Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Arizona's Immigration Bill and Human Trafficking

Arizona's recent immigration bill has been widely debated, garnering intense criticism from many circles as well as intense support. A number of entities and organizations are threatening or bringing legal challenges and suits, and many believe the bill will be found unconstitutional. If the law is not overturned, though, it will have a strong impact on human trafficking victims. Regardless of the law's future, it raises questions for anti-trafficking work.

The law will be one of the strictest in the nation. According to the New York Times, the bill "would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally."

While some of the
bill's defenders have invoked human trafficking and crime reduction as a justification for the bill, the bill has the potential to hurt trafficking victims. Traffickers use people's immigration status to control victims, and the Arizona law is likely to make people more vulnerable to this type of control. Additionally, many people who are in the United States without documents or are out of status will be even more afraid to come to the police when they know about human trafficking or other crimes, or are victims of trafficking or other crimes.

Amanda Kloer argues that the Arizona law "will probably mean imprisoning victims of human trafficking and other crimes. . . The fact is that this law is going to up the chances that undocumented trafficking victims end up detained or deported and documented traffickers walk free." Moreover, in focusing efforts on people in the US without documents, finite resources will be diverted from efforts to address violent criminals, such as traffickers (including US citizen traffickers and traffickers with documents). Former Arizona Governor Napolitano vetoed similar bills for this reason.

A recent Human Trafficking Project piece on a
failed Alaska bill pointed out that immigration laws frequently impact trafficking victims, though trafficking victims' needs may not be considered in the crafting of this legislation. While the author's hope that "other legislators give survivors this kind of consideration in similar bills" has not been the case with the Arizona bill, hopefully the broader immigration reform debate this bill has sparked will give serious consideration to the needs of trafficking victims and survivors.


  1. Anonymous10:33 PM

    So if I understand you correctly, you want human trafficking dealt with, but you don't want anyone to have the authority to deal with it directly? I guess I can see why you support Napolitano. Her inability to deal with tough circumstances only made the situation in Nevada worse.

    When everything is said and done, one must address a problem in order to solve it. The solution may not be pretty, especially if the problem is ugly, but you've got to start somewhere. Talking points only appeal to the lowest common denominator and anyone who can't think for themselves is going to believe them. Next time please put a bit more thought into your conclusions about the first steps being taken in addressing an issue before you dismiss it as problematic.

  2. Anonymous6:58 AM

    So I guess it makes sense to slam a bill that might let the police properly deal with human traffickers… Hmmm... Sorry, but standing on the fence because reality is flying in the face of popular leftist ideology is the reason why Pheonix Arizona is the second kidnapping capital of the world, next to Mexico city. When the lives of innocent victims are being jeopardized by lawbreakers both legal and illegal, the police and American citizens alike should worry less about politically correct feel good jargon, and more about addressing the problem with common sense solutions. How many more people will have to die or be sold into slavery because of the total deaf response of our governing elites, and an almost media blackout on the unintended consequences of our open border policies. So instead of facing an uncomfortable problem that’s literally killing people in our great nation, they have chosen to simply dismiss it with cyclical arguments that let that many more die or despair in the name of their political agenda.

  3. Anonymous4:19 PM

    What the other commenters here don't seem to realize is that the stronger the border control and the tougher the immigration laws, the more likely illegal immigrants are to be trafficked. I know it seems like a paradox, but it's true, the reason being because there will always be people who want to come to the States, and when the laws make it tougher to do so legally, the more likely they are to seek smugglers who may very well be traffickers.

    The problem with the Arizona law is that immigrants without documents are criminalized. Trafficking victims are generally very fearful of both deportation and of the police and when there is a great likelihood of being criminalized and deported almost immediately with little chance of explaining what happened (especially if one doesn't speak English), trafficking victims are likely to be deported before they are identified as victims. If police don't immediately criminalize them (because they don't have papers, or have had them confiscated), victims are more likely to go to the police.

    While it's true that most trafficking victims are illegal immigrants, it's also federal law that illegal status becomes moot when a person is found to have been trafficked. The Arizona law tends to too quickly label illegal immigrants as simply illegal with little thought of trafficking, so that fighting trafficking becomes more difficult.

    Arizona law does not deal with trafficking directly, contrary to the first anonymous poster's opinion. There are much better ways to fight trafficking than through laws like Arizona's.