Human Trafficking: Recognizing the Signs

More than 20 professionals from a variety of fields and a diversity of communities came together on January 18 to discuss the issues of human trafficking in and around Del Rio, Texas. Attendees took part in a full day of training provided by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), hosted at the offices of BCFS Health and Human Services-Del Rio.

Angela Alvarado, an Equal Justice Works Crime Victims and Justice Corps Fellow at TRLA, led the training for the event. Guests came from the consulates of Mexico and Guatemala, the United States Air Force, sexual assault response teams, and other partner organizations united by the desire to see human trafficking come to an end. Angela is a legal representative for people in 68 Texas counties, and knows what to look for when it comes to human trafficking.

“The goal of the training was to bring awareness to human trafficking – what it is in regards to labor trafficking and human sex trafficking – and my hope is that, one, [attendants] would be able to recognize symptoms [from clients], and second, that we can assist them in making the appropriate referral, whether that be to an attorney or how to safely report to law enforcement authorities,” said Angela.

Geographically located on the border of Texas and Mexico, the international dynamic in Del Rio makes preventative efforts against human trafficking uniquely important. A 2016 report by The University of Texas at Austin found “approximately 79,000 minor and youth victims of sex trafficking in Texas,” in addition to an estimated “234,000 workers who are victims of labor trafficking in Texas” at the time of research.1 The estimated value of wages lost by victims of labor trafficking was nearly $600 million annually.1

Delia Ramos, Director of Community Based Services at BCFS-Del Rio, shared that this kind of training can be crucial for advocates to “take the immediate steps when they see people with these characteristics” that can mean the difference between abuse and freedom.

Angela plans to return to Del Rio as soon as April, where she would make a similar presentation  to employees at United Medical Center, alongside BCFS-Del Rio.

Read more about programs and services in the Del Rio area, and see our coverage of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month here.

[1] Busch-Armendariz, N.B., Nale, N.L., Kammer-Kerwick, M., Kellison, B., Torres, M.I.M., Cook Heffron, L., Nehme, J. (2016). Human Trafficking by the Numbers: The Initial Benchmark of Prevalence and Economic Impact for Texas. Austin, TX: Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, The University of Texas at Austin.