Human Trafficking In North America

Posted on: 16th May 2023


Please answer the following question by making at least three points to support your argument. Happy for you to choose which of the geographic locations. More details provided on pages 7/8 of the attached file.

Explore how people are trafficked into or from one of the

following areas around the world: Central or Eastern

Europe, Northern Africa, South East Asia, or North

America. Critically discuss the underlying causes of this

crime, the social impact, and local and international

measures to deal with this crime.

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Human Trafficking In North America

Human trafficking, particularly targeting women and children, is on the rise even in the most industrialized countries, such as the North American region, despite the advancement of world civilizations and the promotion of human rights. Most trafficking agents disguise themselves in the name of lucrative companies that could offer employment or education opportunities to vulnerable victims. They use them for other purposes such as forced labor, sexual prostitution, and sometimes extraction of organs or surrogacy as ova. The victims are mostly from war-torn countries, poverty, or desperate people searching for a decent society. As a result, the trafficking agents promise to fill in this gap while withholding some documents, making it difficult for victims to seek legal help because they are afraid of being deported as illegal immigrants. The nature of transnational crime and the organization of the trafficking agencies have made it difficult to deal with the issue both internationally and locally by enforcement agencies. This paper focuses on how human trafficking in America is done, statistics of the most targeted places, especially in the U.S., and how the country and international organizations are working to solve the human trafficking issue.

Statistics of Human Trafficking in North America

The countries of Mexico, the U.S., and Canada make up the North American region. These countries have already dealt with concerns of people smuggling and continue to undertake various legislative measures and efforts to remedy the problem, but to no success. According to a report from the National Survey of Victim Service Providers, data collected in 2019 from 2015 showed an increase in the number of human trafficking arrests for involuntary servitude from 66 to 146, while commercial sex increased from 684 in 2015 to 880 in 2016, but decreased to 301 by the beginning of 2020. (Lauger and Durose, 2021, par.2). According to the array of human trafficking cases determined in US district courts, there were 79 percent of cases terminated, an 80 percent increase in defendants, and an 82 percent increase in those sentenced to prison (Lauger and Durose, 2021, par.2). Although there was some decline in the year 2020, the period was highly characterized by the Covid 19 pandemic, which led to many lockdowns and restrictions of movement for most people among and within countries which highly influenced the outcome of human trafficking declining. However, with most economies returning to normal, human trafficking incidents and reports are likely to increase dramatically (Lauger and Durose, 2021).

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has also sought to collect information on human trafficking in the three North American countries (UNODC, 2019, p.3). Based on the U.N. reporting, they used statistics from the Uniform Crime Reporting survey in Canada. According to the organization, the number of people trafficked in Canada increased from 200 in 2014 to 340 by the end of 2016 (UNODC, 2019, p.3). Further, data from the Canadian agencies, including the Uniform crime reporting survey, royal Canadian mounted police, and the human trafficking national coordination center, showed the numbers of trafficking involving males were higher than those involving women, where the females rose from 38 to 50 and males from 195 to 198 between the yeas 2014 and end of 2016 (UNODC, 2019, p.5). From these statistics, it is evident that most of the offenders are males in Canada, while women participating and arrested or convicted for human trafficking offenses are few. When it comes to victims, most of the victims are women, girls, and young children generally Reid et al., 2017, p. 306). In this case, by 2016, only one boy was reported as a victim, girls rose from 37 to 68, men were only seven by 2016, and women were the highest victims as they rose from 99 to 155 in 2016 (UNODC, 2019, p.4). Most of these victims were used for Canada’s forced labor and sexual exploitation.

