United States authorities have arrested 13 people accused of involvement in a network that forced Mexican women into sexual slavery in New York and New Jersey, underlining how the US remains a major trafficking destination for victims from Mexico and the region.
Federal agents arrested the suspects and rescued the women upon raiding four brothels in Yonkers, Queens, Poughkeepsie, and Newburgh. According to prosecutors, the network exploited dozens of women, who were brought mainly from Tenancingo, in Tlaxcala state, near Mexico City.
The women were allegedly enticed to the US with promises of a better life, but upon arrival were subjected to threats and sexual abuse and forced into prostitution. Some were brought to farms in New Jersey where they were forced to have sexual relations with as many as 25 farmworkers each day, while others worked in brothels in poor areas of New York City.
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Tenancingo is a major sex trafficking center, with approximately 1,000 of its 10,000 residents involved in the trade, according to BBC. The town's traffickers lure women from various parts of Mexico on romantic pretenses or with promises of a better life. Many women are initially trafficked to Mexico City and from there to the US, with Queens, New York one common destination.
While human smuggling and migrant kidnapping have traditionally been Mexico's major problem in this area, human trafficking has also become a serious issue. In 2012, a Mexican congresswoman claimed that 800,000 Mexican adults and 20,000 children are trafficked each year for sexual exploitation, while a prominent human rights group identified 15 states in Mexico as human trafficking centers in 2011.
A 2012 Congressional Research Service report stated that the US is one of five primary destination countries for Latin American sex trafficking victims, with Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Japan as the other four.