Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Adolescents & the Border Crisis, Part 2: Unaccompanied Minors and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA)

Since October, nearly 63,000 youth have been apprehended attempting to enter into the United States through the Mexican border (Park, 2014). Since 2011, the number of children from Central America attempting to enter America has doubled each year (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2014). These children, labeled either unaccompanied minors (UAM) or unaccompanied alien children (UAC), are coming to the U.S. primarily from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. They are frequently coming in an attempt to escape poverty, sexual assault, violence from gangs, kidnapping, or murder. This multi-part series of will explore the impact of border migration by unaccompanied children and youth on social policy in the U.S.

Unaccompanied alien children (UACs) are currently the center of much debate across the nation.  President Obama has urged Congress to approve $3.7 billion in emergency funds to address the influx of UACs, emphasizing the need to speed up the deportation process (Folye, 2014).  However, Congress remains divided on how to address the situation.  The crux of the debate centers around two existing policies.  The first is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order from the Obama administration that was signed in June 2012. DACA allows undocumented minors deferred deportation if they arrived before 2007 and if they meet specific criteria.  Deferment can be revoked at any time, and it does not provide lawful immigration status, a green card, or citizenship.  Instead, deferment indicates that the Department of Human Services (DHS) does not consider the child a danger to national security or public safety. 

It has been suggested the dramatic rise in UACs is a direct result of smugglers lying to children and their families about DACA,  telling them that they will be given a ‘free pass’ to remain in the United States if they are able to successfully cross the border. However, a study of over 400 UACs conducted by San Diego University showed that children have limited knowledge about the U.S. immigration system and few believe that they will be given special consideration based on their age (Kennedy, 2014).  In addition, legal counsel and child advocates are rarely appointed to UAC immigration proceeding.   As a result more than half of UACs do not have attorneys with them in court, or anyone to help them navigate the confusing U.S. immigration system (Center for Gender & Refugee Studies & Kids in Need of Defense, 2014).  This lack of representation increases the likelihood of a negative case result, such as the UAC being returned to a dangerous living situation (Center for Gender & Refugee Studies & Kids in Need of Defense, 2014). 

Large gang populations in their hometowns make UACs vulnerable to trafficking, as these gangs often single out young children (Kennedy, 2013).  Boys are targeted for recruitment into gangs or to become child soldiers; if they resist such recruitment, they are at risk of violence or death.  Girls are often targeted by gangs to be ‘girlfriends’ or to be trafficked for sex (Kennedy, 2013).  On the journey to America, youth face the risk of being robbed, assaulted, and sexually violated by gangs, other individuals, and even law enforcement officers (Cavendish & Cortazar, 2011). 

When youth reach the border, they reach out to a ‘coyote’ or ‘pollero’ to smuggle them across.  The fee to cross is often over $1,000 per person; if a youth does not have the money upfront they will become indebted to the smuggler (Cavendis & Cortazar, 2011).  Youth may be forced or coerced into trafficking to repay their debt, or may be sexually assaulted to have some of the debt forgiven. 

Once UACs cross the border successfully they are placed in shelters operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). They stay in these shelters until ORR is able to release the youth to relatives or other caregivers while they wait for their deportation hearing. An estimated 90 percent of these children are able to be placed with a caregiver, who may reside anywhere in the country (Lind, 2014). However, as we will discuss in Part 3: The Impact of Border Migration on U.S. Social Policies Related to Youth, placement in America does not end the child’s vulnerability to exploitation. 

Caitlin Gallacher, ChildRight: New York Intern


Cavendish, B. & Cortazar, M. (2011). Children at the border: The screening, protection and repatriation of unaccompanied Mexican minors.  Washington, DC: Appleseed.

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) & Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). (2014). A treacherous journey: Child migrants navigating the U.S. immigration system. Retrieved from

Foley, E., (2014). For border crisis, many bills but no clear answer.  Retrieved from

Kennedy, E. (2014b). ‘No place for children’: Central America’s youth exodus.  Retrieved from
Kennedy, E. (2013).  Refugees from Central American gangs. Forced Migrations Review, 43, 50-52.

