MEXICO (Tier 2)
Mexico is a large source, transit, and destination country for persons trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. A significant number of Mexican women, girls, and boys are trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation, often lured from poor rural regions to urban, border, and tourist areas through false offers of employment; upon arrival, many are beaten, threatened, and forced into prostitution. According to the Mexican government, up to 20,000 children are victimized in commercial sexual exploitation in Mexico every year, especially in tourist and border areas. Sex tourism, including child sex tourism, is a growing trend, especially in tourist areas such as Acapulco and Cancun, and northern border cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. Foreign child sex tourists arrive most often from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. The vast majority of foreign victims trafficked into the country for sexual exploitation come from Central America, particularly Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador; many transit Mexico en route to the United States and, to a lesser extent, Canada and Western Europe. Some Central American minors, traveling alone through Mexico to meet family members in the United States, fall victim to traffickers, particularly near the Guatemalan border. Victims from South America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Asia also are trafficked into Mexico for sexual or labor exploitation, or transit the country en route to the United States. Organized criminal networks traffic women and girls from Mexico into the United States for commercial sexual exploitation. Mexican men and boys are trafficked from southern to northern Mexico for forced labor. Central Americans, especially Guatemalans, have been subjected to agricultural servitude and labor exploitation in southern Mexico. Mexican men, women, and boys are trafficked into the United States for forced labor, particularly in agriculture.
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 federal government demonstrated its resolve to combat human trafficking by enacting comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, dedicating financial resources to construct victim shelters, and increasing data collection among federal agencies with regard to trafficking patterns. Nonetheless, the large number of trafficking victims within Mexico remains a serious concern, and government efforts to punish trafficking offenders and complicit officials involved in trafficking activity remained inadequate, as did victim protection and assistance.
Recommendations for Mexico: Increase efforts to convict and punish traffickers for their crimes; increase victim assistance; confront trafficking complicity by public officials; formalize procedures for identifying victims among vulnerable populations; expand anti-trafficking training for judges and law enforcement; and adequately fund and implement the new federal anti-trafficking law.
The Government of Mexico improved efforts to combat human trafficking through law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. In November 2007, the Mexican government enacted comprehensive legislation to prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons on the federal level. The new law carries penalties of between six and 12 years' imprisonment, in addition to heavy fines, which increase to nine to 18 years in jail when the victim is a child or a person lacking mental capacity. Moreover, if the defendant is a public official, penalties increase by one-half, and include loss of the official's job. In addition to the new federal law, Articles 201 – 204 of Mexico's penal code criminalize the corruption of minors, child prostitution, and child pornography, prescribing penalties of between five and 10 years' imprisonment. All the above penalties are sufficiently stringent, and exceed those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. The new anti-trafficking law also provides for victim services and formalizes a federal interagency commission, which has statutory authority to request funds to implement the new law and a national program to prevent trafficking in persons. The Interior Secretary has recently been named as the agency lead for the interagency commission, which has been meeting informally. In February 2008, the Attorney General formed a new anti-trafficking prosecutorial unit, the Crimes Against Women and Trafficking in Persons Unit (FEVIMTRA), after a federal anti-trafficking police unit had been dismantled with the change of administrations in early 2007. FEVIMTRA will prosecute all federal human trafficking cases except those involving organized crime, which will continue to be handled by a subunit of the Organized Crime division within the Attorney General's Office. Since June 2007, the federal government has arrested seven persons suspected of sex trafficking activity. No federal convictions or punishments of trafficking offenders have been reported. Moreover, there were no law enforcement efforts to criminally investigate and prosecute labor trafficking crimes, despite reports of nationals, Central Americans, and other foreigners in Mexico being subject to labor exploitation. In Mexico's federal system, state governments have played a significant law enforcement role with regard to anti-trafficking efforts. Federal jurisdiction is typically invoked in organized crime cases, or cases involving international or transnational trafficking; thus, state anti-trafficking laws are necessary for prosecuting cases on the local level. Mexico's 31 states and its federal district criminally prohibit some aspects of trafficking in persons. As of April 2008, five states – Chihuahua, Guerrero, Mexico, Sonora, and Zacatecas – have enacted comprehensive anti-trafficking laws. The State of Chihuahua initiated six trafficking-related prosecutions since enactment of its state anti-trafficking law in January 2007. In one case, a female defendant was sentenced to 11 years in jail on state human-trafficking charges for luring school-aged boys to have sex with her co-defendant, a U.S. citizen. The U.S. citizen was sentenced to nine years in prison for the rape of a 10-year-old boy. In another case involving the commercial sexual exploitation of minors, charges against an American citizen paying minors for oral sex were not pursued because the child victims allegedly "consented" to the acts. Additional anti-trafficking training would assist law enforcement with identifying trafficking victims under Mexico's new federal law, and how trafficking victims, particularly children, cannot consent to their own exploitation.
