US Catholic Faith in Real Life

What’s the difference between human smuggling and trafficking?

By Kevin Clarke | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Hundreds of thousands of migrants without legal standing are smuggled across the U.S. border each year, yet the State Department says only 18,000 of them are victims of human trafficking, even though they often follow the same routes of entry. What's the difference?

Victims of human trafficking enter the United States unwillingly or because of deception. They may have been sold by their parents or promised a job or an educational opportunity that won't materialize, and are about to enter into a long-term relationship with their traffickers or new employers that will be characterized by violence or coercion and a gamut of debt peonage schemes.

Although they, too, are often abused and exploited, people smuggled into the United States often pay their way upfront and may never see their smugglers again once they've crossed the border. Victims of trafficking, on the other hand, awake at their destination to a nightmare-they are a commodity delivered to a purchaser at the tail end of the modern-day slave trade.