This blog post is part of a series of posts related to National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Human trafficking victims are often hidden in plain sight. That was the case in northern Virginia in 2009 when Jose Ciro Juarez-Santamaria, an El Salvadoran national and MS-13 gang member, forced a 12-year-old girl – a runaway – into a life of prostitution. This past October, thanks in large part to the work of our Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents, Juarez-Santamaria was sentenced to life in prison for child sex trafficking.
Sadly, scenarios like this one play out across the country every day. Through the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) HSI agents, DHS works hard to prevent and combat human trafficking. Last fiscal year, ICE initiated more than human trafficking investigations, which resulted in more than 900 arrests, 400 indictments and 270 convictions.
You can help us combat human trafficking and continue to put traffickers like Juarez-Santamaria behind bars. I urge you to keep your eyes and ears open to report suspicious activity and help us crack down on these horrific crimes.
At ICE, we not only investigate cases of human trafficking, but we also provide services and support to trafficking victims. ICE has full-time victim assistance coordinators at nearly 70 percent of its HSI field offices. We also have 350 collateral-duty coordinators who provide counseling and crisis intervention services when necessary.
President Obama declared January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Please join ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the fight against this heinous crime. If you suspect human trafficking, I encourage you to call 866-DHS-2-ICE or complete our online tip form. We can’t combat human trafficking without your assistance.