Myths about sex trafficking at the Super Bowl are rearing their heads once again.
Earlier this week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) tweeted her desire to "scrap" Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after comedian Mohanad Elshieky, who is in the U.S. legally, was detained by border patrol agents while traveling between gigs. Washington Examiner contributor and former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) supervisor Jason Piccolo has now responded to Ocasio-Cortez's tweet by declaring that the congresswoman wanted to abolish "the agency fighting the illegal sex trade at the Super Bowl."
"ICE will be at the forefront of investigating the illicit sex trade at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta this week. Yes, the same ICE synonymous with immigration enforcement will deploy teams of special agents to combat the sex trade in Georgia," Piccolo writes. His argument relies on a tired narrative to justify unnecessary surveillance.
As Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown reported last Super Bowl, fact-checks have found little support for the assertion that the game doubles as a major sex trafficking event. In fact, sources from the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women to The New York Times to Sports Illustrated have found little evidence supporting the supposed link between major events and increases in sex trafficking.
Still, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies continue to ignore the facts in favor of their own narratives. Last year, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations unveiled a web campaign and a hashtag to show its commitment to fighting the mythical problem.
Brown also noted the importance of nuance, as consensual sex work by adults is often mischaracterized as sex trafficking. Prior to the 2018 Super Bowl, Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Sgt. Grant Snyder observed that an increase in visitors to the city could lead to "a sizable increase in demand" in paid sexual encounters. However, the demand was primarily for consenting sex workers. Snyder also noted that neither research nor past law enforcement experience supported beliefs of a supposed influx of sex-traffickers in Minneapolis.
Even if ICE was truly on the front lines of such an issue, it does not take away from Ocasio-Cortez's argument that the agency is "totally broken." Audits of the various immigration agencies within DHS found mismanagement, misconduct, and poor oversight predating this administration and the one before it.
Enjoy the Super Bowl!