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Human smuggling and human trafficking: Important differences

People who are desperate to come to Florida or elsewhere in the United States from other countries may consider unlawful alternatives if they discover that they do not qualify for one of the legal options. However, they put themselves at risk of deportation once they get here, and they put themselves at risk of harm from unethical people who promise assistance in return for money or other payments. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, both human trafficking and people smuggling are illegal, and immigrants who fall prey to either activity may come to harm.

There are identifying factors that separate the two activities. A situation may be identified as human smuggling when an undocumented immigrant is brought into the country illegally and shielded from authorities. But, if the immigrant was promised a job, and then forced or coerced to take a different job, he or she may be the victim of trafficking. Likewise, those who are guarded, prevented from making their own choices or whose wages are being withheld may be victims.

The Department of Homeland Security points out that some immigrants recognize that they have been smuggled into the country illegally, but not that they are the victims of traffickers. In these cases, people may qualify for protection from law enforcement in return for cooperation, but instead they avoid those who would be in a position to help them.

Officials who encounter victims are instructed to provide assistance through a variety of support services. Programs and protections are available to victims even if the investigation they participate in does not result in the arrest of a human trafficker. Because of the serious harm caused by human trafficking, it is essential for those who may have evidence to share this with the authorities.

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