Spotlight on human trafficking at San Antonio International Airport

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — As the new movie “Sound of Freedom” puts a spotlight on human trafficking, San Antonio International Airport now turns its attention on the issue.

In coordination with the Blue Lightning Initiative of the U.S. Department of Transportation and Department of Homeland Security, presentations took place on Wednesday at the airport for the media to get the word out on human trafficking in the area, region, state, and nation.

Speakers include FBI Special Agents, an Assistant U.S. Attorney for Human Trafficking, the Head of the SAPD’s Special Victims Unit and two survivors of human trafficking now working with a ministry to help get trafficking victims to safety.

Human trafficking is big business, generating over $32-billion-dollars in moving drugs and $15-billion-dollars from trafficking people in industrialized countries alone.  Trafficked victims from other, non-industrialized countries, bring the grand total to $150-billion dollars-a-year.

Why is human trafficking booming?  Assistant U.S. Attorney Bettina Richardson says human trafficking is high-profit driven and a low-risk underground industry.

The demand for cheap labor, services, and commercial use (usually prostitution).

Richardson says the release of the new motion picture “Sound of Freedom” is finally shining a light on human trafficking around the world.

“It was thirty degrees outside and I was panhandling outside a convenience store in Houston,” Ashlea Jones describes how she was drawn in to being human trafficked as a prostitute.  “He sold me for $200 dollars to put roof over our heads in a hotel room,”

Jones says she spent years being human trafficked as a prostitute.

“Why didn’t I get away?  I tried, but I would always go back.”

Finally, she was able to break away with the help of Mercy Gate Ministries, her current employer.

Organizing the push to stop trafficking at San Antonio International Airport is Kassie Salinas, the Human Trafficking Task Force Liaison.

“Because we are an international airport with flights to Mexico, it does happen.  More often than we think, but unfortunately it’s not report as often as we’d like,” Salinas says.  “We’re getting ourselves trained so we can train more of our employees and get that awareness out there so they can spot the indicators in order to report the correct information.”

AUSA Richardson cites examples of human trafficking victims being marked with suspicious tattoos identifying them as property.  Worse, animal tracking chips for dogs or cats are also being inserted into people to keep tabs on them at all times.

Not all human trafficking is done for prostitution.  Many are trafficked as laborers in homes, farms, and for dangerous jobs like smuggling drugs.

One example cited by Richardson was the plight of a woman from Qatar, who was suffering with an advanced form of cancer, being held as a housekeeper by a foreign family living in a wealthy part of San Antonio.  Though she and another woman lived in an expensive apartment, there was no furnishings, no food and no modern conveniences.  They worked all day long, only allowed to take breaks in a plastic shed in the backyard in the heat without air-conditioning.

More about: