Human trafficking targeted in Florida

MIAMI, Jan. 24 (UPI) — South Florida is a U.S. hub of human and sex trafficking, say officials fighting “organized crime where humans are used as products.”

Authorities are highlighting the problem in January, which is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, The Miami Herald reports.

“This is organized crime where humans are used as products. We are talking about selling a person over and over and making large sums of money,” said Assistant Special Agent Carmen Pino of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “What people need to realize is that human trafficking is happening here, it’s a big problem. It could be happening in the restaurant where you eat, at your nail salon, in your neighborhood. It’s not just something that happens in foreign countries.”

Law enforcement and government agencies formed the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force in 2008 to monitor a wide region from Key West to Fort Pierce.

That year, ICE launched 432 investigations yielding 126 convictions for trafficking. In 2009, the figures rose to 566 investigations and 165 convictions.

ICE gives victims of trafficking temporary legal immigration status called “continued presence.” They can get work permits and eventually can apply for a visa. In 2009, ICE authorized 447 such requests and extensions.
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