Lind, D. (2014). Thousands of children are fleeing Central America to Texas- alone.  Retrieved from

Park, H. (2014). Q. and A. Children at the Border.  Retrieved from

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). (2014).  Children on the run: Unaccompanied children leaving Central American and Mexico and the need for international protection.  Retrieved from

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Adolescents & the Border Crisis, Part 1: Unaccompanied Minors and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act

Since October, nearly 63,000 youth have been apprehended attempting to enter into the United States through the Mexican border (Park, 2014). Since 2011, the number of children from Central America attempting to enter America has doubled each year (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], 2014). These children, labeled either unaccompanied minors (UAM) or unaccompanied alien children (UAC), are coming to the U.S. primarily from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. They are frequently coming in an attempt to escape poverty, sexual assault, violence from gangs, kidnapping, or murder. This multi-part series of will explore the impact of border migration by unaccompanied children and youth on social policy in the U.S.

The majority of the debate in Congress and among the public has surrounded the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), first passed in 2000 and reauthorized most recently in 2013. This legislation protects survivors of labor and sex trafficking in the U.S. and imposes criminal sanctions against both international and domestic traffickers. A clause added in 2008 allows UACs who enter the U.S. from non-bordering countries (other than Mexico and Canada) to not face immediate deportation, but rather to be offered the opportunity to see a judge in a deportation hearing.  This clause was added to better identify and protect child survivors of trafficking in other countries who were then brought to the U.S. from the southern border. It also identifies resources for survivors, as well as agencies responsible for providing these services.

In the ongoing debate over the border crisis, many have been quick to blame the TVPRA for the influx in UACs entering the U.S. However, due to their lack of protection under the TVPRA and inadequate screening methods, the majority of apprehended Mexican children are determined to not fit the criteria needed for asylum. These youth are generally deported back to Mexico within a few days, forcing them to again face the many dangers they sought to escape.

UAC at border patrol facility (Photo: Twitter/JefferyGuterman)

For this reason Mexican youth in particular are especially vulnerable to trafficking for sex or labor.  Mexican youth are often recruited by gangs to work in the human smuggling industry, and traffickers know that if youth are apprehended they will be quickly released and can start working again within days (UNHCR, 2014). 

There have been many bills proposed to address the UAC crisis, a majority of which  seek to amend the TVPRA so that all youth who attempt to enter the United States without proper documentation are deported promptly (in the same manner as Mexican youth).  This short-sighted response to a massive global problem is not a solution. Rather than remove critical protections for some of the world’s most vulnerable children, efforts should instead focus on addressing the issues forcing children to flee their homes in the first place.  Since the majority of children are fleeing due to violence and poverty, the United States should provide aid to address gang violence and corruption in Central American governments. Studies have shown that children who are attempting to escape violence in their countries come to America as a last resort; they often move around within their country or other countries in Central America before they are forced to come to America to escape the gangs that follow them (Kennedy, 2014).  Providing safe homes or spaces for these children in their countries would dramatically decrease the amount of UACs seeking to enter the U.S.  By jeopardizing the legal protections available to UACs, we are increasing the risk of unjust deportations, which could mean that we are sending children to their traffickers, abusers, and their deaths. 

Contact your representative and let them know that they should not support proposed legislation to amend the TVPRA. 

Sign the petition:

- Caitlin Gallacher, ChildRight: NY Intern 


Kennedy, E. (2014).  No childhood here: Why central American children are fleeing their homes.  American Immigration Council.  Retrieved from

Park, H. (2014). Q. and A. Children at the Border.  Retrieved from

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). (2014).  Children on the run: Unaccompanied children leaving Central American and Mexico and the need for international protection.  Retrieved from

Friday, September 12, 2014

Despite High Rating, U.S. has Room for Improvement

The United States Department of State released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in June, 2014.  This annual report places each country into one of four tiers based on the countries’ efforts to maintain compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Minimum Standards for the Elimination of Trafficking in Persons.  In the 2014 TIP Report, the United States ranks on Tier 1, the highest tier possible.  While the United States has made some great advancement in the past years in responding to human trafficking, there continue to be areas of great concern. 

