(Updates throughout with fresh quotes, recasts)
By Ellen Wulfhorst
WASHINGTON, April 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Under
tougher anti-immigration policies in the United States under
President Donald Trump, human trafficking will "skyrocket," a
top expert warned at a conference on Tuesday.
Fear of being deported by U.S. authorities stops people
from speaking up about their own or other trafficking cases,
said Denise Brennan, professor and chair of the Department of
Anthropology at Georgetown University.
"Policies that push migrants to live and work in the shadows
make the perfect prey for abusive employers," said Brennan, a
keynote speaker at the Trust Conference/America Forum, a one-day
Thomson Reuters Foundation event on the fight against slavery
"We cannot effectively fight trafficking when migrants fear
reporting exploitation and abuse."
Anti-immigrant rhetoric, violence and policies are on the
rise around the world, in particular in the United States under
Trump, who has vowed to fight illegal immigration and build a
wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, she said.
"Trafficking will skyrocket under President Trump," she
said. "Anti-immigrant policies make trafficking possible."
Since becoming president, Trump 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.
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 enforcement statistics, in
the United States nearly 32,000 cases of human trafficking have
been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the
"These individuals have no place to turn," said Brennan,
author of "Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in
the United States."
"Isolation and threat of deportation are just as powerful as
locking someone behind closed doors," she said.
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
in the United States 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 told
the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview before the forum.
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;
Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm
of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's
rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and
resilience. Visit news.trust.org)