#sextrafficking | Majority of human trafficking in the nation passes through Orange County

The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force in collaboration with police departments in cities countywide have made significant progress in the battle against human trafficking in the county since its formation in 2004, according to the a 2019 report from the task force.

The task force worked with 60 participating organizations to help increase education and training, further anti-trafficking efforts and tend to the complex needs of victims.

Human trafficking, coined by the United Nations as “modern slavery,” is defined as the act of trafficking by means of threat, use of force, deception or coercion for the purpose of exploitation.

In July 2018, countywide sex-purchaser sting operations were conducted by the task force and collaborating police agencies to address the county’s human trafficking problem. Around 80% of human trafficking victims and traffickers from across the country come to Orange County, according to their report.

The total number of human trafficking victims assisted in 2017 and 2018 is 415. Of the total, 83% were U.S. nationals, 87% were trafficked for sexual exploitation and 27% were minors, according to the report.

The report states that demographics of victims in Orange County are:

– 29% black 

– 24% hispanic 

– 19% white 

– 13% asian

– 15% categorized as “other”

In its 15 years of service, the task force has assisted over a thousand victims from 42 different countries.

The first case to bring attention to human trafficking in Orange County was in 2002, when a 8-year-old Egyptian girl was sold into slavery for $30 a month and brought to Irvine two years later, according to the Los Angeles Times.

On May 4, 2019, Whittier residents Frank and Alba Ponce were contacted by Hannah’s Children’s Homes regarding the adoption of a three-month-old who had entered the foster system after being rescued from a home in which he had been bought. The child was trafficked into the U.S. from Honduras.

Frank and Alba Ponce with their foster kids Jacob and Isaac. (Photo courtesy of Ponce family)

“The story that we were told by social workers is that what his mom did is, in exchange for her to be crossed over the border, she gave her baby up to a lady here in the United States. She sold him in exchange for her to have her ‘coyote’ paid,” Alba Ponce said. 

The child came into the U.S. with his biological mother, who then took him to the woman whom she had sold the child to, in exchange for a means of immigration, according to Alba Ponce. The woman who had bought the child then drove his biological mother back to Mexico and left her there.

It was from Mexico that the child’s mother contacted the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services and denounced the woman who had bought her child, confessing she had sold him.  

Once the child entered the foster care system, families were contacted for housing through the agencies with which they work.

“We get 15 minutes to decide if we want to take in the baby or not, before they call another family. Actually, they call multiple families in multiple agencies at the same time. And whoever answers first and says, ’Yes,’ gets the baby,” Alba Ponce said. 

The Ponce family are looking to adopt the child, whom they named Isaac. However, there are complications due to the child’s legal status and the reunification rights being claimed by his biological mother. 

According to the U.N.’s Office on Drugs and Crime, human trafficking is a global issue that affects every country in the world, whether it is as a country of origin, destination or transit. 

A report published by the U.S. Department of State in June indicated that a large number of child sex trafficking survivors in the U.S. were at one point a part of the foster care system.

According to a global report on trafficking in persons published by the U.N.’s Office on Drugs and Crime, sexual exploitation is the leading cause for human trafficking, and estimates approximately 79% of trafficking cases fall under that category.

In 2003, the U.N.’s convention against transnational organized crime adopted the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons. Since then, over 90% of countries have criminalized human trafficking. 

Eighteen countries only have partial legislation criminalizing human trafficking and protecting some victims or criminalizing certain forms of exploitation; nine countries lack legislation altogether, according to a global report published by the U.N. in 2014.

Estimates of victims trafficked within the U.S. remain uncertain, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Nongovernmental community based organizations such as Beacon4Victims offers rehabilitation for victims as well as classes to educate people on the matters of human trafficking.  Further community outreach is often facilitated by community centers and churches. To report suspicions of human trafficking and seek support for surviors contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733. Confidentiality is guaranteed.

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