In 2013 the FBI was significantly less likely to open a case on a perpetrator of labor trafficking of adults or minors, or an adult sex trafficking case, than they were to open a case of female minor sex trafficking.  Similarly, service providers and law enforcement across the country continue to focus the majority of their resources on responding to minor female sex trafficking survivors, at times to the detriment of victims of other forms of trafficking.  Additionally, services for male and LGBTQ trafficking survivors are severely lacking across the country, especially in the area of housing.  Survivors of all forms of trafficking - regardless their gender identity or sexual orientation - should be afforded the protections they are entitled to according to the TVPA.  Because these populations are perpetually underserved, it is also necessary that programs and funding include resources specifically for survivors of labor trafficking as well as LGBTQ and male survivors, particularly in regards to emergency shelter and long-term housing.

Currently, 42 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that protect minor sex trafficking survivors by requiring no proof of force, fraud, or coercion, and 18 states, including New York and Illinois have enacted ‘Safe Harbor’ laws.  Despite this, a reported 579 youth under the age of 18 were arrested for prostitution or solicitation in 2013 (U.S. Department of State, 2014).  While this is a decrease of approximately 25% from the previous year, it is appalling that children and youth survivors continue to be criminalized instead of being protected and provided with services.  The United States government urgently needs to provide resources and training to all levels of law enforcement on the issue of sex and labor trafficking of minors to end this violation of their rights.  Training should include information about the identification of male, female and transgender minors in sex and labor trafficking situations and the protections available to survivors under the TVPA and local state laws.

A vast majority of trafficked youth have had contact with the child welfare system.  However, there is virtually no systematic screening of children and youth for trafficking by child welfare agencies across the country.  Through our ChildRight: New York project, IOFA is creating a screening tool to be used by child welfare agencies across New York State to screen minors for trafficking.  Federal programs should require child welfare agencies in each state to screen the children and youth they encounter for sex and labor trafficking. With standardized screening mechanisms in place, child welfare agencies would be better able to identify minor victims, offer the tailored services survivors need, and more accurately quantify the number of minor victims in the United States.

In 2013 the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) decreased its funding for anti-trafficking tasks forces across the country.  These Task Forces are a unique model that mandates collaboration between various agencies, including law enforcement and service providing organizations.  The loss of funding to these programs will negatively impact survivors who rely on these collaborations and enhanced coordination to adequately meet their needs.  Therefore, federal funds must prioritize long-term services and sustainable collaboration between agencies.  Additionally, the DOJ should reinstate funding to these task forces and monitor their efforts to foster strong regional collaborations.

To read the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, click here.  To learn more about what the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report means for the United States, please see the Freedom Network’s comments on the report. 

- Caitlin Gallacher, ChildRight: NY Intern


U.S Department of State. (2014). Trafficking in Persons Report: June 2014.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

U.S Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. (2011).  Trafficking victims protection act: Minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons.  Retrieved from

Friday, August 15, 2014

Legislation Aims to Address Trafficking in Supply Chains

In addition to the chocolate and make-up industries – as discussed in the April 11th blog post – many other industries make millions, if not billions, of dollars from the production of commodities using forced labor throughout the supply chain.
This June, The Guardian newspaper released an article exposing the modern-day slavery used to procure shrimp for major grocery stores in the U.S. and around the world (Hodal, Kelly & Lawrence, 2014). Shrimp is only one of many products sold cheaply to consumers at the expense of exploited and trafficked laborers. Worldwide the use of labor trafficking or forced labor results in an estimated $51 billion of profits annually (International Labor Organization, 2014).  The United States is the largest importer of goods in the world but, despite this, there is little transparency of the supply chains that major companies use to move their products from production to our shelves.  
Thai fishmonger sorts shrimp. Photograph: Barbara Walton/EPA
The process involved in procuring a product includes a complex system of supplies, contractors, and workers. As it stands, this production maze makes it next to impossible for consumers to know if a product they are buying has been touched by human trafficking. While there have been moves from various agencies and even states (notably California) to highlight company supply chain practices, until recently there was no proposed federal legislation that would require companies to be accountable for their supply chain process. 

