Last Updated: Monday, 28 July 2014, 16:37 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Mexico

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 12 June 2007
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Mexico, 12 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/467be3c729.html [accessed 30 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Mexico (Tier 2 Watch List)

Mexico is a source, transit, and destination country for persons trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. The majority of victims trafficked into the country come from Central America, destined for Mexico or the United States. A lesser number of victims come from South America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Asia. A significant number of Mexican women, girls, and boys are trafficked internally for sexual exploitation, often lured from poor rural regions to urban, border, and tourist areas through false offers of employment; many are beaten, threatened, and forced into prostitution. Sex tourism, including child sex tourism, appears to be growing, especially in tourist areas such as Acapulco and Cancun, and border towns like Tijuana; foreign pedophiles arrive most often from Western Europe and the United States. Organized criminal networks traffic women and girls from Mexico into the United States for commercial sexual exploitation. In a new trend, the trafficking of U. S. -resident children into Mexico for commercial sexual exploitation was reported during the last year. Trafficking in Mexico is frequently conflated with alien smuggling, although the same criminal networks are often involved.

The Government of Mexico does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The Government of Mexico remains on Tier 2 Watch List for the fourth consecutive year based on future commitments of the government to undertake additional efforts in prosecution, protection, and prevention of trafficking in persons over the coming year. While solid efforts have been made in dedicating resources to anti-trafficking efforts and in investigating trafficking crimes, progress remains lacking in key areas such as indicting, convicting, and sentencing trafficking offenders and passing and enacting much-needed federal and state anti-trafficking legislation. A comprehensive federal anti-trafficking law is moving forward, however, and differing versions have been passed by each house of Mexico's Congress. The Mexican Senate is expected to vote later this year on the version approved by the Chamber of Deputies on April 26, 2007. In addition, the number of trafficking victims in Mexico is significant, and there are indications that it is increasing steadily. The phenomenon of child sex tourism also is on the rise. Mexico can advance its efforts to combat human trafficking by focusing additional resources on the problem, aggressively prosecuting traffickers, enhancing victim protection, confronting trafficking complicity by public officials, and improving anti-trafficking cooperation with neighboring countries.

Prosecution

The Government of Mexico increased efforts to investigate and prosecute human traffickers during the reporting period, but needs to pursue traffickers more vigorously by securing more convictions and sentences against them. Although final passage of federal anti-trafficking legislation is pending in the Mexican Senate, Mexican federal law does not currently prohibit the trafficking of adults for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, though disparate federal and state statutes are used to prosecute a variety of trafficking crimes. Article 201 of Mexico's federal penal code criminalizes the corruption of minors, child prostitution, and child pornography, prescribing penalties of up to 10 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and exceed penalties prescribed for other grave crimes. Article 365 criminalizes labor exploitation or servitude, prescribing a penalty of up to one year of imprisonment, which is not sufficiently stringent to deter acts of forced labor. While enacting a comprehensive federal law is critical for strengthening government capacity to combat human trafficking, state governments have played a significant role in advancing overall anti-trafficking efforts in Mexico. Federal jurisdiction is typically invoked in organized-crime cases; thus, state anti-trafficking laws are necessary for prosecuting cases on the local level. Mexico's 31 states and its federal district criminally prohibit different aspects of trafficking in persons. Three states – Michoacan (limited), Chihuahua, and Guerrero – passed specific anti-trafficking laws in 2006.

Last year, federal authorities initiated at least 13 trafficking investigations and secured one conviction and sentence in a major case where the defendant was extradited to the United States to stand trial for trafficking Mexican women and girls into prostitution in New York. While the number of trafficking convictions obtained last year in Mexico remained level with 2005, the government's efforts to investigate trafficking crimes increased from eight cases in 2005 to at least 13 cases in 2006. However, the government continues to experience difficulties and delay with pushing cases through the judicial system, and securing convictions and sentences against human traffickers. In one major case, six defendants – including a Mexican immigration official – were granted stays or released pending final sentencing, only to become fugitives from justice. Other trafficking investigations remain open despite years of examination, and other cases are not pursued because victims fear retribution from their traffickers, or are discouraged from pressing charges by police or family members. In 2006, the government investigated one case involving forced labor of Chinese nationals; however, no formal indictments have been issued to date. But the government increased investigations of foreign pedophiles and international and internet-based sex trafficking rings, and the federal police improved data collection on trafficking cases.

During the reporting period, the Mexican government cooperated with the United States government on a number of cross-border trafficking cases, some involving prosecutions in both countries. The Mexican government also requested and received extradition of a U. S. resident accused of operating a child prostitution ring in Cancun; he remains in a Mexican jail. Nonetheless, competing law-enforcement priorities and security concerns in the country, along with scarce government resources, have hampered criminal investigations against traffickers. Corruption among public officials, especially local law enforcement and immigration personnel, also continues to be a serious concern; some officials reportedly accept or extort bribes, discourage victim reporting, or turn a blind eye to human trafficking activity in brothels and other locales. The Government of Mexico can improve enforcement efforts by vigorously addressing complicity in trafficking by public officials.

Protection

The Mexican government sustained but did not improve on its modest level of victim protection over the last year. While there are no government-run shelters or services dedicated specifically to trafficking victims, Mexico's social welfare agency operates shelters that assist trafficking victims along with other victims of violence. The government also provides limited funding to anti-trafficking NGOs. Most foreign trafficking victims in Mexico continued to be deported, although the government in September 2006 authorized the issuance of renewable one-year humanitarian visas to victims who assist with the prosecution of their traffickers. So far, 11 trafficking victims have been given these visas. However, many victims in Mexico are reluctant to press their cases due to fear of retribution from their traffickers, many of whom are members of organized criminal networks. While government resources in this area may be limited, setting up a secure witness-protection program in human trafficking cases would help law enforcement to ensure the physical safety of trafficking victims, and guarantee their testimony at trial. Funding anti-trafficking NGOs with specific capacity would accomplish the same goal. In 2005, there were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. However, some child victims of commercial sexual exploitation in Cancun reportedly were further sexually exploited by police upon detention. The government lacks procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as persons detained for prostitution or immigration violations. In addition, no formal mechanism exists for referring identified trafficking victims to specialized NGOs for care. Efforts to implement memoranda of understanding with Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador to repatriate undocumented migrants, including children and trafficking victims, continued to be incomplete.

Prevention

The government increased prevention efforts during the reporting period. High-level government officials continued to stress the need to fight trafficking. The government produced anti-trafficking literature, and sponsored seminars to raise public awareness about human trafficking. The Mexican Senate and the federal police launched anti-trafficking commercials and media campaigns. The government does not have a national action plan to combat human trafficking, although some government agencies have drafted their own. Some NGOs reported government resistance to collaborating on anti-trafficking initiatives and projects, especially on the federal level. Better collaboration is reported on the state level.

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