Sex-Trafficking Smugglers Busted Through Federal-State Cooperation

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 17, 2017

One of the main assertions made by those promoting "sanctuary policies" is that the refusal of state and local officials to cooperate with immigration authorities makes communities safer. For example, as Montgomery County (Md.) Police Chief Tom Manger has testified:

To do our job we must have the trust and respect of the communities we serve. We fail if the public fears their police and will not come forward when we need them. ... Cooperation is not forthcoming from persons who see their police as immigration agents. When immigrants come to view their local police and sheriffs with distrust because they fear deportation, it creates conditions that encourage criminals to prey upon victims and witnesses alike.

Reality has proven once again, however, that cooperation between federal, state, and local authorities, including immigration officers, actually makes communities safer and safeguards human dignity.

On November 8, 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the indictment in Houston of 22 alleged members or affiliates of the "Southwest Cholos" street gang for "multiple violent crimes". Among those crimes is a sex-trafficking scheme in which:

[I]llegal aliens were allegedly promised they could work in a restaurant to pay off their smuggling debts. After arriving in Houston, however, victims were told they actually had to work as prostitutes in brothels the alleged gang members controlled. The indictment alleges the defendants engaged in numerous acts and threats of violence against the victims and their families whenever the women refused to work as prostitutes or failed to make enough money.

While civic leaders are coming to grips with the institution of slavery in our nation's past, law enforcement officers are actively fighting the most degrading forms of enslavement in our nation's fourth largest city in 2017. And they are on the verge of winning a victory.

As importantly, they will have hindered the activities of members of an illegal organization charged with a variety of other crimes, operating from a base in a southwest Houston apartment complex, which was also the primary location where that forced prostitution occurred. Those offenses included "the selling of numerous stolen firearms" and "heroin and methamphetamine trafficking". Such wrongdoing inevitably leads to more crime, as stolen guns are used in assaults and murders, and drug users engage in robbery and theft to support their habits. All criminal offenses are serious, but these are the crimes that destroy families and communities, and make all residents less safe.

That investigation depended on the sort of cooperation that officials like Chief Manger have decried, however. It was conducted by state, local, and federal agencies, including ICE, "as part of both the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA)."

The latest census data indicates that 28.5 percent of Houston's residents between 2011 and 2015 were foreign-born, and 2014 estimates from the Pew Research Bureau reveal that the "Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland" metro area is home to approximately 575,000 "unauthorized migrants". Some of those residents who are foreign-born have likely become citizens, and most of those "unauthorized migrants" have likely not committed a crime that is not associated with their illegal status. They, and the rest of Houston's law-abiding citizens have the right to live in safety. And each of the trafficking victims has the right to his or her dignity.

ICE helped secure those rights. All states and localities should follow the example set in Texas and enable each of our law-enforcement officers, including those sworn to enforce our nation's immigration laws, to work cooperatively to root out crime and protect our communities.