A significant amount of illegal border crossings and illegal bringing of various products into the country demonstrate that American borders lack security. The United States has responded to negative statistics by increasing the amount of US Border Patrol officers, building 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico and monitoring borders using surveillance systems (Alden &Roberts, 2011). Despite all these measures, illegal crossings of the border continue; so, it means that increasing of border security should be continued in the future. The aim of this research paper is to study crimes associated with border security, particularly trafficking, smuggling, and contraband. In addition, the law relating to these crimes will be analyzed.
In 2001, the US government started a large-scale campaign for dealing with human trafficking. In particular, the Congress adopted the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. However, human trafficking is a widespread crime even ten yeas after appearing of the Act (US Department of Homeland Security, n.d.). The legal definition of human trafficking is quite difficult for understanding, but it has an easy meaning. It happens when an individual is influenced to do some activities by force, fraud, or compulsion. The activities include working under total or almost total control of other individuals or groups. Another popular activity is forcing a person to pay back a loan through working instead of just giving back money. The time could be agreed or unclear. The last popular activity is having sex for money or some other valuable things. If the person is under eighteen, force, compulsion, or fraud may not be obligatory (US Department of Homeland Security, n.d.). Many people primarily associate human trafficking with sex trade, but it also happens in other work-related situations, particularly it involves domestic slavery, a working factory that functions as a prison, and migrant agricultural work. Besides, there is one rule that victims often forget. The agreement signed by the individual before travelling or beginning work does not mean that the employer has the right to reduce a person’s freedom or make him/her provide repayment to the employer. Sometimes, human trafficking is connected with human smuggling, but not all the time because not all individuals that are smuggled are trafficked. Besides, trafficking does not need movement to happen.
Human trafficking puts victims in an environment that is difficult to leave because the victim might not understand that she/he is imprisoned. The compulsion usually has a psychological character rather than physical. Victims often do not have money so that they stay near criminals to have at least some finances. The crime frequently occurs in public places (e.g. a restaurant, workplace, and residential house) where other people do not see any illegal issues immediately. In addition, victims are forced to have sex or work in private houses so that it becomes quite difficult to detect a crime (US Department of Homeland Security, n.d.).
To fight human trafficking, four agencies of the US government collaborate with various state and local law enforcement organizations, as well as non-profit organizations. In particular, executive agencies include Department of Homeland Security, State Department, Department of Justice, and Department of Health and Human Services (US Department of Homeland Security, n.d.).
The Department of Homeland Security tries to fight human trafficking by increasing awareness about the problem of human trafficking. The DNS also reports about its attempts to defend victims and prosecute criminals. Therefore, the agency’s major objectives are prevention, protection, and prosecution (US Department of Homeland Security, n.d.).
The person can be accused of drug trafficking in case she/he produces, transports, sells, or spreads illegal narcotics. Drug trafficking is defined as a crime of weight and measurement. This means that if someone is stopped with a certain amount of illegal drug, she/he may be accused of drug trafficking. The following rule works even if the person does not produce, purchase, sell, or transport these narcotics (Theoharis, n.d.).
Drug trafficking penalties are very strict. First, people that are convicted of drug trafficking can be sent to prison for more than a year. This also relates to first-time offenders. Some states have penalties that are more serious and imprison offenders for ten years or more (Theoharis, n.d.). Moreover, individuals can receive life sentences for drug trafficking. Another kind of penalties for drug trafficking is fines. They are also serious. Fines for trafficking convictions on the state level reach from $25,000 to $100,000 and even higher. Drug trafficking convictions made on the federal level may reach $10 million (Theoharis, n.d.). Probation is also possible, but only in certain cases, particularly when the offender admits his/her guilt. Besides, individuals need to comply with some conditions to get probation. For example, offenders are observed by a probation officer, agree to have voluntary dug testing, do not leave their state without the probation officer’s consent, and do not violate any laws. Probation sentences typically continue for one year, but sentences for three years or more are also used (Theoharis, n.d.). Another peculiarity of drug trafficking penalties concerns availability of mandatory minimum sentences. The following rule signifies that a person must stay in prison for a specified period of time and is not able to leave prison on parole until that time. For instance, if the offender is sentenced to ten years in prison and his/her state has a mandatory minimum sentence of four years, she/he cannot be released before staying four years in prison (Theoharis, n.d.).
