Innovations in the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Perspectives and Proposals Open Source Innovation Development Session 3

Innovations in the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Perspectives and Proposals

Open Source Innovation Development Session

By: Rachel Searle


This breakout session involved discussion among some audience members about how immigration reform can help combat human trafficking. Immigration reform could be both beneficial and detrimental to trafficking in the United States. Some immigration visas are geared towards people who have learned skills and can work for high-paying companies. This makes it difficult for many people to immigrate into the US, especially with caps that have limited how many people can obtain certain work visas. Additionally, many companies have a limited time frame in when they can harvest and process produce for their products. In this time frame, it is difficult to find enough people so they hire outside the regulations of the Department of Labor. This hiring generally includes undocumented citizens and trafficked people.

Reforms, such as implementing a guest worker program, can sometimes make these issues worse. It could create an attitude of “come pick our fruit and leave.” Additionally, it could increase the number of people who are lured into trafficking situations. With the passing of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), it can be argued that the number of coyotes and the people falling prey to them have increased. With these points in mind, it could be argued that some reform could lead to increased issues in trafficking.

On the other hand, properly instituted immigration reform could help solve some issues in trafficking. If there is a better pathway to citizenship, it could lead to a better chance of other workers obtaining green cards. Green cards open many more options for work, making it less likely that immigrants will be exploited. Another innovation that could be helpful is demilitarizing the border and decreasing the detainment of excessive numbers of people.

The last point discussed in the group discussion was how there is a gap between the rhetoric of combating human trafficking and the reality of obstacles to achieving that goal. The groups decided that acknowledging and discussing this gap was important to effecting changes. Some issues that present themselves right now are unchecked capitalism and conflating trafficking with sexual exploitation. Unchecked capitalism creates more marginalized, vulnerable groups. The conflation of trafficking and sexual exploitation creates a bifurcation between labor and sex. This view is also propagated by some media sources and lobbyists.

While there is no definitive solution to these very large issues, there are several ways to move toward a better solution, including starting with self-evaluation and enhanced knowledge. Additionally, anti-trafficking advocates could be encouraged to work within their fields to involve more people on the ground. For example, more police officers could be on the lookout for signs of trafficking victims. While there is always going to be a gap between rhetoric and reality, there are small steps we could take to close the gap.