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What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking occurs when criminals control or exploit vulnerable people for profit. By definition, human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, threats, or coercion to obvain labor or commercial sex. Anyone under the age of 18 performing a commercial sex act is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of force, fraud or coercion. 

Who are the victims?

ANYONE can be a victim of human trafficking. Traffickers target the most vulnerable people in our society, including homeless youth, immigrants looking for work, and adults or youth living in poverty. Traffickers often withhold victims' identification or important papers, threaten victims and their families, or manipulate victims by making extravagant promises. 

Where does trafficking occur?

Trafficking can occur anywhere, and it's happening in El Paso. Here are some of the common settings where trafficking may occur:


Labor trafficking: construction, restaurants, cleaning, elder care, domestic service, agricultural work, nail salons, marriage

Sex trafficking: strip clubs, bars, marriage, sex work, online sites, modeling agencies, massage parlors

Human Trafficking Statistics

  • $150 billion industry 

  • 20.9 million victims of human trafficking

  • Of these victims:

    • 68% are trapped in forced labor​

    • 26% are children

    • 55% are women and girls

              (Study by the International Labour Organization​)



  • 1 out of 6 runaway youth are victims of human trafficking

        (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2016)​

  • Reports of human trafficking in the U.S. increase each year. From 2015 to 2016, there was a 35% increase in reporting. ​

        (Polaris, 2017)​


  • Estimated 300,000 victims of labor and sex trafficking in Texas

        (Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, 2016) 

  • Interstate-10 is the most heavily traveled route for human trafficking in the United States

       (U.S. Department of Justice, 2015)​

How to Identify a Potential Victim 

  • tired during the day from working at night

  • suddenly has expensive things (like designer purse or clothing, hair or nails done on a regular basis, multiple cell phones, etc.)

  • older boyfriend or group of friends

  • keeps eyes down while in public

  • starts to become secluded

  • evidence of physical or sexual abuse

  • Little control of money, cell phone, or ID; constantly monitored

  • does not have access to identification or important immigration documents

  • lives where they work

  • overcrowded or very poor living conditions

  • prevented from taking adequate breaks

  • doing different work than was contracted

  • forced to meet daily quotas

  • exorbitant fees deducted from paychecks, or is paying off a debt

  • not paid directly, forced to turn over wages

Remember, human trafficking occurs when criminals control or exploit vulnerable people for profit. If you notice 3 or more of the indicators above, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888, or text BeFree: 233733). In an emergency situation, call 911. 

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