jeudi 10 janvier 2013
WESTERN HEMISPHERE TRAVEL INITIATIVE
A few years ago it appeared to be Hollywood-chic to say that you were against human trafficking and perhaps sign a petition or put an anti-human trafficking photo on one of your social network pages, but as I look around the landscape that is human slavery in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation - an organization that has successfully legally helped bring home numerous abducted children, my stomach turns in knots as the problems of child trafficking not only continues, but in many ways, they have increased.
From my vantage point, the false promises and lure of an exciting life in the United States and Canada remains an attractive promise to many young girls in impoverished countries such as Mexico, San Salvador, Columbia, the Dominican Republic, etc.
Tragically, young, naive girls looking at bleak futures are promised better lives abroad than the one they know in their home countries . . . promises made by monsters who have but one true intent for them and their bodies: sexual exploitation until the once youthful 'trafficeted' body becomes a decomposing carcass due to the large consumption of narcotics that were initially forced into their system until innocence becomes a junkie willing to do anything for the drugs they crave.
But drugs addiction is not the only control these monsters have on young girls brought into child slavery. There is another very real threat: murder.
You see, many of the child traffickers focussing on the sexual child slavery belong to some type of organization: a gang, a cartel . . . even in China, as recently as December 24th, 2012, many police officers were arrested for their criminal activity connected to child abduction. And these gangs target the families left behind.
For instance a young girl lured into the world of false promises soon realizes that if she does not conform to the harsh realities that await her in the country she was smuggled to, the family she left behind - perhaps her mother, father, sisters, brothers and extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins will be targeted for murder. And murder is a harsh reality in these countries.
So these young girls - they know not to make contact - and if they are allowed contact, it must be done in front of a handler who provides them with a phone. Any mention of any problems other than life being wonderful could seal the fate of both the young woman and her family.
But how are women brought into the United States and Canada?
Obviously, the majority are illegally smuggled abroad. This includes their entry into both America and Canada using false documentation.
A very careful look at the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) policy clearly shows that major flaws in the North American treaty has created a black hole for abduction and trafficking.
The buying and selling of humans is the second largest criminal activity in the world. In the U.S., this problem is much more severe than commonly discussed. Of particular concern is that it is estimated that over 70% of all humans trafficked into the U.S. originate from Latin America: countries such as Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador are well-known supply sources for human cargo.
A significant number of these enslaved are young teenagers between 13 and 15 years old who originate from poverty-stricken communities, and who are lured into the dark world of slavery due to false promises of legitimate jobs and a better life in America. What awaits them is an inhuman slave world filled with torture, violence, and threats of death to family members they left behind if they ever attempt to flee their imprisoned ‘cantinas’ – prison-like brothels where they are never allowed to leave. Tragically, sure death awaits those imprisoned into this inferno: they are either murdered, die of drug overdose, or die of disease and infection.
One of the grave concerns we must ask is How are these individual doomed to enter the awaiting world of human slavery trafficked into the United States from Latin America and crossing our border?
It is apparent that the majority of human cargo entering our borders due so illegally. Though limited data is available, sound reasoning leads us to anticipate that this number is substantial.
Due to limited border documentation requirements under WHTI policy, particularly for minors traveling, there is substantial concern that human traffickers are currently using this loophole in order to move their young human cargo into the United States from Mexico and Caribbean island-nations.
The world of human trafficking and slavery is very real. According to author of Free The Slaves, Kevin Bale, there are nearly 27 million people across the world caught in modern-day slavery. The United States Department of State Trafficking In Persons Report (TIP Report) estimates this number to be between 4 million and 27 million individuals. Additionally, the Department of State estimates that there are over 800,000 individuals each year being transported across international borders. And according to their 2005 report titled Facts About Child Sex Tourism, there were over 1 million children exploited by the global commercial sex trade every year. All of these numbers continue to increase. Human trafficking is a dark world without any peer and most organizations involved in human trafficking and slavery are highly sophisticated.
Yet our borders remain relatively unencumbered for children traveling abroad in the Western Hemisphere.
U.S. Passport Requirements For International Travel
For U.S. Citizens, a Federal Statute mandates that any citizen of the U.S. must possess a valid U.S. passport to depart from or enter the U.S. Following is the text of Federal Statute 8 U.S.C. 1185 (b).
(b) Citizens Except as otherwise provided by the President and subject to such limitations and exceptions as the President may authorize and prescribe, it shall be unlawful for any citizen of the United States to depart from or enter, or attempt to depart from or enter, the United States unless he bears a valid United States passport.
When WHTI requirements for land and sea became effective on June 1, 2009 exceptions to the Federal Statute passport requirement were allowed. The new regulation states that U.S. citizens and citizens of Canada, Bermuda and Mexico may present a passport or other WHTI-compliant documents when entering or departing the United States at sea or land ports-of-entry from within the Western Hemisphere.