During the reporting period, the Mexican government made significant efforts to cooperate with the United States government on cross-border trafficking investigations. Since 2005, a joint U.S.-Mexico program known as Operation Against Smugglers Initiative on Safety and Security (OASISS) has facilitated information sharing among prosecutors on both sides of the border, with the goal of identifying, prioritizing, and prosecuting human trafficking and alien smuggling offenders. In coordination with U.S. law enforcement agencies, the Mexican government conducted eight operations to rescue more than 90 potential victims from trafficking situations in Mexico last year. Government-sponsored anti-trafficking training for public officials increased, and the government also received training assistance from the United States and international organizations. A suspected child trafficker extradited to Mexico from the U.S. in 2006 remained in a Cancun jail, pending prosecution, during the reporting period. The government cooperated with foreign governments on human trafficking investigations in the United States, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Argentina during the reporting period. Also of particular note is the Mexican government's assistance with a U.S. child sex tourism investigation involving a U.S. citizen in Ciudad Juarez; the defendant has since been convicted and sentenced in the United States.
Despite demonstrating progress on anti-trafficking law enforcement, competing priorities and security concerns in Mexico, along with scarce government resources, continue to hamper police and prosecutorial investigations against traffickers. Corruption among public officials, especially local law enforcement and immigration personnel, continues to be a serious concern; some officials reportedly accept or extort bribes, discourage victim reporting, or ignore child prostitution and other human trafficking activity in brothels and commercial sex sites. The Government of Mexico can improve law enforcement efforts by making vigorous efforts to address complicity in trafficking by public officials. Expanded training for public officials about Mexico's new federal anti-trafficking law also will assist the government's anti-trafficking efforts, in addition to training state and local officials on the distinctions between alien smuggling and human trafficking offenses.
The Mexican government maintained a modest level of victim protection over the last year, while continuing to rely on NGOs and international organizations to provide most assistance for trafficking victims. Filling a recognized need for dedicated shelters for human trafficking victims, the Mexican Congress appropriated $7 million in January 2008 to construct two shelters for trafficking victims, to house men, women, and children, during the coming year. Mexico's social welfare agency also operates shelters for children who are victims of any form of violence, including child trafficking victims. The government offers foreign victims legal alternatives to removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; however, most foreign trafficking victims continued to be deported within 90 days. The government authorizes the issuance of renewable one-year humanitarian visas to victims who assist with the prosecution of their traffickers. Nine trafficking victims received these visas during the reporting period. Many victims in Mexico are afraid to identify themselves or 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 victim witnesses, and guarantee their testimony at trial. In 2007, there were no confirmed reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government does not currently have formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as prostituted women in brothels, or a mechanism for referring trafficking victims to specialized NGOs for care. However, the government's immigration agency reported increased anti-trafficking training of migration officials during the reporting period, and development of guidelines for identifying trafficking victims, particularly minors, among detainees. The immigration agency also created a working group in every Mexican state to address human trafficking on the state level. Immigration authorities referred 78 foreign trafficking victims to IOM for assistance last year.
Both federal and state governments strengthened prevention efforts. The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) is actively taking part in training on identifying victims of trafficking and has established 10 attention centers around the country for trafficking victims, most along the southern and northern borders. Awareness of the issue among government officials and the public is growing, and senior government officials stressed the need to fight human trafficking. With assistance from NGOs and international organizations, the government sponsored numerous seminars and training sessions to raise public awareness. Government collaboration with NGOs and international organizations on anti-trafficking efforts increased last year, but is reported to be uneven among the various federal agencies involved. The government took steps to reduce demand for commercial sex acts through state-level prosecutions of individuals engaging in commercial sex acts with children, including foreign nationals.