A young Mexican woman — who said she had “no other identity” beyond that of a sex object until she was rescued from a sex-trafficking gang — urged Congress to do much more to stop this growing criminal enterprise.
For four years as a teen prostitute, “I was forced to serve every kind of fetish imaginable to more than 40,000 clients,” Karla Jacinto, 22, told a Thursday hearing before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, global health, global human rights and international organizations.
Many of those clients “were foreigners visiting my city looking to have sexual interactions with minors like me,” said Ms. Jacinto, who said she was befriended by a pimp at age 12 and only escaped her sex-trafficking masters when one of her “regular” clients decided to help her.
Such testimony is essential to supporting H.R. 515, known as the International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking, said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and subcommittee chairman.
The law — which has passed the House and is under consideration in the Senate — would create the Angel Watch Center as part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, to capture travel information from U.S. child-sex offenders and notify countries when such people are planning to travel to their jurisdictions.
The bill also asks the White House to craft deals with countries so the U.S. can be informed when convicted foreign sex offenders seek entry here, and when U.S. citizens are arrested, convicted, sentenced or imprisoned for a child sex-offense in those countries.
“A primary way to fight child trafficking is to fight demand created by sex tourists,” said Mr. Smith. Data show that “registered sex offenders are traveling disproportionately to countries where children are trafficked for sex,” he said, adding that a “deeply disturbing” 2010 Government Accountability Office report found that at least 4,500 U.S. passports were issued to registered sex offenders in 2008.
Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes testified to his part in a sting operation that rescued some 120 boys and girls in Colombia from “child sex parties.”
Playing the role of a bodyguard for an “American buyer,” Mr. Reyes said he witnessed “the horror and hopelessness” in the eyes of girls, aged 10 to 16, who were “paraded in front of us like a pet to buy or a dessert to sample.”
Sex trafficking — which is estimated to account for 80 percent of the world’s 20 million to 30 million “modern-day slaves” — is a growing international criminal enterprise, trailing only drug trafficking, and is believed to involve 2 million children worldwide, Mr. Reyes said.
Sex traffickers “are used to catering to Americans. They are used to selling children to Americans. This is an American problem, no matter where on earth the child victim happens to be,” said Timothy Ballard, founder and chief executive of the nonprofit Operation Underground Railroad (OUR).
The proposed International Megan’s Law bill permits new ways to attack this problem, said Mr. Ballard, who founded OUR precisely because it permitted him and his colleagues more freedom to act than when he worked as an anti-trafficking federal agent with the Department of Homeland Security.
Mr. Ballard added that the U.S. “Megan’s Law” — named for a New Jersey girl who was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender who lived nearby, unbeknownst to her family and community — encourages states to protect children by identifying sex offenders and notifying communities about their whereabouts. “Why would we not offer this same mechanism to our friends overseas?” he said.
Mexico is an important producer, transit-way and destination for men, women and children who are being trafficked, said Rosi Orozco, president of the Commission United vs. Human Trafficking in Mexico.
“Most perpetrators are coming from the United States, England, Holland and Germany,” she said, citing a report from End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography & Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes or ECPAT.
For instance, Tlaxcala, an inland, central state in Mexico, is home to many “bands of human traffickers” who “are very well known for importing their victims to the United States,” Ms. Orozco said. Our countries should work together “to put a stop to the atrocity of human trafficking in all its forms.”