Human Trafficking - Exploitation of Illegal Aliens

The large and persistent influx of illegal aliens contributes to an environment of vulnerability and abuse. Wherever the law does not hold people accountable, crime will flourish. The federal government’s failure to address the illegal alien dilemma creates and perpetuates an environment in which exploitation runs rampant.

It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year.1 Trafficking is the recruitment and transportation of persons within or across boundaries by force, fraud, or deception for the purpose of exploiting them economically. Victims are lured with false promises of good jobs and better lives, and then forced to work under brutal and inhuman conditions. Victims of trafficking are exploited for purposes of commercial sex, including prostitution, stripping, pornography and live-sex shows. However, trafficking also takes place as labor exploitation, such as domestic servitude, sweatshop factories, or agricultural work. After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it is the fastest growing.

While anyone can become a victim of trafficking, illegal aliens are highly vulnerable to being trafficked due to a combination of factors, including lack of legal status and protections, limited language skills and employment options, poverty and immigration-related debts, and social isolation. They are often victimized by traffickers from a similar ethnic or national background, on whom they may be dependent for employment or support in the foreign country.

The information below, taken from news sources, demonstrates the prevalence of human trafficking in the United States and the precarious nature many illegal aliens face. This is not the opportunity that our nation’s immigrants are seeking but symptoms of a flawed system of immigration enforcement. Human trafficking violates our nation’s promise that every person in the United States is guaranteed basic human rights. A critical strategy in ending human trafficking is better enforcement of our immigration laws and greater federal-local cooperation in law enforcement.

