Separation of Children At the Border and Sex Trafficking

From coast to coast across this great land of ours is an insidious practice that keeps growing- the sex trafficking of children.

Most people do not realize just how prevalent this horrible crime is. It’s not something any of us want to think about but it is going on in every major city across the U.S. and many of the smaller ones. Children who should be out playing with their friends, learning about life, and just spending time growing up, are being used for this horrendous activity. But what does child sex trafficking have to do with what is going on on the Southwest border?

Currently, there is discussion across the U.S. about children being separated from their parents when they cross the border illegally and when applying for asylum. Let me say very clearly here, that I wholeheartedly support keeping children and their parents together in most situations. Parents have an intimate knowledge of what their child needs and how to help them. It’s best for the children, the parents, for society, and more cost-effective to keep them together.

Families applying for asylum can only do that at a border crossing. This, it should be noted, is not illegal. Frequently these asylum seekers get lumped in with those who are crossing the border illegally when people talk about this issue. Of the many people who seek asylum in the U.S., paperwork is often a luxury that they don’t have. They need to quickly flee their countries and have nothing to bring with them, or their paperwork has been destroyed. They aren’t in a position to prove who they are and that these children they are traveling with, are indeed their children.

There are reasons for separating children from adults in border crossing situations that you may not realize or understand. This is where the issue of sex trafficking of children should come into our discussions.

Sex traffickers and people using children as drug mules try to cross the border illegally daily. These people also try to claim asylum. Often, they will not have the correct documents or any documents. The men and women who are charged with protecting our borders are also charged with protecting the lives of others. They are on constant alert to watch for sex traffickers and those who would use children as drug mules.

These officers and agents don’t know who is truly seeking asylum and who is a sex trafficker. Or, who is illegal and a sex trafficker. It is their job, however, to protect the weakest among us- CHILDREN. It is their practice in these situations to separate the children from the adults to attempt to find out if these are indeed their parents.

Think about this scene for a minute. You are a child and you have just had to flee for your life to seek asylum in the U.S. What horrible things have you witnessed? What things are you afraid of? These people talk differently and you really don’t understand what is going on. You are petrified.

Scene two- You have been sold by your family or you have been kidnapped and taken. You don’t know where you are going. Your life or that of your family has been threatened if you say anything about what has happened to you, or that the people you are with aren’t related to you.

Children, whether they are seeking asylum, illegal, or are being trafficked, are scared. They don’t know what is going on, or who to trust. They are likely not going to be very communicative and helpful in this process to determine what is going on. The officers are trying desperately to get to the bottom of each story because not one of those officers wants to be responsible for not catching a child sex trafficker and dooming a child to that kind of life.

I am grateful that we are talking about this important issue of families being separated. But I am also concerned that because of our outrage and our desire for swift change, that if we are not careful, we will make it easier for the sex traffickers to carry out this heinous crime against children. And I think that that is the last thing any of us want.

I do believe that we can find a way to balance the needs of those who are seeking asylum and those who are being trafficked but I think we need to make sure that this is part of our conversation about children being separated from their parents.

Calleen Lyman Petersen

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An Ordinary Mom who believes in standing up, speaking out, and sharing her truths. I write about special needs, life, my thoughts.