Smuggling and Contraband
Border security is also threatened by smuggling and contraband. Smuggled products are things that have been transported to the USA or any other county illegally. For instance, people can see smuggled toys or food. Contraband products are things that are illegal by their nature and have been transported to some county illegally. For instance, drugs belong to contraband products. Another important detail is that all contraband products are smuggled into certain country, but not all products that are smuggled belong to contraband (Phelps, Dailey, & Koenigsberg, 2014).
In fact, borders by their nature make opportunities for people to bring products into the country without paying taxes for import. This kind of taxes is called custom duties. The US Customs Service collects them. The organization is also responsible for detecting illegal or untaxed products called contraband (e.g. drugs). New function of the US Customs Service has been protecting the country from export and import of the critical technology that is used for creating weapons of mass destruction and making defense against money laundering (Warner, 2010).
One of the reasons of wide-spread smuggling and contraband is corruption within the US Customs Service. In 1999, the Congress requested the Treasury Office’s Department of Professional Responsibility to research corruption and US Custom Service’s programs to find it (Warner, 2010). The study did not identify organized groups involved in corruption, but some workers were at a great risk of taking money for hiding cases of contraband and smuggling. The study also found difficulties with determining bribery (Warner, 2010).
The Palermo Protocols
However, criminals smuggle not only products, but also human beings. Moreover, this kind of smuggling has increased rapidly. About 800,000 individuals are smuggled across state borders annually (Bhabha, 2005). These numbers include men, women, and children that have different background and various reasons for smuggling. For instance, some of these people are political refugees. There are also people that leave their own countries due to suffering from conflicts and violence there. A significant amount of individuals wants to cross international borders illegally because of having economic issues. They try to find a better life in another country.
Fighting against terrorism, illegal drugs, and immigration has moved smuggling and trafficking of human beings up to the international level. Therefore, the United States created drafts of two new protocols and sent them to the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime. The institution had to consider the protocols focused on trafficking and smuggling in 2000 (Bhabha, 2005). These documents are called Palermo Protocols. They have had a legal force from 2003 and 2004 respectively. The advantage of the Palermo Protocols is that they define the difference between coerced and consensual migrants. Thus, people that have not given their consent for being trafficked belong to “victims” or “survivors.” Individuals that have agreed to be involved into a crime belong to the ones that are smuggled. Gender factor is present in this distinction: in particular, smuggling is typically associated with men, whereas children and women are usually victims of trafficking. Such discrimination is based on the concept that children and women are common targets of defensive concern (Bhabha, 2005).
The Palermo Protocols have both similar and different features. They insist on criminalizing behaviors of smugglers and traffickers, developing and implementing law enforcement procedures, as well as collaborating with other countries for increasing effectiveness of international prevention and punishment of smuggling and trafficking. Both Palermo Protocols also determine that irregular immigrants should not have criminal prosecution for illegal crossing of the border (Bhabha, 2005). Finally, protocols do not contain demands of introducing some specific immigration benefits or expanding access to the country.
However, the protocols have different approaches to protection of immigrants. The Trafficking Protocol contains the requirement about protection of trafficked individuals and offers many protective methods (Bhabha, 2005). For example, it suggests implementing measures for giving physical, psychological, and social assistance. This involves collaborating with non-governmental organizations, providing housing, employment and training opportunities, heath care aid, material help, and counseling. At the same time, the Smuggling Protocol does not put much attention on protection of smuggled people providing only its basic level (Bhabha, 2005). Overall, considering of protection methods demonstrates that it is better for an immigrant to be called trafficked than smuggled. However, the distinction between measures offered by the Palermo Protocols can be not that positive in practice.
Border security is not strong enough because numbers of smuggling, trafficking, and contraband are still high. Particular attention of state authorities and experts is paid to smuggling and trafficking of human beings because the amount of new illegal immigrants constantly grows. This causes additional pressure on the state budget because the Palermo Protocols require providing a wide range of protection methods. Besides, not all immigrants have been informed about illegal crossing of the border. Thus, many of them have been smuggled by force or compulsion. In the United States, they are sometimes forced to work without payment. These people need real protection from law enforcement services. At the same time, there are people that choose illegal crossing of borders voluntarily. In the first case, the Palermo Protocols determine people as “victims” and their actions are classified as trafficking. The second case relates to smuggling. Apart from that, individuals transport products across borders. One of the most serious crimes is drug trafficking due to severe penalties. Even first-time offenders may be sent to prison for that crime. Smuggled products and contraband bands can be linked, but not always. Contraband products are goods that have been transported to the county illegally and they are illegal by nature (e.g. illegal drugs). Smuggled products are legal goods that have been transported to the country illegally (e.g. toys).