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY).  Photograph: Congressional Pictorial Directory
On June 11th, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking Act of 2014  (H.R. 4842). Building on key elements of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2012, this proposed legislation intends to require major companies in the U.S. to disclose annually what steps they are taking to identify and prevent human trafficking, slavery, and child labor in their global supply chains.  Specifically, this legislation would require major companies with annual worldwide global receipts over $100 million to disclose clearly on their company website their processes for identifying and addressing any forced labor in their supply chains.  This would include disclosure of the company’s current polices on auditing suppliers for evidence of forced labor, training about issues related to human trafficking for employees who have direct responsibility for supply chain management, and risk assessment (Wokaty, 2014).  Under this bill, The Department of Labor would also publish on their website a list of the top 100 companies adhering to the supply chain labor standards so businesses with progressive practices would be recognized for their efforts. Unlike current standards, such as the recognition of Fair Trade products, evaluation in this ranking system would be required for all major companies, and would be complied by the Secretary of Labor in consultation with the Secretary of State as well as other Federal and international agencies. 
If passed, this bill would represent a major step forward in the global response to modern slavery. It would allow consumers to research which companies are, or are not, taking steps to address human trafficking. Consumers would be empowered to purchase goods which have been produced without trafficking, and through these decisions they would be able to support businesses with responsible anti-trafficking practices. The bill would allow investors to better understand the risks in investing in certain companies, and enable them to make educated decisions regarding their portfolios. It would further create space for better discourse between companies and advocates about strategies that businesses could implement to identify and eradicate suppliers who use human trafficking and slave labor from their supply chain. 
-Caitlin Gallacher, IOFA ChildRight: NY Intern

For more information about the Business Supply Chain Transparency of Trafficking and Slavery Act, please refer to the following sources:
Fitzpatrick, T. (2014, June 12).  New Legislation Could Help Consumers and Investors Take a Stand Against Slavery.  Retrieved from 
Hodal, K., Kelly, C., & Lawrence, F. (2014, June 10).  Revealed: Asian slave labor producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK. The Guardian.  Retrieved from 
International Labor Organization (2014).  Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour.  Geneva, Switzerland: International Labor Office.
Lagon, M. (2014, June 27).  Modern slavery will continue if corporations keep passing the buck.  The Guardian.  Retrieved from 
Morosi, M. (2014, June 12).  Maloney targets slavery, human trafficking and child labor with bipartisan supply chain transparency bill.  Retrieved from 
U.S. House. 113th Congress, 2nd Session.  H.R. 4842, Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2014. Washington, Government Printing Office, 2014. 
Wokaty, J.  (2014, June 12). Investors welcome federal bill calling for corporate disclosures on trafficking and slavery risks.  Retrieved from 
For more information about the California Transparency in Supply Act (SB-657) legislation please visit: 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Welcome to IOFA, Caitlin!

While completing my undergraduate degree in social work at SUNY Brockport I was fortunate to study under policy workers who promote wide scale change for the benefit of vulnerable populations as well as an expert in sex trafficking. Working with these mentors increased my awareness of human trafficking – an issue I had been vaguely aware of, but largely uninformed about.  I, like many others, had considered human trafficking to be an international issue. Because of this misconception I had missed the connection between human trafficking and the large migrant farm worker population in my own hometown of Sodus, NY. 
After graduation I worked at a residential facility for pregnant and parenting teen mothers.  Many of my clients were considered runaways until they became pregnant and entered the program.  Looking back now, I can see indicators amongst many of my clients suggesting they may have been victims of sex trafficking. For example, some of my clients would run away from placement for a weekend and come back with new clothes, electronics, or money.  One client in particular would talk about the various adult sexual partners that she had and what they would buy for her for being their ‘girlfriend.’  Many of my clients had the name of their boyfriend tattooed on their arms or chest, and most of my clients were involved in gangs, or were involved with someone who was in a gang.  Even though I didn’t quite understand all of the things my clients were going through at the time, I knew that I wanted to help them and that I currently did not have the skills or knowledge to do so.  I then deiced that it was time to go back to school to complete my Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University at Albany, SUNY.  
I am excited about my work as a ChildRight: New York intern at IOFA. In a few short weeks I have already learned so much about labor and sex trafficking, and I am eager to continue learning about human trafficking as it affects children and youth in New York State.  I look forward to incorporating my knowledge from working with vulnerable youth into the statewide response to child trafficking, and to contribute to the development of the ChildRight: New York Handbook and Blueprint. I am looking forward to learning and growing with all of you!

Caitlin Gallacher, ChildRight: New York Intern