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Airport Scrutiny to Get Worse as House Moves to Mandate Sex-Trafficking Training

FAA reauthorization bill would require airline ticket-counter and gate agents to be trained on reporting "potential human trafficking victims."

Thomas Hawk/FlickrThomas Hawk/FlickrA plan to privatize air-traffic control operations has dominated discussion of the House's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, but the bill's regulatory parameters go far beyond that. An array of government expanding proposals are also included in the House's 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act.

One of them would require new mandatory training for all "ticket counter agents, gate agents, and other air carrier workers whose jobs require regular interaction with passengers" on "recognizing and responding to potential human trafficking victims."

The trafficking-training amendment, from Rep. Julia Brownley (D-California), was one of dozens of AIRR-Act amendments voted on Tuesday by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. After more than nine hours of markup and amendments, the Committee approved the AIRR Act, by a vote of 32 to 25.

On the surface, Brownley's trafficking amendment may seem beneficial, or at the very least harmless. But it's part of a larger and ongoing government project that is anything but benign. Under the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) "Blue Campaign" and related initiatives, federal agents have already been training flight attendants and other airline personnel on how to "detect" human traffickers or trafficking victims on their planes. They've also been conducting public outreach at airports and elsewhere to encourage ordinary travelers who "see something" suspicious to "say something"—by texting the tip directly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

There is no evidence these efforts have actually yielded any trafficking busts—which shouldn't surprise anyone not immersed in some Taken-style fantasy. Immigrants who wind up victims of sex or labor exploitation here are generally lured via fraud—the promise of an opportunity that either doesn't exist or isn't what it was made out to be. Some enter the country illegally, but many come over on tourist, student, or temporary-work visas, flying into the country alone or with others in the same situation. "Potential human trafficking victims" flying into the U.S. on commercial flights through major U.S. airports aren't the sort who can be pre-screened by well-meaning gate agents.

But what do employees do with all that extra "awareness"? A heightened sensitivity to anything out-of-the-ordinary—which in the United States can still mean interracial families or a child traveling with two fathers—means a propensity to profile passengers based on stereotypes.

An Asian-American woman traveling with her non-Asian husband, a dad traveling alone with his daughter, a gaggle of young Korean women traveling together are the folks flagged by well-meaning and woke customer-service staff.

The ICE, DHS, and other law-enforcement staff who greet them aren't always so well-intentioned, although they are fast. "When reports come in to the hotline, [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents come immediately to meet the plane as it reaches the ground," Deborah Sigmund, co-founder and president of the group Innocence at Risk, has said.

It's worth noting that Brownley's amendment provides no description of the kind of training airport employees will receive, how often they'll receive it, or who will develop and conduct it. Most likely, responsibility for the training will fall to DHS and its nonprofit advisers, which have already been involved in training truckers, flight attendants, and motel employees on the alleged "signs" of sex trafficking.

And from previous experience the training will be useless. The "signs" of sex trafficking they offer range from the rare and ridiculous (the stuff of action-movie lore, like someone with a bar-code tattoo with the word "Daddy" next to it) to excessively broad indicators that could ensnare any one of us on a bad day, such as being dressed "inappropriately" for travel, not knowing details about a flight, or not making prolonged eye contact.

Airline Ambassadors International, which often works with government officials on sex-trafficking awareness training, suggests that "children and young women traveling alone" should be considered suspect, as should people who say they are adults but have "adolescent features."

With crackerjack tips like this, it's not hard to see why DHS agencies have such a low ratio of human-trafficking investigations opened to trafficking arrests, prosecutions, and/or convictions. In 2015, ICE pursued 1,034 investigations "with a nexus to human trafficking," leading to a total of 752 federal indictments and 587 convictions—but just 104 arrests on sex-trafficking charges.

Much like "terrorism investigations" at the turn of this century, "human trafficking investigation" has become another handy pretense for putting "suspicious" foreigners in contact with DHS.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk/Flickr

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  • timbo||

    First I need to check ya asshole

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    ENB, don't you mean "sex trafficking detection training"? Or are they literally training TSA goons how to traffick sex?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    One is the intention and the other is the inevitable result.

  • Zeb||

    I guess you have to teach them how to traffick so they know what to look for.

  • ||

    The ICE, DHS, and other law-enforcement staff who greet them aren't always so well-intentioned, although they are fast.

    This seems exceedingly generous. A stronger law enforcement presence would seem to increase the likelihood that the next Dr. Dao is just going to suffer some poor-intentions to the face and head before being dragged away bleeding.

  • timbo||

    Was that guy right off the boat from some utopian paradise?

    Who on earth does not know what happens when you tell a stater cop they are wrong?

  • ||

    Either way, I'd say that the airline gave him less-than-the-best intentions. The Department Of Aviation gave him considerably worse than just bad intentions.

  • timbo||

    They gave him what they all woke that morning hoping to get a chance to do. They wanted to do some good. They did so much good, they made sure the next flyer could get on that flight.

