I emphasized some statistics in the last post, but now I want to share a story. How does a girl become a trafficking victim? Friday afternoon our group from Centro Romero went into Tijuana and visited several different sites. We met a man (I’ve omitted his name for safety) in Tijuana who runs a safe house for girls told us about the economic chain involved. The trafficking occurs along a well-established route:
A large number of victims are taken from communities of extreme poverty in places like Honduras and Guatemala. Traffickers go down into these communities and identify potential children. They approach the mother of the child and say “That’s a beautiful daughter, can I buy her for $100?” Because of the extreme poverty, lack of education, and the dire needs of their large families, the mothers often agree to sell their children (often with the added incentive of violence). Once the traffickers have purchsed the children, they are moved to port towns and then on to warehouses in Chiapas (southern Mexico). In these huge warehouses, there are rows and rows of children with signs hung around their neck with prices. Brothel owners, pimps, and other traffickers go to the warehouse to purchase the children for approximately $200-500. They are then moved from southern Mexico up to border towns like Tijuana. At this point, the children are sold again for $500-2000. In Tijuana, a girl on the street can be propositioned by U.S. “sex tourists” for 10 minutes for $40. A very young girl will go for $200-500, virgins for even higher. Pratically anything you want, if you have the money, you can get. The girls are sold to 10-15 times a day.
Some of the girls are moved from town to town to keep their profits high. Others are moved across the border. Traffickers may connect with Americans and pay them to use their children’s birth certificates to move the trafficked child into America. Once in America, they are sold for approximately $15,000.
This whole process can occur in 15-30 days. Throughout the process, the children are raped and their spirits are broken. They are manipulated into believing that they are worthless. Pictures of their brothers and sisters are shown to them and they are told that If they ever speak out to anyone, their family will be attacked.
The Mexican government estimates that 137,000 children, women, and men are currently caught in this chain. In reality, that number is probably much, much higher.
* This is a guest post from Stephen Keating who is covering this sex trafficking conference for HBC. Thanks to Stephen for sharing what he’s learning with us!