Articles Tagged with human trafficking

In a remarkable story reported by the Voice of San Diego, neighbors reportedly called the police on a home in Chula Vista 53 times before Border Patrol and the San Diego County Sheriff’s department stumbled upon a human smuggling ring. The city had been getting reports for over five years and still failed to uncover the ring.

Back in November of last year, police pulled over a vehicle for a taillight infraction, without suspecting that anyone involved was guilty of other crimes. Panicked, the passenger took off. The chase led them directly to a home where police and border patrol responded to a request for backup. They happened upon a human smuggling event taking place right in the driveway.

Police records show that 53 calls have been made on that house. The neighbors have reported everything from grand theft, assault, child abuse, and domestic violence. The Police Department says they did not have any indication a human smuggling ring had been operating throughout that time, which is why nothing was done about it the first 53 times. Both Border Patrol and the Police Department ended up making 12 arrests that day, most of which were undocumented immigrants. Nine were taken by Border Patrol. Three of them face alien smuggling charges, while the other six are being held in federal custody as material witnesses in the smuggling case.

However not everyone is convinced that it was sheer chance. Ginger Jacobs, an immigration attorney, said she is not familiar with this incident but has seen other cases in which immigration officials used traffic violations to stop and detain undocumented immigrants. Jacobs said it is not uncommon for Border Patrol to look for people as part of an immigration sting by looking for their cars. The two agencies have flatly rejected that they were looking for a reason to pull the suspect over.

Immigration Pretext Traffic Stops

Traffic stops motivated by immigration status seemed to have surge since Trump took office, all the way from California to states like Georgia. In fact, the Supreme Court has already partially upheld an Arizona law requiring police to make reasonable attempts to determine an individual’s immigration status if there was reasonable suspicion s/he was unlawfully present in the U.S. See Arizona v. U.S. 132 S. Ct. 2492 (2012). The police can currently pull you over for almost anything they deem legitimate (ie. tinted windows, texting while driving, etc.). While local police do not have jurisdiction to enforce immigration status, they can detain you long enough to call ICE or border patrol over to investigate you further. Continue reading

Convicted human smuggler Martel Valencia-Cortez was believed to have assaulted a San Diego Border Patrol agent with a rock earlier this year. It is believed that Cortez had threw a rock at the agent at a human smuggling event, who thereafter fired his weapon at Cortez. He was allegedly caught smuggling 14 illegal aliens into California. Cortez was somehow able to escape back to Mexico while the 14 illegal aliens were taken into custody. Cortez is currently on the run, and is evidently well-known in the area. He has been allegedly smuggling people over the border since 1997 and was recently released from prison from a three year smuggling charge in September.  

Cortez is considered armed and dangerous by officials. Additionally, he is now believed to be connected to “El Tigre,” a lieutenant in the Sinaloa Drug Cartel a by U.S. Border Patrol.

Human Trafficking in California

Federal law makes it a crime to smuggle or help smuggle (bring in) someone into the United States if they are not a citizen. See Sections 274(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. It is a felony punishable by imprisonment of 10 years and a fine. The penalty also gets multiplied by the number of people one is convicted of attempting to smuggle in.

In California, Penal Code § 236.1 addresses the crime of  “human trafficking.” The Code defines human trafficking as:

  • Bringing people into the U.S. to exploit them for labor;
  • Depriving someone of their personal liberty as it pertains to sexual exploitation or child sexual exploitation;
  • Persuading or trying to persuade someone to engage in a commercial sex act (ie. prostitution).

Human trafficking is a Class C felony in California. However, back in 2012, California voters passed Proposition 35 (the “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act”), which provided for even harsher penalties. Now if you are convicted of human trafficking to obtain forced labor services, you will face five to 12 years imprisonment and a fine up to $500,000. If you are convicted of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, child pornography, or extortion, the term of imprisonment increases to 8 to 20 years, a fine of $500,000 and a requirement of joining the sex offender registry. Lastly, if you are convicted of persuading a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, you will be facing 15 years to life imprisonment, a $500,000 fine, and a sex offender registration. Continue reading

In a shocking study just released by researchers from the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazerene University, results estimated there are 8,830 to 11,773 underage and adult sex-trafficking victims in San Diego per year. This number is much higher than originally thought, and victims of sex trafficking come from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds, although 98% are female. It is estimated that $810 million spent on prostitution annually is connected to sex-slavery. However, only 15 to 20% of human trafficking victims in the county come into contact with law enforcement.

Typically, under-aged girls are recruited under the guise of romance by an older male at a public place such as the mall or school. They then get manipulated to work the streets to support their older ‘boyfriends.’ In the internet age, social media such as Facebook is also being used to recruit girls. Children who don’t fit in with their peers, or those who suffer from mental illness are often targeted. Other times, an experienced prostitute posing to be an under-aged girl enrolls in schools to help with recruitment.

In 2012, the District Attorney’s Office prosecuted 48 human trafficking, pimping, and pandering cases of adults and minors. That number has fluctuated the past several years. The same office is also responsible for prosecuting human trafficking-related cases as well as racketeering and gang activity.