People all over the country will celebrate Super Bowl LV on Sunday, but for many, it carries a much darker connotation — sex trafficking. In the past, it has been estimated that approximately 10,000 victims are trafficked into cities that host the Super Bowl during the week of the event.
Supply and demand is at the heart of this disgusting enterprise. Big sporting events, political conventions, conferences, big holiday destinations, or any number of other major events draw traffickers to the area, especially gatherings where attendance is male dominated. Like any other industry, human traffickers are driven by money and are looking for places where their market will flourish. Unfortunately, the Super Bowl creates the perfect opportunity for traffickers as it is largely male attended, people have large amounts of cash, and plenty of extra time.
While the Super Bowl will look a little different this year due to continued coronavirus restrictions, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) play important roles that get very little attention. In addition to monitoring for human trafficking at airports and our nation’s borders, CBP and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) personnel are partnering with local, state and federal law enforcement in the Tampa Bay area, where the game is being played this year. Both ICE and CBP have a “long-standing relationship with the NFL to protect against terrorist threats, economic fraud, transnational crime and a host of other criminal activity.” On a daily basis, CBP plays a critical role in disrupting international sex trafficking and identifying both traffickers and victims before they enter the interior of the United States.
This year, similar to previous years, CBP’s Air and Marine Operations (AMA) is employing a number of tactics to deter human trafficking, including:
- Temporary flight restrictions around Raymond James Stadium (since victims are often flown into the area from other states or countries).
- Patrolling the Tampa Riverwalk area and waterways.
- Enhanced maritime patrols along the coastline.
Along with physical operations, the agencies are working with the Tampa Bay area in an effort to educate the public on sex trafficking, including outlining the signs of trafficking in order to ensure that “everyone who has come to Tampa Bay to enjoy the Super Bowl has done so of their own free will.”
Behind-the-scenes efforts like these by CBP, ICE, HSI and countless other law enforcement officers are crucial to fighting human trafficking not only in the U.S. but globally as well. As immigration laws become more lax under the Biden administration, criminal organizations and traffickers will thrive, causing these human rights atrocities to skyrocket.
Enforcing immigration law is not just about regulating who comes in and who leaves, but it is also about preventing the atrocities that often occur when we do not carry out those laws. A lack of immigration enforcement and open borders enable human and drug trafficking not only at our borders, but within the interior of our nation as well. If the Biden administration continues to dismantle the front-line mechanisms that combat human trafficking in this country, this horrific enterprise will be primed to become bigger than ever in the United States.