One of the justifications offered to support the child separation policy at the SW border is a humanitarian one of liberating children from persons who are bringing children into the US to "sell" or otherwise "enslave" them - aka human traffickers.

Since the zero tolerance policy was rolled out (ca April 2018) approximately 30,000 (alleged) family units were apprehended, along with approximately 15,000 unaccompanied children.

What I can't seem to find is how many persons have been actually charged with human trafficking since April. (Conviction may take longer, but charging ought be rather prompt - so let's limit the scope to "charging" ).

Initially I make no distinction between sex or labor trafficking (which would likely be a major concern to those concerned about the safety of children after arrival). Another category that might fall into the trafficking arena would be persons who are "paid escorts", although this category is (likely) more benign than sex and labor. Edit: I will restate this question in Law SE to be more specific, my thanks to commenters

2 Answers 2


According to this article How to mislead with statistics, DHS Secretary Nielsen edition reported on June 18, 2018

“The kids are being used as pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers,” Nielsen said.

“Again, let’s just pause to think about this statistic: 314 percent increase in adults showing up with kids that are not a family unit,” she said. “Those are traffickers, those are smugglers, that is MS-13, those are criminals, those are abusers.”

A DHS representative provided The Washington Post with the hard numbers behind Nielsen’s statistic. There were 46 cases of fraud — “individuals using minors to pose as fake family units” — in fiscal 2017, the period from October 2016 through September 2017. In the first five months of 2018, there were 191 cases.

That is an increase of 315 percent.

It is not immediately clear what the numbers are specifically related to human trafficking arrests, see U.S. Border Patrol Southwest Border Apprehensions by Sector FY2018 for the raw data. According to statistics for 2016 at Human Trafficking - ICE

In fiscal year 2016, HSI initiated 1,029 investigations with a nexus to human trafficking and recorded 1,952 arrests, 1,176 indictments, and 631 convictions; 435 victims were identified and assisted.

and Border arrests exceed 50,000 for third month in a row.

The most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics data as to human trafficking is for 2015 Federal Prosecution of Human-Trafcking Cases, 2015, where the total number was reported to be 1,923 total persons referred for human trafficking prosecution

In fscal year 2015, 1,923 suspects were referred to U.S. attorneys with human trafcking as the lead charge—39% for peonage, slavery, forced labor or sex trafcking; 32% for production of child pornography; and 29% for transportation for illegal sex activity. This was a 41% increase from the 1,360 suspects referred to U.S. attorneys in 2011.

It is important to note the conflicting reports that have been issued as to the subject matter of human trafficking, see 2018 NCVRW Resource Guide: Human Trafficking Fact Sheet

In FY 2016, DOJ initiated 241 federal human trafficking prosecutions and charged 531 defendants. Of these prosecutions, nearly 95% were predominantly related to sex trafficking. DOJ also secured convictions against 439 traffickers in FY 2016. Of those convicted, 97% were primarily involved in sex trafficking.

and the disclaimer of the data held within the report

Human trafficking is difficult to measure. Fear of harm to self or others, language barriers, lack of personal freedom, and fear of law enforcement often prevent victims from reporting their victimization or seeking services. Additionally, multiple agencies are charged with investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases, at both the federal and state level, and providing services to victims. The record-keeping systems across these agencies may not allow for cross-referencing, and some victims may appear in the records of multiple agencies. Because of this, human trafficking reports should not be used to make generalizations about the scale or scope of human trafficking in the United States.

where "human trafficking" can be divided into at least several categories including "labor trafficking" and "sex trafficking".

It is not clear if the question attempts to distinguish between sex trafficking, labor trafficking, or human trafficking without any forced attached sex or labor after the "victim" or "illegal immigrant", depending on the perspective is successfully trafficked into the United States; for example, a family paying a trafficker to get them to the U.S. without being forced into sex or labor, or if the premise is that all human trafficking involves forced sex and labor.

What is clear is that the total prosecutions for human trafficking arrests at the border is a substantially low percentage of the total "border arrests".

