Hit & Run

Teen Girl Sells Sex. Teen Boy Serves as Bodyguard. Teen Boy Gets Arrested by Homeland Security for Child Sex-Trafficking

If convicted, the boy-an 18-year-old homeless refugee from Ghana-faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in federal prison, with life imprisonment possible.

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Edeme Missiadan/Facebook

Here's a good example out of El Paso about the way America's fight against "child sex trafficking" works in practice. The short of it: three teens got involved in prostitution. The two girls—one 15 and one 17—had sex with clients for money, and the boy, who is 18, rented the hotel room in his name and acted as security. Now he's locked up on child sex-trafficking charges.

Who can we thank for taking down this dangerous predator? Obviously, it couldn't be left up to local police to deal with such a clear threat to our national safety. No, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the El Paso Police Department, and the El Paso Child Exploitation Task Force all participated in the arrest of our "sex trafficker," Edeme Missiadan.

Missiadan and the two girls, who used the pseudonyms "Lexi" and "Natalia," are from Phoenix. One of the girls was dating Missiadan's brother. Police say the trio traveled down to El Paso—where cops found an escort ad for Lexi, who purported to be 21-years-old, on Backpage.com—on Tuesday, July 27. The next day, cops pretended to be a client and set up an appointment, then raided the girls' hotel room. After detaining the girls, they found Missiadan in a nearby courtyard.

Missiadan was booked on one federal count of child sex trafficking. Appearing before a judge on July 29, the teen—who came to the U.S. in 2007 as a refugee from Ghana and has since obtained citizenship—said he didn't understand what crime he had committed. One of the girls Missiadan was allegedly trafficking told police that she had planned to come to El Paso by herself to work, but Missiadan didn't want her to go "without protection."

This is the real tragedy of the way we're going after prostitution in America right now: literally anything that makes sex workers safer is considered to be sex trafficking. Bring along a bodyguard? He's a sex trafficker. Have a friend drive you to a client and wait outside? She's a sex trafficker. Use a booker or escort agency to screen clients? They're sex traffickers! Search for clients via online ads instead of on the streets? The Internet is a sex trafficker! It's easy to see sex traffickers everywhere when you define all sex workers as victims.

But, but—these girls were under 18! some will point out, as if that means there must be someone to blame. People want someone to blame in situations like these. People hate the idea that innocent young things might actually choose to sell sex on their own accord. But some do. And de facto treating anyone who assists them in any way—including other teenagers—like a serious criminal doesn't help anyone. There are a lot of reasons why a young woman might start selling sex—poverty, pressure from a boyfriend, trouble at home, boredom, curiosity—but unless the reason is because-they-were-forced-to, it doesn't make any sense to "solve" the problem of underage prostitution by looking for anyone but the young woman to hold accountable.

If Missiadan is found guilty, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, with life imprisonment possible.

A public defender tried to get Missiadan—who had been in foster care until he aged out recently, and was now homeless—placed in a halfway house pending his trial but a judge refused, denying him bail.