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Human Trafficking in the Homeland Threat Assessment

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Homeland Threat Assessment

The Department of Homeland Security’s 2020 Homeland Threat Assessment (HTA) is a first-of-its-kind report synthesizing threat assessments across DHS including intelligence and operational components. The HTA highlights the many threats facing the American people, the Homeland, and the American way of life. Human trafficking is primarily addressed in the Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO) Threats to U.S. Security section.

  • Mexico-based Cartels, Human Smuggling, and Human Trafficking: Among TCOs, Mexico-based cartels pose the greatest threat to the Homeland because of their ability to control territory—including along the U.S. Southwest Border—and co-opt parts of government, particularly at a state and local level. Mexico-based cartels play an influential role in human smuggling, often facilitating illicit migration over and near the border. Mexico-based drug cartels have traditionally taxed human smugglers and traffickers to move migrants through their areas of operation. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, these criminal groups have continued efforts to facilitate the movement of migrants throughout most of their routes.

  • Human Trafficking - Top Threats: Both sex trafficking and forced labor remain significant issues. Top threats include sex trafficking and juvenile sex trafficking, domestic labor trafficking and indentured servitude, and goods imported into the United States that were produced by forced labor. These illicit activities often have a nexus to criminal organizations, such as those operating illicit massage businesses or engaged in exploitation of migrant and undocumented populations.

  • Human Trafficking - Child Exploitation: Child exploitation is also a significant issue. Top threats in this area include the proliferation of online Child Sexual Abuse Material, live streaming of child sexual exploitation, online enticement and extortion, and child sex trafficking.

  • Human Trafficking - Illicit Financial Activities: Criminal networks engage in multiple types of illicit financial activities to maintain affirmative control of their proceeds, including bulk cash smuggling, trade-based money laundering (TBML), third party money laundering (3PML), virtual currency-based money laundering and fraud, and transnational financial fraud schemes. The top threats in the illicit finance area are Chinese TCOs, money laundering organizations specializing in supporting drug trafficking organizations, Colombian money brokers, West African TCOs, and cyber hacking groups.

Source: Homeland Threat Assessment, DHS, Oct 2020

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