According to Southwest Border Migration FY2018 a total of 145393 persons have been apprehended between April 2018 and June 2018. Correlating the total number of individuals charged with human trafficking for the entire year of 2018 to the publication date of the Washington Post article How to mislead with statistics, DHS Secretary Nielsen edition, we have 191.

Thus, the math is

(191 / 145393) * 100 = 0.13136808512101683

or, 0.1%.

  • Is it clear that the 191 cases of suspected fraud were exclusive to the Southwest border? While this answer makes a valiant effort at the question, it still doesn't answer the fundamental question of how many persons have been charged under 8 USC 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii).
    – BobE
    Jul 22, 2018 at 3:49
  • @BobE The article states “individuals using minors to pose as fake family units” are "In the first five months of 2018, there were 191 cases." which indicates all charges. You can check the district courts dockets for 8 USC 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii) charges; file freedom of information requests; write a letter to the Director of the primary agency responsible for the comment referring to the number 191. The Bureau of Justice Statistics have not yet published 2018 data. To cross reference that data will require a comprehensive study of all the different agency, court, and non-profit organization data. Jul 22, 2018 at 4:40
  • @BobE "FACTS: There were 31,102 “family units” apprehended at the border in the first five months of fiscal year 2018, The Washington Post reported. In that time, there were 191 cases of “individuals using minors to pose as fake family units,” according to DHS. That’s less than 1 percent. And it’s not clear how many, if any, of the cases involved traffickers or gang members" huffingtonpost.com/entry/… The 191 number is cited by multiple articles, needs to be further vetted for accuracy. Jul 22, 2018 at 5:09
  • I generally agree that off the 191 suspected fraud cases, probably not all were actual trafficking cases. What I'm trying to get a hold of is how many actual SW trafficking charges have been made since zero tolerance. Perhaps I'm wrong, but referrals (complaints) for violation of the above code would be filed with the US Attorney's office where the violation occurred. It is up to the US Attorney's office to file charges based on the complaint. Now, there are only two US Attorney districts that cover the Southwest border of Texas (as an example). -please continue
    – BobE
    Jul 22, 2018 at 15:56
  • Since those charges are (or should be) public, it would seem a fairly easy task for an enterprising journalist to inquire how many persons have been charged under the code in the last several months. What I was hoping was - if that inquiry was made were the results published.
    – BobE
    Jul 22, 2018 at 15:58

I discovered that this information is extremely difficult to find. Essentially I was asking for the number of persons charged under 8 USC 1324 (a)(2)(b)(ii) in the last 3-4 months for offenses occuring on the Southwestern US border.

For the sake of clarity 8 USC 1324 (a)(2)(b)(ii) refers to:

Any person who brings or attempts to bring to the United States an unauthorized alien for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain ( 8 USC 1324 (a) (2) (b) (ii) )

It is the "personal or commercial gain" that generally people understand as "human trafficking"; and that is the basis of the original question

At this time, the closest published data Washington Post is Secty Nielsen's 191 cases of “individuals using minors to pose as fake family units”.

Perhaps the best that can be said is that human trafficking is a sub-set of that 191 cases.

In conclusion: until the DOJ releases the number of persons charged under 8 USC 1324 (a)(2)(b)(ii) we do not know with any certainty the answer to the original question.

However, I would suppose that if the number were substantial DOJ or DHS will publicize it sooner rather than later.

  • Did you give up on further investigation? You have the case names and numbers. You need only read the cases. You do not need to wait on agency statistics to be published. Jul 24, 2018 at 0:18
  • I can read the cases if I pay 6.00 per case. The public library has no subscription to PACER, the local law library would provide access, however they are contractually required to charge 6.00 per case. It might be different if my list of cases was filtered to just those where the lead charge 8usc1324(a)(2)(b)(ii), but it is not. I'd have to buy and read all ~800 cases. I do have one other lead, but I'm not optimistic.
    – BobE
    Jul 24, 2018 at 2:58
  • Have you contacted the Clerk of the Court and the Federal Public Defenders Office? Jul 24, 2018 at 7:04

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