SPECIAL REPORT: Human Trafficking, Smuggling in the Permian Basin

SPECIAL REPORT: Human Trafficking, Smuggling in the Permian Basin

By Sylvia Gonzalez
NewsWest 9

PERMIAN BASIN - It's estimated that 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders. This is not including the thousands more that are trafficked within their own countries.

NewsWest 9 investigated on how Interstate 10 and Interstate 20 play a role in human smuggling and trafficking.

"Texas has so many miles of Interstate 10, Texas is in a high risk. We are in the center of this fight to crack down on commercial sexual exploitation of our children because the mere presence of Interstate 10 brings an inherent risk," David Boatright, Executive Director for The National Center of Missing and Exploited Children in Texas, said.

According to Resident Agent Jerry Garnett with Homeland Security Investigations in Midland, human smuggling and human trafficking are not the same thing.

"Human smuggling involves the action of bringing a person to a country illegally with the purpose of bypassing the immigration laws. Human trafficking involves the act of possibly bringing a person from another country or just taking a person from within the same country and placing them in a situation either where they are forced into servitude, debt bondage, peonage, that type of thing," Garnett said.

Garnett says ultimately adults and children who are trafficked or smuggled end up in bigger cities, Interstate 10 and 20 just facilitates their transport.

"Texas has the largest land border with Mexico which promotes the human smuggling and then into the human trafficking having the Interstates 10 and 20.  Interstate 10 is easily available and is a good avenue for them to transport these people," Garnett said.

It's estimated that human trafficking generates up to $35 million a year to the perpetrators. According to a report from the State of Texas to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center last year, both Midland and Odessa reported three cases of sex trafficking.

"The couple of cases that we've had in the last few years have both involved sex trafficking. They both involved a minor female in the cases where the female was forced into prostitution," Garnett said.

10 years ago, Texas was one of two states in the United State to have laws that criminalize human trafficking.

"In Texas, the sexual exploitation of children is a very serious offense, punishable up to 99 years in the penitentiary so Texas has made it a priority to crack down on the sexual exploitation of our children," Garnett said.