January 2017 is Human Trafficking Prevention Month (Learn More, Video)

Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes that ICE investigates.

In its worst manifestation, human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery. Victims pay to be illegally transported into the United States only to find themselves in the thrall of traffickers. 

ICE is the lead U.S. law enforcement agency responsible for fighting human smuggling and human trafficking.  

(Human trafficking and human smuggling represent significant risks to homeland security. Would-be terrorists and criminals can often access the same routes and utilize the same methods being used by human smugglers. Courtesy of ICE .gov and YouTube)

Human Trafficking

Every day, HSI agents around the globe work to uncover, dismantle and disrupt human trafficking.

They come face to face with the worst of humanity – traffickers profiting off the forced labor and commercial sex of their victims through the use of physical and sexual abuse, threats of harm and deportation, false promises, economic and psychological manipulation, and cruelty.

Human trafficking victims have been found in communities nationwide in the agriculture, hospitality, restaurant, domestic work and other industries, as well as in prostitution that is facilitated online, on the street, or in businesses fronting for prostitution such as massage parlors.

Overseas forced labor can be used to produce the consumer goods that are in our homes and workplaces.  These victims are men, women and children of all ages and can include U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.

Many of them thought they had found a good paying job or a better life, only to have their hopes dashed and work compelled.

(Human Trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. Courtesy of ICE .gov and YouTube)

The ICE Effort

ICE employs a comprehensive effort to identify and investigate human trafficking and to assist the victims.

The team on the ground in 26 U.S. HSI field offices includes HSI Agents and supervisors, attorneys, and victim assistance coordinators.

There is at least one specially trained human trafficking subject matter expert in each office to handle human trafficking leads and address urgent victim needs.

Their work is supplemented by Forensic Interview Specialists as well as Victim Assistance Specialists who work throughout the criminal investigation to conduct victim centered forensic interviews, assess victims’ needs, and make appropriate service referrals to non-governmental organizations.

Additionally, select cases receive Department-wide support through the DHS Joint Task Force – Investigations (JTFI).

JTFI directs significant funding, intelligence and analytical support from multiple DHS agencies to bolster the special agents undergoing major investigations of criminal networks.

(HSI investigates immigration crime, human rights violations and human smuggling, smuggling of narcotics, weapons and other types of contraband, financial crimes, cybercrime and export enforcement issues. Courtesy of ICE .gov and YouTube)

Also within ICE but serving the entire law enforcement community, the Parole and Law Enforcement Programs Unit manages all requests from law enforcement for Continued Presence, ensuring that foreign nationals identified as victims of human trafficking who are potential witnesses can remain lawfully in the United States and be authorized to work.

Additionally HSI investigates and works closely with CBP to share information regarding the possible entry into the United States of goods produced by prison labor, forced labor, or indentured labor under penal sanctions; any public information that could facilitate enforcement can be emailed to ICE.ForcedLabor@ice.dhs.gov.


Task Forces

ICE HSI participates in nearly 100 human trafficking task forces nationwide, alongside other federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement.

ICE also works with other partners with investigative authority, such as code inspectors, labor officials, and child welfare investigators who are likely to come across trafficking in the course of their work.

An essential partner in the task force effort, victim services organizations provide comprehensive services to victims, including shelter, food, clothing, medical and mental health care, legal counsel, and interpretation.

Local Communities

We work closely with not only with victim service providers but also community based organizations, faith based organizations, workers’ rights groups and others to ensure the community is informed of trafficking indicators to provide tips for investigations and referrals.

(Learn More, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and YouTube)

The Blue Campaign

The Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to combat human trafficking.

Through the Blue Campaign, DHS raises public awareness about human trafficking, leveraging partnerships to educate the public to recognize human trafficking and report suspected instances.

The Blue Campaign also offers training to law enforcement and others to increase detection and investigation of human trafficking, and to protect victims and bring suspected traffickers to justice.  To view all available Blue Campaign resources, please visit our resources page.

Federal Government

Committed to a whole of government approach, multiple federal agencies are engaged in human trafficking prevention, prosecution and protection efforts.

