 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 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.

“Human trafficking is the modern-day version of enslaving another person for profit, and these investigations remain a priority for HSI El Paso, whose focus is to identify and rescue victims from the grasp of their captors.” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Taekuk Cho. “Our commitment extends to using our ample authority to ensure traffickers face justice for their callous criminal actions.”

HSI also partners with 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 campaign works closely with all DHS components, including HSI, 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 lure innocent and vulnerable victims into 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.

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. Traffickers 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.

“HSI El Paso plans to proudly join other HSI and DHS offices throughout the United States and abroad as we wear blue on Tuesday, and it urges our community to join us in this effort.” said Cho. “Together, let’s show human trafficking victims they can come out of the shadows to seek help, as well as would-be perpetrators that they don’t have a safe place to hide.”

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 El Paso at @HSIElPaso.

Updated: 01/11/2022