Just what is “human trafficking” in Arizona? It is a term we hear all the time in the news. Some folks have certain notions of what it means, but according to the Department of Homeland Security, there are numerous myths in this area. Those myths include issues involving, among other things, who may be a victim of human trafficking; whether it extends beyond sex trafficking; whether human trafficking and human smuggling are the same; and whether victims are limited to foreign born individuals or non-U.S. citizens.
The starting point for our analysis is the Arizona law on the subject. A.R.S. 13-1308 says that it is unlawful to knowingly “traffic” another person with the knowledge or intent that the person will be subject to forced services or labor. “Traffic” is defined in the statute to mean recruiting, transporting, enticing, providing, or otherwise obtaining another person through force, deception, or coercion. The sex trafficking law (A.R.S. 13-1307) largely mirrors the human trafficking law, except that it is geared to having the person who is the subject of trafficking engage in prostitution or a sexually explicit performance. In either case, a violation is a class 2 felony.
As far as the myths noted by the DHS, the reality is that:
- Anyone, of any age, race, nationality, or gender may be a victim of human trafficking.
- Human trafficking obviously extends beyond sex trafficking.
- Trafficking and smuggling are not the same. “Smuggling” centers on movement across a border, while trafficking centers on exploitation. Of course, smuggling can become human or sex trafficking if the alleged smuggler uses force, coercion, or deception to hold people against their will for purposes of sexual or labor exploitation.
Many people also assume that because of Arizona’s proximity to the national border, our state is high on the list of human trafficking as compared to other areas of the country. In fact, Arizona is not the top ten states per capita. Those top ten states are Mississippi, Nevada, Missouri, Nebraska, Florida, California, Texas, Arkansas, Oregon, and Georgia. Interestingly, only two of the ten share a border with another country.
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