First Use of Anti-Trafficking Law in Florida
Wednesday, April 13, 2005 11:35 AM

Florida authorities used for the first time a new Florida law banning human trafficking to arrest two men who had allegedly participated in an illegal immigrant smuggling ring that brought 17 Guatemalans into the United States. At the end of an intensive search, Florida police recovered a young Guatemalan girl from the arrested individuals’ SUV. Apparently, the girl had traveled for a month on foot from her country to the Arizona border where she and a number of other Guatemalans climbed into the alleged smugglers’ vehicle.

According to the Palm Beach Post, the two alleged traffickers were to deliver the Guatemalans to their relatives’ homes in the southern United States in exchange for over $1700 in cash per person. The police were able to apprehend the two alleged traffickers when the parents of the young Guatemalan girl called 911, claiming falsely that the men had abducted their child from a Kmart parking lot in Florida. Authorities learned later that the Kmart parking lot was the designated drop-off location for the girl and that a dispute over the amount of money that the parents were to pay the alleged smugglers caused the men to drive off without delivering the girl to her parents. The girl and her family were asked to report to the Federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Palm Beach for a determination of their immigration statuses.

While some question the need for a state-based law on human trafficking when a similar federal law exists on the books, state representatives in Florida deem such a law necessary because of the federal governments’ near-exclusive focus on fighting terrorism. According to Democrat state representatives, a state law was needed to afford local authorities the ability to prosecute traffickers without having to rely on the thinly-stretched resources of federal authorities.

Compiled from: Abduction Tale Evolves into Trafficking Saga, Andrew Marra and Tony Doris, Palm Beach Post, 31 March 2005.