The UNODC collected data on human traffickers’ probes and suspects from the United Mexican States' National Commission of Superior Courts of Justice (UNODC, 2019). Statistics of human trafficking recorded between 2014 and 2017 show a decreased from 621 to 425 in this case (UNODC, 2019, p.6). However, according to the Office of the Attorney General of the States and State Public Security Secretariats, the number of suspects suspected or warned of human trafficking offenses increased from 524 in 2014 to 609 in 2017. (UNODC, 2019, p.6). During this period, 2016 seems to be the year with most offenses being recorded at 839 cases of suspicion (UNODC, 2019, p.8). Based on the UNODC reports from the National Commission of Superior Courts of Justice, the victim numbers between 2015 and 2017 were about 2010. In 2014, unknowns rose from 336 to 434 (UNODC, 2019, p.8). However, the number of other victims showed some decline. The highest number of victims was females, who declined from 740 in 2015 to 262 in 2017 (UNODC, 2019, p.8). This was followed by girls who declined from 368 to 222 by 2017 from 2015 (UNODC, 2019, p.8). Males and boys reduced from 283 and 288 to 83 and 79 between 2015 and 2017, respectively (UNODC, 2019, p.8). Most female victims were used for sexual exploitation, followed by labor exploitation. Other crimes involved and forced on victims of human trafficking included forced labor and other forced criminal activity of minors. Cases of forced servitude reduced from 24 in 2014 to zero in 2017 (UNODC, 2019, p.8). Therefore, the statistics from Mexico show a similar trend to that of the Canadian region.

The state of the U.S. keeps track of human trafficking crimes, particularly those involving sexual abuse and compulsory labor. In this case, the Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the state (DOS) are involved in the investigations of the federal trafficking offenses. For example, the FBI collects data involving human trafficking investigations and arrests. In this case, data collected from the U.S. Department of State Trafficking in-person report, 2016 and 2017, about 654 human trafficking offenses were reported as arrests of solved crimes (UNODC, 2019, p.10). The number of cases reported by the DHS rose from 987 in 2014 to 1029 in 2016 (UNODC, 2019, p.10). Within the same period, the DOJ and DOS reported 835 and 154 cases that rose to 843 and 288, respectively (UNODC, 2019, p.11). Prosecutions also increased from 335 people to 531 from 2013 to 2016 (UNODC, 2019, p.11). The number of convictions within the same period also rose from 184 to 439 offenders of human trafficking (UNODC, 2019, p.11). Based on the statistics from the DOJ for victims of crime, most of the victims were women and minor girls. Women had the largest number of victims in this case, with the number of victims rising from 2362 in 2015 to 4975 in 2017. (UNODC, 2019, p.12). The number of girls within the same period increased from 626 to 1593, men from 786 to 1136, and boys from 65 to 146 victims (UNODC, 2019, p.12). The number of children identified as transgender increased from 6 to 20, while adult transgender increased from 40 to 133 (UNODC, 2019, p.12). The offenses committed against the victims, especially the women, sexual harassment cases were the highest which rose from 2179 in 2015 to 5104 in 2017 (UNODC, 2019, p.12). Forced labor was second, with cases rising from 1384 to 1895 within the same period (UNODC, 2019, p.12). Forced sex and labor rose from 209 to 351, while unknown cases increased from 303 to 653 between 2015 and 2017 (UNODC, 2019, p.12).

According to these figures, the United States is the top target of incidents in the Northern American region. Compared to regions such as Mexico and Canada, where there has been some decline in the cases of the offenders suspected or arrested, the U.S. has shown a sustained increase in the numbers of both the victims of the human trafficking cross-border crime and the number of offenders being arrested and prosecuted by the various agencies in the United States. Human trafficking is a serious issue in America, especially among women and young girls, since statistics suggest an upsurge in these crimes. Besides, the number reported is way too low. There are many unreported offenses in human trafficking where pimps mostly use women for sexual exploitation (Greenbaum, 2017, p.1). Most of the entertainment hubs have the girls trafficked into the U.S. to lure clients to sleep with them and get the money paid to the pimps running the human trafficking organizations or being a targeted client by the traffickers who sell the trafficked victims to the pimps. On the other side, the victims have many problems, including poverty and the fear of being found undocumented and deported to their countries where their situation is worse. The fear, therefore, increases their vulnerability because there are not enough laws to protect these victims, especially in offering the social and economic protection they need in pursuing their interests in the new countries, as much of the time, arrangements are made to deport them or incarcerate them as well in cases where there is a violation of citizenship status documentation (Barner, Okech, and Camp, 2014, p.148). Therefore, this vulnerability is a great asset to women living in poverty who cannot afford their essential needs; hence, they have no options but to sign up to the pimps that use them for their profits.