Due to exceptions to the passport requirement, our research has concluded there exists distinct areas of vulnerability at the border for our children.
The presentation of fraudulent documents at border points has long existed and is well illustrated in the publication of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) Land and Sea Final Rule" that was released March 27, 2008 by the Department of Homeland Security. It was reported that CBP officers had intercepted over 129,000 fraudulent documents since January 2005 from individuals trying to cross the border over an approximate 3 ½ year period. This is a substantial number; however, we must ask ourselves how many fraudulent documents were never uncovered and successfully used?
To better demonstrate the severity of this problem we take note of a scenario that occurred several years ago in Texas and was reported by the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services. A women acting as a lay-midwife was charged and convicted with fraudulently filing and obtaining over 3,400 United States birth certificate claims over a ten year period: almost one American birth certificate a day was fraudulently obtained and sold on the black market over a decade by one woman alone. This individual was one of eleven individuals convicted of filing and obtaining false birth certificates that were sold on the black market in Texas during a federal investigation. Of immense concern to us is that WHTI allows a child to cross international borders by land or sea and in lieu of a passport an original or copy of a birth certificate may be presented.
As noted in language of the Federal Statute above, limitations and exceptions do exist. According to CBP passport exceptions exist when traveling with U.S. or Canadian citizen infants and children. Of grave concern are the deficiencies that could be utilized in the cross border unlawful removal by land or sea of at risk children. If traveling by air everyone, even infants require a passport. However, WHTI allows that U.S. and Canadian citizen children “will not require passports for travel by land or sea when the June 1, 2009 rule goes into effect requiring all land and sea travelers to have a passport. Children under the age of 15 will have a blanket exemption from this requirement – although they will be required to present a copy of a birth certificate and, if not traveling with both parents, a consent letter from the other parent(s).”
We are especially concerned about the ability to falsify travel documentation for children. The capability to easily present travel documentation without another parent's consent or to falsify travel documents for children in cases where a passport is not required appears relatively easy. The fact that simply a birth certificate or worse, a “copy” of a birth certificate and a letter of permission with no documentation to verify its validity, is sufficient to cross international borders is a serious security concern. And although it is also recommended that a parent or guardian possess a letter of consent from the absent parent(s) this may or may not be required or requested. We must also consider that there is no way to verify the validity of a parental consent letter.
These concerns should sound an alarm bell directed at courts presiding over child custody cases where there is concern for potential international parental child abduction. Peter Thomas Senese, the co-writer of this report wrote in Chasing The Cyclone, “I know first-hand of several international parental child abduction cases where a false international travel consent letter was either fraudulently produced or never produced by the other parent in order for that abducting parent to depart from Canada into the United States or from the United States into Canada. The court’s orders were not followed, as is the case with all abducting parents. More troubling is the fact that in each of these cases, none of the necessary consent letters were ever checked by either countries border patrol or immigration agencies. This is absurd, particularly when knowing many of these consent to travel letters were not notarized and not original documents. It must be a requirement on both sides of the border for all land and sea travelers regardless of age to use a passport, which is the policy in place for air travel.”
When we consider the growing rate of international abduction here in the U.S. and abroad, there is a very real concern that our borders are used not only as a final destination for an abducting parent or trafficker, but as the launching point for an abductor to travel to their intended final destination. Although most countries recognize that documentation fraud is a severe concern it is clear that the minimization of travel document requirements needed for a minor to travel across our borders enables would-be abductors to criminally abduct a child. For example, if a would-be abductor traveling by land from the U.S. to Canada has in their possession any child’s original or ‘a copy’ of a birth certificate and a falsified consent to travel letter, they have the capability to internationally abduct any child from the U.S.
Realistically, all a potential abductor may need is a copy of a birth certificate. Although it is recommended that children traveling alone or with one parent posses a consent letter from any absent parents this is not a requirement. In reference to the birth certificate requirement, many parents obtain several copies of a child’s birth certificate: it is not as if you are allowed only one copy such as a U.S. Passport. Unquestionably, if all cross-border travel for children of all ages does not include the much more secure and controllable use of a passport, then abducting parents and human traffickers will still be capable of abducting children.
The required travel document for an infant under age one who is traveling by land or sea between the U.S. and Canada is alarming. The CBP states that “If you have not yet received a birth certificate for a U.S. or Canadian citizen infant, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will accept either the birth record issued by the hospital or a letter on hospital letterhead providing details of the birth, including the name of the child, time and place of birth, and parents names. Birth certificates should be used for children over 1 year old.” Once again, the ease of fraudulently creating this type of “document” exists and a child could easily be smuggled across international borders.
For more information, I invite you to read the FULL REPORT
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Peter Thomas Senese is the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, a best-selling author, and a child advocate who has reunited numerous abducted children with their families while also playing key roles in the passage of numerous laws that have helped protect children.