    Thank god it's....the police.

  • timbo||

    Upon further thought; the last few TSA booger eaters I saw looked like they could be quite good at child sex trafficking.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Until women as a group can muster up some agency, they're going to have to deal with extra government protection.

  • timbo||

    I got some extra government protection last time I flew. Getting your balls juggled by the back of Mike's hands is not my kind of foreplay. Although Mike seemed rather used to it. Good work with a pension.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    What are you doing, travelling with Mikey?

  • timbo||

    I honestly did not see his nametag. I was too busy looking up at the ceiling in embarrassment. Good thing he had those blue gloves on though. Otherwise, I would have felt violated.

    Oh! My! God! was I sex trafficked!?

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    When I am getting fondled at the airport, I maintain eye contact as much as possible.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Full eye contact and loudly humming "The Star Spangled Banner."

  • Zeb||

    Lick your lips and start breathing heavily.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I like to whisper, just barely loud enough for the goon to hear "It puts the lotion in the basket." That, or "Good girl." Then when ask "What?" I say "I didn't say anything." Drives 'em crazy.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    *when asked*

  • Citizen X - #6||

    That sounds like a quick way to get taken to the back room by the guy with the latex gloves.

  • ||

    Gay sex trafficking victims, meanwhile, can continue to fuck off/suck it/turn the other cheek.

  • Rhywun||

    Go on....

  • BYODB||

    Umm...women don't have agency. That's why they need extra-special laws at every age, and every level of government. It's to make sure they know what they're supposed to be doing. Otherwise how would they even know they had been raped at all? Duh!

    /Progressive

  • ||

    once again, the private sector is dragooned into making up for the inadequacies of the police.

  • Libertarian||

    "An array of government expanding proposals are also included in the House's 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act."

    Two amazing things:
    1. When it comes to the state, "reform" means something more complicated.
    2. These increased regulations and programs are coming up while the Republicans are in charge. (the selfish Republicans derided for their heartlessness and austerity).

    I hope the voters remember this when they go to vote in the 2018 midterms. I'm stocking up on the popcorn now.

  • chemjeff||

    Yet one more reason not to fly.

  • BYODB||


    But what do employees do with all that extra "awareness"? A heightened sensitivity to anything out-of-the-ordinary—which in the United States can still mean interracial families or a child traveling with two fathers—means a propensity to profile passengers based on stereotypes.


    So tell me, what is profiling supposed to be based on if not stereotypes, generalizations, statistics, and hear-say? They are synonyms, for fucks sake.

  • Longtobefree||

    Gonna start me a 'non-profit' training school. Million dollars a year executive salary, but no profit. Plus I get to take trips to places where sex trafficking might originate and write it all off as research. Take on a couple of congress-critters as 'advisers', to keep the contracts flowing. Fund a retirement plan like I worked for Chicago, and be set for life before they can even type up the indictments.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    If it saves just one child it will be worth it.

  • timbo||

    Money is no object. If it intends to save one child, gets me some campaign money, is absolutely too fucking expensive and has no cost benefit whatsoever, and if I can get some hookers from a lobbyist, I think this is absolutely vital legislation for the protection of our freedom.

  • Fuck You - Cut Spending||

    FAA reauthorization bill would require airline ticket-counter and gate agents to be trained on reporting "potential human trafficking victims."

    Are they entitled to FBI pensions, too?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I applaud this usage:

    the folks flagged by well-meaning and woke customer-service staff.

    I love this new meaning of the word "woke". It rolls around the mouth very nicely, and is such a stupendously stupid concept. I love abusing it in front of self-woke people just to watch them twitch. It's far more entertaining than abusing "civilian" in the same manner as police do.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Yeah, leave abusing civilians to the cops!

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Most likely, responsibility for the training will fall to DHS and its nonprofit advisers politically connected cronies

    FTFY.

  • EscherEnigma||

    I'm in a job where I have to take congressionally managed training in this stuff already. It's a slide show with narration that takes about an hour.

  • tzx4||

    I have a conspiracy theory, Alex Jones believing friend who will love this news. He believes all people in office around the world are compromised by their pedophilia. At sometime recently Pres. Dump mentioned human trafficking in a public statement. He thinks Dump is on his side. Considering Infowars has the pres's ears, who am I to say?
    Strange times we live in.

  • johncbsr1||

    Just get the foreigners out of here, especially Muslims. Peoples sex lives are already going in the toilet; Can't talk to females for fear of getting charged with something. God help you if you have a drink with one.

  • Trainer||

    True story- my daughter flew home today. She has a service for several different issues. They wouldn't allow her on the plane at first not because they didn't think her dog was a service dog but because they thought it wasn't a dog! They thought her Finnish Spitz was a fox! And these are the people we expect to be able to tell who is a potential human trafficking victim?

    https://tinyurl.com/y7un4zve

  • Trainer||

    Service dog...

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    TSA needs remedial education on what constitutes unwanted sexual touching.
    Let the LE professionals deal with sex-trafficking.

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