By Nell Green
It was a normal school day. She worked with the children who needed some help with their English. One day a child asked her if she knew what a “coyote” was. She said, “Of course. It looks sort of like a small dog but is wild.”
“No, teacher,” he responded. “A coyote is a person. My uncle is a coyote. I go with him to Mexico. We pick up a bunch of people and put them in our truck. Then we take them to San Antonio and put them in my grandmother’s garage. After a while, we send them out to work.”
The teacher was dumbfounded. She didn’t know what to say. She immediately went to the school administrator. The principal quickly shut the door and told her, “Do not tell anyone what you just heard! Keep it to yourself.”
“No, no, no, no — a thousand times no!” is all I could think to say in response to this incident that was relayed to me by the teacher in question a couple of weeks ago. The incident had occurred about four years earlier. Now every time she hears of a house in the Houston area where people who have been smuggled are found she listens intently to the names of those involved wondering if her student is one of the perpetrators.
It seems to me if this child does end up perpetrating such a crime part of the blame lies with a society that turns a blind eye and does not want to be involved.
To be clear, the act of being paid to transport someone illegally across the border is “human smuggling.” It is not human trafficking and is not prosecuted as such. However, smuggling too often leads to trafficking. Sometimes the coyote turns people transported over to a trafficker who then forces them into the labor or sex trafficking industry.
Sometimes the coyote agrees to take people, telling them they can pay after they get a job in the United States. The problem comes in that the debt does not gradually diminish. It increases and becomes impossible to pay. Victims are watched and threatened both personally as well as their families back home.
Exactly what are our responsibilities where these crimes are concerned? It seems to me we have quite a few:
• We are responsible for knowing the national human trafficking hotline — 888.373.7888 — so we can get someone help when they need it.
• We are responsible to do all we can to help eradicate the poverty and destabilization that drives people to leave. That will involve political and social activism.
• We are responsible to do all we can to fully prosecute smugglers and traffickers who have discovered a most lucrative business in selling and transporting humans as commodities. That means we need to watch for laws and legislation that will do that. We need to be in contact with our city and state officials advocating for stiff penalties and for justice for victims.
• We are responsible to watch and listen and address any possible smuggling/trafficking situation. Here are some of the signs.
• We are responsible to educate ourselves about fair trade and fair labor policies.
• We are responsible for seeing that day laborer, that restaurant worker, that construction laborer, that domestic laborer, that farm or factory worker, etc., as a person whom God dearly loves and who is filled with hopes, desires, and dreams for him/herself as well as their family.
It is time once and for all to end slavery.