Human trafficking was one of the topics in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, as part of a large section on immigration and border security. Here are some facts that somehow didn’t make it into the speech:
“Human trafficking” includes both sex and labor trafficking. More than two-thirds of trafficking victims are U.S. citizens. Most of the rest enter legally.
“Most of the victims we work with come in on perfectly good visas,” Martina Vandenberg, the founder and president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, told me.
“This mischaracterization is part of a cynical strategy that uses trafficking to bolster arguments for harsh immigration policies and also makes it more difficult for non-citizen victims to remain safely in the U.S. Last year, despite having originally exempted people who were applying for humanitarian visas, the Administration announced that, beginning in mid-November, applicants who are denied T visas may be required to appear in immigration court, the first step in deportation proceedings.”
Making it harder to enter the United States, and especially making asylum more difficult, helps traffickers. According to The Freedom Network and the Human Trafficking Legal Center:
“People desperate to cross the U.S. border will take more risks, placing them in greater danger of trafficking. The added expense and complexity of crossing the border will result in higher debts and greater vulnerability for trafficking victims who are brought into the country without documentation.”
Documented or undocumented, immigrants pay taxes. A lot of taxes. Vox has a good fact check on immigrants and the safety net.
“Based on estimates in the trustees report, the more immigrants that come in, the longer the Social Security system will stay solvent.
“That’s because immigrants, on average, are a lot younger than the overall US population, so their retirement is far off. And undocumented immigrants pay for Social Security, but they’re not allowed to get benefits….
“Undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in federal taxes each year. Payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security are still withheld from their paychecks, even if they use a fake Social Security number on their W-2 form. “The IRS estimates that unauthorized workers pay about $9 billion in payroll taxes annually.”
In 2013, the Social Security Administration checked on the amount paid into the system by undocumented immigrants. They found an even higher number for 2013: $13 billion dollars.
U.S. border towns and cities are safe. The Border Network for Human Rights defended El Paso’s reputation:
“Donald Trump … lied about immigrants. He lied about his border wall. And he lied about my hometown of El Paso, Texas.
“El Paso was one of the safest cities in the U.S. long before the border wall was built. …
“Trump openly distorted the facts and reality of our border region to justify his absurd obsession of a border wall. He told these lies to scare people, to anger them, to stir them into hating newcomers, taking in America’s welcome mat, and closing the door to the land of opportunity we have always offered the world.”
The New York Times concurred, reporting that El Paso’s crime rate declined from 1993 to 2006, reaching “the lowest level in decades” before construction of its current border fence began in 2008.
“Many people living along the border, including Mexican immigrants, say they understand the desire for strong border security. But in conversations here in El Centro on Tuesday, even those who agreed with some of the president’s positions were quick to point out that his statements about immigrants, and Mexicans in particular, made them disinclined to support him.”
Back in 2011, USA Today analyzed safety on the border and found falling crime rates before the fence and increased Border Patrol activity.
“U.S. border cities were statistically safer on average than other cities in their states. Those border cities, big and small, have maintained lower crime rates than the national average, which itself has been falling.”
Another 2011 article looked at Arizona and found lower crime rates along the border than in the rest of the state.
The latest plans: increase border security by sending more troops. An additional 3,750 troops will go to the border on an undefined mission to run through September.