  • August 2008 —  In Kansas City, three owners of massage parlors pled guilty to human trafficking. Ling Xu, Zhong Yan Liu, and Cheng Tang recruited Chinese women to work as prostitutes at their businesses. The victims worked from 9AM to 11PM seven days a week and stayed inside the parlor. In addition to human trafficking, the defendants also pled guilty to money laundering and identity theft. They agreed to forfeit more than $500,000 earned from the prostitution ring.
  • June 2008 —  In Houston, 120 victims were rescued from a sex trafficking ring. Victims were approached in Central America and promised waitressing jobs in the U.S. After being smuggled in, the women were forced to work as bargirls 6 and 7 nights a week. De Walter Corea was convicted for his role in the scheme and sentenced to 180 months in prison and, jointly with his co-defendants, required to pay $1,715,588 in restitution to the victims. (Houston Chronicle, June 29, 2008).
  • May 2008 —  In Miami, 14- year-old Simone Celestin, testified she worked fifteen hours a day, did not attend school, and frequently was threatened and beaten. Based on her testimony, a federal jury convicted Maude Paulin and her ex-husband, Saintfort Paulin, of human trafficking and smuggling charges. In 1999, they arranged for Celestin to be brought illegally from Haiti, and until 2005, she was forced to work as a domestic servant in their home. Maude Paulin was sentenced to 87 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release and ordered, jointly with her co-defendant, to pay $162,765 in restitution to the victim. Saintfort Paulin was sentenced to 18 months of probation, including six months in home confinement, and was ordered to pay a $500 fine. (CNN, May 20, 2008)
  • May 2008 —  In Los, Angeles, 12 victims were freed from a sex trafficking ring, 5 of whom were minors. According to court records, the victims were approached in Guatemala and promised high-paying U.S. jobs. After being smuggled in, the women were told they had to work as prostitutes to pay off their smuggling debts. When the women protested, they were told they had no choice. Pablo Bonifacio pled guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and transporting illegal aliens. (Department of Justice, May 08, 2008)
  • May 2008 —  In Tucson 38 men were found at a “drop house” where smuggled illegal aliens were held. The aliens were held as hostages until more money could be extorted from the victims’ families. Jose Manuel Enriquez-Hernandez, the operator of the house, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiracy to commit criminal hostage taking. (DHS/ICE Press Release May 9, 2008)
  • May 2008 —  A 14- year-old Mexican girl, who was recruited to work in a Miami restaurant, was forced to work as prostitute. She had been smuggled into the United States after paying $2,000. She was just one of the many victims in an elaborate sex trafficking ring. Juan Luis Cadena-Sosa, a Mexican national and a rings organizer, pled guilty to involuntary servitude, conspiracy to recruit, harbor, and transport known illegal aliens for purposes of prostitution, and extortion of extended credit collections. (Department of Justice, May 07, 2008).
  • May 2008 —  In San Antonio’s first human trafficking case, two Mexican teenagers were recruited to engage in prostitution. Timothy Michael Gereb, a convicted sex offender, pled guilty and received 10 years imprisonment for his role in the crime.
  • March 2008 —  In Hyattsville, a 14- year-old Mexican girl worked as a prostitute from August 2005 to June 2006. Javier Miguel Ramirez pled guilty to sex trafficking of the girl. He transported the girl to residences in Maryland and Virginia to engage in sex. She was instructed to meet with 25 clients or more per day, and provided most of the money that she made to Ramirez. (Department of Justice, March 10, 2008)
  • February 2008 —  In Phoenix, at least 15 illegal aliens were held hostage after being smuggled in the country illegally. Mancinas-Flores was found guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, and in addition, he received concurrent 10-year terms for two charges of harboring aliens and a seven-year consecutive term for the use of a firearm during the hostage taking. (DHS/ICE Press Release February 12, 2008)
  • January 2008 —  In Los Angeles, Nina Ruiz, a Filipino maid, was forced to eat three-day-old food, sleep on a dog basket, and work 18- hour days. After having her passport taken, she was threatened to be reported to immigration officers. Elizabeth Jackson, of Tacoma Washington, pled guilty to forced labor. A federal judge sentenced her to three years prison. (DHS/ICE Press Release January 28, 2008)
  • January 2008 —  In San Diego, at least three Mexican illegal aliens were forced to work as day labors after being smuggled into the county. If they refused, they were threatened with arrest. Gloria Eugenia Leon-Aldana pled guilty to bringing in illegal aliens for financial gain and forced labor, for her role in the ring. (Department of Justice, January 12, 2008).
  • January 2008 —  In New Jersey, several Honduran women to worked as sex slaves and were beaten and threatened with deportation if they tried to escape. The women were smuggled into the country and forced to work up to seven nights a week at bars to pay the debt. Noris Elvira Rosales-Martinez, Jose Dimas Magana, and Ana Luz Rosales-Martinez, pled guilty to human trafficking and they received the maximum sentences for their crimes. (Jersey Journal, January 05, 2008)
  • December 2007 —  In New York, Indonesians Nona and Samirah, testified they were forced to work long hours. For misdeeds, they were beaten with brooms and umbrellas, scalded with hot water, and slashed with knifes. Misdeeds included sleeping late or eating food from the trash. Mahender Sabhanani and Varsha Sabhanani, were convicted of forced labor, peonage, document servitude, and harboring aliens. (DHS/ICE Press Release December 19, 2007)
  • December 2007 —  In Atlanta, several Brazilians were lured into a scheme to encourage illegal immigrants to file untruthful visa applications. Emma Gerald, Ruy Brasil Silva, Douglas Ross, and Hudson Araujo, were convicted on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and making false statements related to a fraud scheme targeting illegal aliens. Gerald faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison and a fine of up to $1.25 million. Silva faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Ross and Araujo each face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. (DHS/ICE Press Release December 13, 2007)
  • November 2007 —  Harrison Norris Jr., known in the wrestling world as "Hardbody Harrison," was convicted of charges of sex trafficking and slavery in Georgia. Norris kidnapped some of his victims and lured others to come live with him by promising to train them as professional wrestlers. Once he got the women to his home, he forced them to work as prostitutes at Hispanic nightclubs, apartments, hotels, in North Carolina and Northern Georgia. Norris faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.(Department of Justice, November 23, 2007)
  • November 2007 —  In Los Angeles, four Filipino workers were forced to work 18- hour days with no overtime pay. Robert and Angelita Farrell were found guilty of abusing Filipino workers who worked at their Comfort Inn and Suites hotel in South Dakota. (DHS/ICE Press Release November 08, 2007)
  • October 2007 —  Vanessa Cristina Guedes Lopes, a Brazilian, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for running a prostitution ring employing illegal aliens in Burlington, Massachusetts. (DHS/ICE Press Release October 17, 2007)
  • August 2007 —  In Detroit, 22- year-old “Katya” (an alias) of Ukraine testified before a congressional panel. She was lured from her home with a promise of a student visa. Instead, she was forced to dance at a strip club for twelve hour days, six day weeks. Michail Aronov was sentenced to 90 months in prison and required to pay $1 million in restitution. Aleksandr Maksimenko was sentenced to 14-years in prison, and $1.5 million dollars in restitution. (DHS/ICE Press Releases June 26, 2007 and August 16, 2007)
  • June 2007 —  Olga Mondragon, a Salvadoran, pled guilty to forced labor conspiracy, conspiracy to and smuggling Central American women into the United States for financial gain, and harboring illegal aliens. She held the women and girls in her Houston bar in servitude until their smuggling debts were paid. She faces a maximum punishment of five years in prison for the forced labor conspiracy conviction, a maximum of 20 years in prison for each of 8 forced labor counts of conviction, up to 10 years for the conspiracy to smuggle illegal aliens for financial gain and harboring illegal alien convictions, and no less than 3 and no more than 10 years in prison for each of two counts of conviction for smuggling illegal aliens for financial gain. Each of the eight counts of conviction carries a maximum fine of $250,000. (Department of Justice, June 18, 2007)
  • January 2007 —  Mexicans Jacobo Dominguez Vazquez, Jose Luis Chavez, and Braulio Aniceto Velez were convicted of prostituting a 13- year-old girl in Cheyenne. A sentence date has not been set, but they face life in prison and deportation upon sentence completion. (DHS/ICE Press Release January 19, 2007)
  • January 2007 —  Fernando Reyes-Santillan was convicted pf trafficking teenage girl for prostitution at a brothel in Memphis, Tennessee. While a sentence date has not been set, he faces up to forty years in prison. (DHS/ICE Press Release January 10, 2007)


  1. Trafficking in Persons Report, 2007. U.S. Department of State.