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Texas Border Crisis, Human Trafficking, and Child Pornography Charges: Arrests are Coming

Today, President Obama is in Dallas where he will meet with Texas Governor Rick Perry regarding the current Texas border crisis, but odds remain high that the president will not travel to the Texas – Mexico border to see firsthand the crisis situation, where thousands and thousands of people from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, as well as Mexico and other countries (like China, for example) are pushing our state and local resources to the breaking point.

The Rio Grande river separates Texas from Mexico.

There are lots of issues to consider here. There’s the question of how many people from Central America and other countries are coming across the border that aren’t being counted or connected with law enforcement or the Border Patrol. The numbers we’re hearing are only those from the official’s head count, after all.

There’s also issues like the number of people coming into the United States with dangerous diseases or with violent propensities. Reports of things from lice and scabies to tuberculosis and deadly African viruses have been circulated. In one detention center, MS-13 has made its presence felt with tagging on the Nogales detention center walls.

Human Trafficking in Texas

One problem that is not getting that much airplay, from a criminal defense perspective, is the human trafficking issue. Human trafficking involves enterprises where women, children, and sometimes men are appropriated as products for use in the sex industry. Child pornography is one result. Prostitution is another. The large number of people who have been crossing through Mexico and into Texas for the past several months may not all be targets of human traffickers, but it’s likely that a significant percentage are. After all, Mexico is known as the Number One distributor of child pornography and the Number Two producer of child pornography in the world — according to Mexico’s own research studies.

Two weeks ago, the State Department issued its 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report (”TIP” Report), with its own analysis of human trafficking around the world. According to the 2014 TIP Report:

The United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children – both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals – subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including domestic servitude…[t]he top countries of origin of federally identified victims in fiscal year (FY) 2013 were the United States, Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand, Honduras, Guatemala, India, and El Salvador.

How many of these children, teenagers, women, and young men will become a part of the human trafficking industry cannot be estimated right now. However, particularly for those who are venturing from their homes alone or with coyotes to guide them, they are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. For those in the pornography and prostitution business, this is an opportunity to boost profits with fresh resources.

Campaign and Tipline on Possible Human Trafficking

Both federal and state agencies are working together to locate and arrest human trafficking defendants. For instance, just last month a joint effort of the FBI field office in Dallas and other federal and state agencies debuted to combat human trafficking in public awareness campaign.

Billboards and advertisements are being used here in Texas to educate the public about “modern day slavery” in the State of Texas and to push for citizens to call law enforcement and report suspicions about possible human trafficking situations.  The goal is to get the public to call in and report possible sex crimes involving trafficking victims.

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline, Texas is second only to California in the number of phone tips coming into its 1-800 hotline. District attorneys and prosecutors around the state are already well aware of the human trafficking trade here in Texas and have been focused upon prosecutions of those who produce and distribute child pornography as well as those who run prostitution rings.

From the Texas Association of District and County Attorneys, this advice is given to Dallas County prosecutors from a “primer” on prosecuting human traffickers:

Human trafficking refers to recruiting, transporting, or harboring victims for the purpose of forcing them into labor through force, fraud, or coercion. In Dallas County, we consider human trafficking to be broader than the Texas statute and include compelling and promotion of prostitution as well as other prostitution-related charges in our human trafficking caseload. This article will discuss why we focus on these cases, how to investigate these offenses, charging options, and prosecuting these cases to a successful result.

Child Pornography in Texas

Another lucrative sexually-oriented business for human traffickers is pornography including child pornography. The creation and distribution of pornography can be done quickly and with low overhead costs given the internet and the current technology available at the local Radio Shack or Walmart. Film it, upload it, and promote it through social media.

These children, teens, and young adults coming into Texas from Central America and Mexico are prime targets for pornography manufacturers and distributors. Here in Dallas, as well as the rest of the state, we can expect to see an increase in the pornography market particularly the child pornography market.

Why? There are huge profits to be made, considering costs vs revenue; there is a huge demand for the product; and now, as never before, there are subjects available for filming.

So, the reality is that we’re going to see a jump in the pornography and prostitution businesses in Dallas and around Texas — and with prosecutors and police at the ready to track down, arrest, charge and prosecute those they find profiting on these sex crimes.

Human Trafficking Charges Under Texas Law

There are both federal and state laws that make human trafficking illegal. Texas defines human trafficking in Chapter 20A (Trafficking of Persons) of the Texas Penal Code. The federal law definition is in 18 U.S.C.S. §1589 (2009). Under Chapter 43 of the Texas Penal Code, prosecutors must provide admissible, authenticated evidence of human trafficking with the intent that the victim engage in forced labor or services.

Trafficking is defined as “transporting, recruiting, harboring, enticing, providing, or otherwise obtaining by any means.” Forced labor or services include those obtained from:

(a) injury or threats or injury, (b) restraint, (c) withholding identifying records, (d) threats of abuse of legal process, (e) threats of deportation, (f) financial debt that either cannot be paid down or is indefinite or unreasonable, or (g) using a scheme of intimidation.

It’s a big burden of proof for the District Attorney’s Office. According to their own primer, here in Dallas prosecutors will often opt for easier charges to prove, like compelling prostitution (for children) or aggravated promotion of prostitution (for adults). If they can, they’ll argue the existence of a criminal enterprise, and up the penalty range in sentencing.

Child Pornography Charges Under Texas Law

In Texas, child pornography creation or distribution are serious felonies. Even possession of child pornography charges come with the threat of significant prison time under Chapter 43 of the Texas Penal Code. (For more details on Child Pornography Charges in Texas see our practice area page discussion.)

Expect More Arrests to Be Made in Child Pornography, Prostitution, and Human Trafficking

Here’s the point: Dallas criminal defense lawyers are ready to represent defendants who are going to be charged in ever-increasing numbers on human trafficking, prostitution, and child pornography charges as a direct result of this huge volume of people jumping the border into Texas.

Some will be small operators, some will be major enterprises, even operations allegedly connected to major drug cartels.

Those arrests are going to happen. It’s just one more complexity in this very complicated situation we face here in Texas right now.


For more information, see our case results pages which include:

No Case Filed Possession/Distribution Child Pornography No Case Filed and Dallas Police Investigation Concluded Mr. Lowe’s client was investigated for downloading, possessing and distributing child pornography. Mr. Lowe’s own investigation persuaded Dallas Police Child Porn Investigators that client had not violated any state or federal law. Dallas Police agreed and completed their investigation without filing any charges.

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