Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Trafficking and Deportation

A few days ago, a man in North Carolina was convicted for two counts of sex trafficking of minors and one count of interstate transportation of an adult for the purpose of commercial sex. At this point the only things I've read about it was the press release from the Department of Justice, and a blog post over on the End Human Trafficking blog on - but I find the case intereting for several reasons that I thought I'd share.

First, the man is an 'undocumented Mexican National' - the politically correct term for an illegal alien. Based on the fact that he was undocumented, and the crimes he was convicted of, there are several reasons for which he can and will be deported (the correct term is 'removed' - but most people still say deported). What I'm curious about is the EXACT reason the government will use when he is ordered removed/deported - will it be his illegal entry into the United States? Will it be based on the crimes he committed constituting crimes involving moral turpitude or aggravated felonies? (Please ignore that brief slip into immigration law concepts - I'm about to make my real point). OR - will it be because he is found to be a 'significant trafficker in persons'?!?

Ta-da! There is my point - because in case you didn't know, up until December 23, 2008 there was no specific ground for deportability/removability for human trafficking. Sure, it would likely fall within a variety of other reasons for deportation, but such laws are tricky and I like seeing it be its own ground, rather than trying to force it into one of the other categories.

Now - there are still plenty of questions to be answered. For instance, what does 'significant' trafficker in persons mean? Also, in terms of sex trafficking, I'm wondering whether this would encompass the Johns who pay to exploit the trafficked victim (because they technically meet the definition of a trafficker).

There are plenty of other things to say about the article and the law - but I will leave it to you to bring it up in the comment section and maybe we can get a discussion going. Meanwhile, I hope this little glimpse into US laws related to trafficking was enlightening.


  1. One of the things I am curious about is whether they have any evidence linking other people to the exploitation of these women. What are the pros and cons to convicting and "deporting" someone on the basis of human trafficking violations as opposed to anything else? I think it might make a strong statement if the U.S. government decides to charge and convict and remove this man because of the obvious human rights violations. Do you think there are any negative sides to this method? What do you think the government will actually do?

  2. Hi Anna -
    Basically each ground for removability/deportation has a period of time associated with it, during which the deported person is not allowed to return to the United States. This can be anywhere from 5 years to a permanent bar. A conviction for human trafficking likely bars the person for life. Human trafficking also probably qualifies as an aggravated felony, another reason for deportation, which also bars a person for life. Not knowing any more of the facts, it is hard to tell if there is even a possibility that this person would be removed for any of the reasons that have less than a permanent bar - but in theory, a person involved in trafficking, if they were convicted of something lesser such as pimping, might only be barred for 10 years, and they might be eligible to apply for a waiver for that.

    Beyond that, when you look at the statute it looks like the government doesn't even need a conviction to remove someone for human trafficking. The statute basically says that anyone who commits or conspires to commit, or anyone that aids/abets a trafficker, is removable. There is no mention of needing a conviction.

    As far as the US making a statement by removing someone for human rights abuses, I agree - it would be a strong statement to remove him for such offenses. Unfortunately, people convicted of trafficking face pretty long prison sentences, so we'll have to wait 20 or so years to find out what the government does. I think it likely that the government will toss every possible ground of deportation they have at him - to make a stronger case for a permanent bar (not that you need to argue for the permanent bar, it is automatic - but you might as well give it all you got).

    I don't really see any negative sides to this issue. I do have some general (and specific) criticism for some of the removal grounds based on criminal convictions - but this isn't one of them. I am curious as to what happens when a victim of trafficking is, because of circumstances, complicit in the enterprise - but I think that proof of their victimization could overcome any attempt to remove them for their participation - but that is another story.