These past weeks, you may have seen or heard horrifying stories: children missing and feared to be in the hands of traffickers, families separated at the border, and death of 19-year-old Guatemalan woman at the hands of border patrol. All are depressing situations and I have been shocked by each of these cruel realities.
However, it seems that there has been some confusion about these situations, especially of the disappearance of children. These situations are not connected. Rather, the missing children mostly came to the U.S. alone in 2017. They were put into custody of the Office of Refugees and Resettlement (ORR) and were then released to sponsors. Until recently, ORR has been unable to contact a significant number of these children by way of their sponsors.
Another compelling but separate issue is that of the separations of children from their families at the border. These parents often are unable to find their child again and may be deported by the time the child’s advocate locates the parents.
While migration and trafficking are inherently related topics, claiming that immigration restrictions are a necessary means to end trafficking is a false pretense and connection. In reality, limiting immigration policies can actually fuel the exploitation and marginalization at the basis of the global trafficking problem, creating a culture that is harmful to identifying and protecting victims of human trafficking. Ending trafficking requires and approach that prioritizes the human rights of migrants facing exploitation rather than simply “cracking down on illegal migration.”