The Mexican Consulate has fielded hundreds of calls in the first two months of its campaign against human trafficking, but only two have yielded actual allegations of sex and labor trafficking.
One was of a minor who had been allegedly trafficked to San Francisco from Mexico, says consulate spokeswoman Gabriela Mardero Jimenez. Another was of a person working in oppressive conditions who was threatened if he or she went to the authorities.
Since the "One Call Could Save Your Life" campaign launched on March 28, the consulate's hotline -- 415-354-4555 -- gets about 10 calls a day. "There's tons," Jimenez says. But the vast majority of callers confuse human trafficking with labor violations. The consulate refers immigrants with such complaints to a law firm of labor attorneys.
Threats constitute the big difference between labor violations -- "not paying you
but you're free to leave this job if you want," Jimenez says -- and labor trafficking, which is "threatening you to
stay in this situation and not try to get help."
campaign targets Spanish speakers through ads on
Spanish-language radio and television. It
focuses on people brought into the country for work or sex, not people smuggled
across the border by coyotes just to get to the United States and then left free once they get here.
Jimenez says the alleged victim of sex trafficking was relocated by
Standing Against Global Exploitation -- the nonprofit that counsels women arrested for prostitution in
San Francisco, which is partnering with the consulate in the campaign. The
consulate has handed over the two cases to the
police, which is following up, but Jimenez says she couldn't release more details.
Still, she says the consulate suspects there are many more trafficking cases, but victims are scared to report them.
people don't have access to telephones. Their exploiters don't let them
have access," Jimenez says. "They control them by fear. They threaten them and their families."