WASHINGTON, April 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tougher
anti-immigration policies in the United States under President
Donald Trump make fighting human trafficking impossible, a top
expert warned on Tuesday, describing the lack of political will
to help victims as a "dirty little secret".
Fear of being deported stops people in the United States
from speaking up about their own or other trafficking cases,
said Denise Brennan, professor and chair of the Department of
Anthropology at Georgetown University in Washington D.C..
"The biggest deterrent for people blowing the whistle on
either their own situation of abuse or maybe co-workers is the
fear of people getting deported," Brennan, author of "Life
Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United
States," told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"We just simply cannot have policies of deportation or a
deportation regime and fight trafficking at the same time. One
policy undoes the other."
During his 2016 presidential campaign Trump vowed to fight
illegal immigration and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Since becoming president, he has issued a temporary visa ban
against seven Muslim-majority countries that was later blocked
by federal courts, suspended a refugee program and initiated
tougher deportation procedures.
"The criminalization of immigration makes it impossible to
actually fight trafficking," said Brennan, a speaker on Tuesday
at Trust Conference/America Forum, a one-day Thomson Reuters
Foundation event on the fight against slavery and trafficking.
"You cannot work on the exploitation of migrants while we
are criminalizing migrants."
LITTLE POLITICAL WILL
Up to 12 million people are estimated to be living illegally
without documents in the United States.
While there are no official law enforement statistics, in
the United States nearly 32,000 cases of human trafficking have
been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the
Globally, nearly 21 million people are victims of forced
labor, made to work for free after falling into debt or forced
to work due to deception, coercion or threat of violence,
according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Brennan said there is little genuine political effort made
to find and aid labor trafficking victims.
"The dirty little secret about trafficking in this
environment of 2.5 million deportations under President Obama
and now President Trump's obvious anti-migrant stance is there
has not been a political will to really find people," she said.
Under a law passed in 2000, 5,000 visas are available each
year to trafficking victims, Brennan said.
But only between 7,000 to 9,000 such visas have been issued
in the past 17 years when the number could have been 85,000, she
"I just don't think we've been looking for trafficked
people," said Brennan, who is currently writing a book, "Life
without Papers," about how undocumented people navigate threats
of detention and deportation.
She said the fear of deportation extended further than those
without legal papers.
Last week Trump ordered a review of a U.S. visa program for
bringing high-skilled foreign workers into the country with a
view to potentially modifying the system.
"Under President Trump, we have so many people who have
various forms of temporary protective status," she said. "If we
start deporting people with green cards, we're looking at
millions of people who don't have full U.S. citizenship."
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith;
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rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and
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