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 fails to hold people accountable, crime will flourish. The federal government’s failure to effectively address the illegal alien dilemma creates and perpetuates an environment in which exploitation runs rampant.

It is estimated that 17,000 to 19,0001 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year. Trafficking is the recruitment and possible transport 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 live-sex shows and other acts. However, trafficking also takes place as labor exploitation, including domestic servitude, sweatshop factories, agricultural work and more. 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 and government sources, demonstrates the prevalence of human trafficking in the United States and the precarious nature many illegal aliens face. American immigrants seek opportunities far better than these nightmares, but often fall victim to a flawed immigration enforcement system. Human trafficking violates the 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 improved federal-local cooperation in law enforcement.

Examples of Human Trafficking in the United States

  • June 2016 — Aroldo Castillo- Serrano was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for his part in smuggling Guatemalan workers, including minors, and making them work 12 hour days. They were forced to live in cramped conditions and were made to pay off a significant debt incurred by Castillo-Serrano. Ana Angelica Pedro Juan was also sentenced to 10 years in prison for her part in the operation.

  • January 2015 — Rafael Alberto Cardena-Sosa was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison for participating in a family run sex trafficking organization. His family member, Carmen Cadena, pleaded guilty and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The two family members are responsible for luring young women and girls from Mexico and illegally smuggling them into the United States. They then imposed a smuggling debt and forced them into prostitution with physical force and death threats.

  • January 2015—Three brothers, Jorge, Ricardo and Leonel Estrada-Tepal pled guilty to sex trafficking charges. The Mexican nationals illegally transported females from Mexico to the United States and forced them to work as prostitutes in various cities. They face sentences ranging from a minimum of ten years behind bars to a maximum of life in prison.

  • September 2014—Charles Marquez was sentenced to life in federal prison for recruiting women in Mexico by placing an advertisement in Ciudad Juarez offering jobs in the United States. Once recruited, he harbored them in motels and forced them into prostitution. He worked with Martha Jimenez Sanchez who faces up to ten years in prison after pleading guilty. Sanchez was released on bond and is awaiting sentencing.

  • May 2013 — German Rolando Vicente-Sapon, an illegal alien, was sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison for illegally smuggling and trafficking a 14 year old Guatemalan girl to Chattanooga, TN for $2,000 and coercing her into having sex. He will be deported after completing his prison sentence.

  • March 2013 — Susan Lee Gross was sentenced to 30 months in prison for her role in using a massage parlor as a front for a prostitution house. She transported women to work as prostitutes at her parlor and laundered the proceeds. Gross made them travel to various places around the United States. The women were originally from Korea and some were unlawfully present in the United States. Most lacked language and employment skills.

  • March 2013 — Moonseop Kim, who was illegally in the country, pleaded guilty to illegally transporting women from South Korea into Mississippi for financial gain with a sex trafficking organization. He posted an internet ad offering Korean female escort services. He is facing a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison as well as a deportation following the completion of his prison term.

  • July 2012 — Omelyan Botsvynyuk and Stepan Botsvynyuk were convicted of recruiting workers from Ukraine and forcing them to work through physical violence and threats of sexual assault. The victims never received compensation, but were rather instructed to work until their debts, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, were paid off. They told victims that their families would be kidnapped and forced into prostitution if anyone attempted to escape. The two brothers were found guilty and received sentences of life plus 20 years in prison and 20 years.

  • October 2011 — Edk Kenit and Choimina Lukas pleaded guilty to document servitude and labor trafficking. The Micronesian couple recruited the victim from their home country to become their domestic servant. When she arrived, the couple took her passport in order to compel the victim to work for them. The couple prevented the victim from having friends, going out of the house or participating in social gatherings.

  • January 2011 — Lucinda Lyons Shackleford was indicted on charges of forced labor and document servitude (The withholding of an individual’s legal documents). He promised to take care of the victim after placement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Family Reunification Program, but instead forced him to engage in various types of labor. Shackleford failed to provide him with adequate food or any form of payment for his labor.


  1. Shandra Woworuntu, “My life as a sex-trafficking victim,” BBC News, March, 2016, ; Trafficking in Persons Report, 2007, U.S. Department of State.

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Immigration Basics: Human Trafficking