Fear of compliance
Initially vilified, E-Verify is much improved and effective — too effective for some.
‘In Plain Sight’
To the public, human smuggling and human trafficking often sound like the same thing. They’re not.
Smuggling is an illegal transaction between willing participants. An immigrant or immigrant’s family pays smugglers for a service — to get an individual from Central America to the Mexican border, across to the United States, to a stash house and then to Florida. Separate organizations then place the immigrants in jobs in agriculture, hospitality or other industries. It may sound benign, but it isn’t. The illegal journey is hazardous, whether it involves crossing a desert, being stuffed in a truck trailer for the trip to Florida or traveling on an overloaded boat from the Bahamas.
Trafficking, in contrast, means force, fraud and coercion. Sometimes what begins as smuggling changes to trafficking when the smugglers alter the rules, demanding more money and forcing migrants into prostitution or indentured servitude to pay off the debt.
“There’s a huge trafficking problem here in Miami and South Florida,” says Carmen Pino, assistant special agent in charge at Homeland Security Investigations in Miami. Florida is No. 3 in the nation in human trafficking. There’s no shortage of examples beyond South Florida either. In 2015, a federal grand jury in Panama City Beach indicted nine unauthorized immigrants for crimes tied to transporting and marketing female aliens for prostitution in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
“People don’t realize there’s human trafficking here, and it’s happening in plain sight,” Pino says. “You could be getting your nails done by a victim of human trafficking.”
See other stories from Florida Trend's October issue.
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