How People Are Trafficked

The first way most people are trafficked is through deception. In this case, the traffickers set up fake companies with promises of job placements in developed nations such as the U.S.  These adverts are primarily targeted at vulnerable populations looking for jobs and a better means. Some of the companies process documents and even pay the transportation fees by air for the targeted victims to come into the U.S.  Once they get into the country, they are denied their paper and kept in some hostels or rooms set up expressly to house them. They are then forced to participate in sexual prostitution or risk being reported, which could lead to their deportation. In return, the girls are paid a certain percentage for their work. Some of the deceptions involve being promised to study abroad opportunities. However, once a person gets into the country, they do not get any scholarship or student links, and instead, they are used for cheap forced labor or sexual exploitation. Most of the male victims fall on forced labor due to the cheapness of the labor sold to specific companies, enabling cutting costs of operations using undocumented trafficked people as the alternative cheap labor. These deception techniques have contributed significantly to the development and growth of the human trafficking industry, especially targeting most developed regions such as the U.S., where such cases are rising sharply.


Human trafficking is caused by three main factors that make victims more vulnerable to smugglers. Most of the trafficking people and agencies are disguised as genuine agents targeting the people susceptible to the lies and getting them to do other chores and crimes such as prostitution in brothels or selling drugs, among other crimes, for their profitability. The leading cause, in this case, includes war and political instability, primarily in the developing or less developed countries (Hodge, 2014, p. 111). In this case, most people want to run away from that country to places where there is peace, and they can search for jobs and provide for their families without disrupting the war activities. In this case, the number of refugees increases, and many vulnerable people, especially women and young children (mainly of the female gender), want to seek a safe place (Reid et al., 2017, p.306). Targeting these individuals who do not have much of an option and are desperate to get out of the warring situation has led to many cases bother reported and not recorded being trafficked into the U.S., where they end up being used by pimps and other criminal organizations to enhance crimes such as forced labor and exploitation for commercial sex activities.

The second cause includes the extreme poverty situations. Some individual in third-world countries could have completed their education but do not have jobs. Some of the victims are impoverished and getting a chance to get any form of employment is one idea they could embrace quickly. Therefore, they tend to get into the trap and get trafficked where they are used to working for others and earning meager wages (Sweet, 2014, p.162). Considering the fear of returning home to the impoverished state where there is no job and they cannot afford to meet their basic needs, the victims of this concern decide to cope with the trafficking status and fear of being reported, especially if they do not have documentation which is held chiefly by the trafficking organization to enhance the blackmail. In some instances, some people may overstay their visas and other documentation, making them illegal immigrants and potential targets for deportation. The fear of such deportation increases their vulnerability and gives the traffickers an edge to continue the perpetration.

The third leading cause includes the search for better lives. Some people believe that coming to the U.S. and other developed countries could offer them a chance to get better-paying jobs and good living standards. However, this yearning for foreign countries, especially the developed ones such as the U.S., can increase the susceptibility to falling into rogue agencies disguise themselves as genuine, contributing to the human trafficking into the U.S. (Sweet, 2014, p.162). Therefore, most men and women are used to serving in servitude and modern-day slavery in various homes. Most of the time, the jobs are given to these individuals are not paying well, and they fear going back home because of the shame and risk of not getting a better opportunity back in their home countries. In this case, most of them cope with the situation and engage in the activities leading to continued victimization by the trafficking agents/organizations.

