Human trafficking gets attention, but let’s make sure that we know what we are talking about  before posting headlines.

This news item out of Texas has “human trafficking” in the headline, but the situation they describe is clearly a case of smuggling. The dateline is in San Antonio and even is listed as coming from CNN. I don’t know how news items come through the wire, but I don’t think we can assume that the title also came from CNN. I hope not – CNN is supposed to know what human trafficking is. Perhaps someone at channel 14 didn’t know the difference between trafficking and smuggling, and/or thought that putting human trafficking in the title would get more traction than smuggling.

I don’t know what the editor was thinking, but it gives me a teaching moment so you won’t make the same mistake. What is the difference between smuggling and human trafficking?

The most widely accepted definition of trafficking in persons comes from the 2000 United Nations Palermo Protocol. Basically, the key features involve 1) movement or confinement of an individual; 2) removing of that individual’s personal agency; 3) coercion and exploitation of the individual for financial profit or gain of another; 4) the individual need not leave his/her town to be trafficked.

Smuggling is paying someone to take you illegally across a border (often international) and then technically you are free after that passage. People who employ smuggling are at risk for being trafficked, but it is not the same thing.

Now you know.