Specific to enforcement, HSI works closely with prosecutors at the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Offices as well as investigators at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Human Smuggling & Trafficking Center (HSTC)

The HSTC is an interagency center, with core support from the Department of Homeland Security, of subject matter experts with expertise in intelligence analysis, law enforcement collaboration and support, and diplomacy.

The HSTC serves as a federal clearinghouse for all information related to human trafficking.

Foreign Law Enforcement

The success of HSI international human trafficking operations are dependent on support from foreign law enforcement partners.

Some trafficking investigations begun in the United States will link to individuals and networks in other countries, oftentimes where the victims were originally recruited.

(Learn About Operation Sunflower: US ICE HSI special agents identified 123 victims of child sexual exploitation during an international operation aimed at rescuing victims & targeting individuals who own, trade and produce images of child pornography. 44 children were directly rescued from their abusers and 79 were identified as either being exploited by others outside of their home or are now adults who were victimized as children. Courtesy of ICE .gov and YouTube)

Select Cases

Multistate Sex Trafficking – In October 2015, ICE HSI arrested 29 people in 8 states for sex trafficking more than 13 Hispanic women and girls from Mexico and Central America through a system of brothels across the southeastern United States.

Now with 41 indictments, this case has the highest number of indictments of any HSI human trafficking investigation.

The 15 month investigation was a success because of the combined support from DHS Joint Task Force – Investigations, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Emergency Management Administration and multiple state/local law enforcement agencies.

Domestic servitude – A military official from Qatar and his wife brought two domestic servants with them to San Antonio, Texas.

The couple allegedly housed the workers in primitive conditions, threatened them with arrest and jail, withheld their wages, and deprived them of cell phones, passports, visas and food. ICE HSI made the arrest on forced labor charges on May 30, 2015.

Human Trafficking Top 10 Fugitive Captured – Paulino Ramirez-Granados was arrested March 31, 2015 in Tenancingo, Mexico through a joint investigation by ICE HSI Mexico City, HSI New York and the Mexican Federal Police.

The Granados family and its associates would romance young women before coercing them into prostitution in Mexico, smuggling them into the United States, and then continuing the control, physical and sexual abuse, and threats in New York City.

HSI identified 26 victims and 19 other traffickers and smugglers.

Paulino Ramirez-Granados (Image Credit: ICE)
Paulino Ramirez-Granados (Image Credit: ICE)

Law Enforcement Resources

Immigration Relief for Victims of Human Trafficking and Other Crimes – This two-page fact sheet informs law enforcement officials and answers frequently asked questions on the immigration benefit options for victims of human trafficking and other crimes through ICE and USCIS. The sheet covers Continued Presence and U and T visas.

U and T Visa Law Enforcement Certification Resource Guide – When immigrant crime victims apply to USCIS for a U or T Visa, USCIS requests that law enforcement provide information regarding the crime and victim’s cooperation with law enforcement.

This resource guide encourages submission of the requisite form for each visa application, answers frequently asked questions, and gives guidance on how to complete the form.

Continued Presence Brochure – Law enforcement may request Continued Presence for victims of human trafficking to remain in the U.S. tem­porarily with work authorization during the ongoing investigation into the human trafficking crimes committed against them.

DHS Blue Campaign Resources – Fact sheets, indicator cards, shoe cards, posters, and trainings.

Most Wanted

For full information about the individuals below, visit their respective profiles on the Most Wanted: Human Trafficking/Smuggling page.

WARNING: Do not attempt to apprehend any subject.

If you have information about the whereabouts of these fugitives, immediately contact your local ICE office (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or call the national hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (TTY for hearing impaired: 802-872-6196) as soon as possible!

(Learn More About ICE: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforces federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration to promote homeland security and public safety. Courtesy of ICE .gov and YouTube)

In the last fiscal year, HSI initiated 1,034 investigations with a nexus to human trafficking and recorded 1,437 arrests, 751 indictments, and 587 convictions; 384 victims were identified and assisted.

ICE banner

ICE continues to make human trafficking cases a top investigative priority, bringing traffickers to justice and connecting victims to services to help them restore their lives.