The Social Impact of the Crime

Human trafficking has a negative impact on society in North America, especially in the US, with the largest market. It ruins the moral fabric and encourages criminal activity. Firstly, the U.S. is known for its slavery institution that resulted in many enslaved people being used in plantations for the benefit of the landowners. At the same time, they had no access to healthcare, good pay, and reasonable means of living. The rise in human trafficking cases, especially for labor exploitation or forced labor, serves as a reminder to Americans and the rest of the world that the United States is still engaged in modern-day slavery, with some organizations knowingly recruiting trafficked victims and collaborating with trafficking agencies to obtain cheap labor (Goodey, 2018, p. 241). Suppose such organizations are not taking action and reporting such cases or engaging in legal and appropriate employing measures that encourage equity and equality. In that case, the human trafficking business will continue to grow sharply even soon. Secondly, the case of human trafficking will enhance crimes and decrease the security of the local communities. In this case, some of the trafficked victims are used to committing various crimes that reflect the society in the wrong way. For instance, sexual prostitution and commercial sex by the trafficked victims in select cities show not only the failure of the policing agencies in combating such behavior but also highlight corruption within such agencies and the destruction of families by promoting sexual prostitution that is depicted as a mortal sin. Some organizations use the victims as outlets for their drugs being smuggled or sold in the streets, leading to more crimes by undocumented and sometimes untraceable victims.

Local and International Measures to Deal with Human Trafficking

At the local level, the U.S. and most North American states have legislated against human trafficking crime and offered some protection to the offense victims. In the U.S., for example, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act was passed in 2000. (GAATW, 2017, p.2). The act increased the prison sentence for traffickers found guilty to twenty years and, in some instances, life imprisonment. Furthermore, the DHS has developed anti-trafficking measures, including an annual publishing of the human smuggling in persons report, which identifies nations that are not enforcing national crime-fighting regulations, with the goal of introducing more interventions when they are discovered (GAATW, 2017, p.2). At an international level, the U.N., through the United Nations in the Palermo Protocol, has also advanced in the provisions of policy proposals on preventing and recording the human trafficking issues (GAATW, 2017, p.2). As indicated earlier, sometimes, social issues such as the inability to afford basic needs due to impoverishment can increase vulnerability to human trafficking (Britton and Dean, 2014, p. 305). To prevent and address such primary causes of the crime, the U.S. has committed about $70 million to some of the countries where people are trafficked from to enhance building awareness campaigns, provide housing shelters, and training of government and enforcement agencies on how to prevent the human trafficking and enhance rehabilitation programs (O’Brien, 2016, p. 205)). This is complemented by works of non-governmental organizations that work internationally to prevent some human trafficking cases (Limoncelli, 2016, p.316).


Human trafficking is still a concern in the North American region. The most affected countries are the United States which has seen a sharp increase in human trafficking-related arrests and prosecutions and the highest number of victims. Overall, most of the victims targeted by traffickers that use deceptive means include women and young girls. Some of the causes of the increase in human trafficking include the war and political instability in some countries, poverty, and the urge. They need to seek a better life outside developed countries. The US government has attempted to pass legislation to provide some protection to victims and to increase the severity of punishment in order to deter the crime. Internationally, approaches like the UN, NGOs, and US government funds to address root problems such as poverty and enforcement have aided in the resolution of the problem. However, many challenges continue to arise, causing stopping the crime quite tricky.

Reference List

Barner, J.R., Okech, D. and Camp, M.A., 2014. Socio-economic inequality, human trafficking, and the global slave trade. Societies, 4(2), pp.148-160.

Britton, H.E. and Dean, L.A., 2014. Policy responses to human trafficking in Southern Africa: Domesticating international norms. Human rights review, 15(3), pp.305-328.

Good, J., 2018. Human trafficking: Sketchy data and policy responses. Criminology & Criminal Justice, 8(4), pp.421-442.

GREAT, 2017. Trafficking in Persons in North America. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 May 2022].

Greenbaum, J., 2017. Introduction to human trafficking: who is affected?. In Human trafficking is a public health issue (pp. 1-14). Springer, Cham.

Hodge, D.R., 2014. Assisting victims of human trafficking: Strategies to facilitate identification, exit from trafficking, and restore wellness. Social work, 59(2), pp.111-118.

Lauger, A. and Durose, M., 2021. Human Trafficking Data Collection Activities, 2021. [online] Bureau of Justice Statistics. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 May 2022].

Limoncelli, S.A., 2016. What in the world are anti-trafficking NGOs doing? Findings from a global study. Journal of Human Trafficking, 2(4), pp.316-328.

O’Brien, E., 2016. Human trafficking heroes and villains: Representing the problem in anti-trafficking awareness campaigns. Social & Legal Studies, 25(2), pp.205-224.

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