Hillary Clinton today agreed with MSNBC host Joe Scarborough that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sending 50 undocumented migrants to Martha’s Vineyard is “literally human trafficking.” There are good-faith reasons to oppose the transportation to migrants to the island, but, as a legal matter, this is legally nonsense.
On the program, Scarborough repeated the common claim that this transportation qualifies as “human trafficking.” In fairness to Scarborough and Clinton, some law professors have echoed this view which is wholly at odds with not just the governing statutory provisions but controlling case law.
Clinton, who is a lawyer, chimed in with the same dubious analysis:
“I think, Joe, you have laid out the craziness of the time in which we’re living where some politicians would rather not only have an issue but exacerbate it to the extent of literally human trafficking, as you said.”
So MSNBC and these legal experts are telling the public that the consensual transport of migrants within the country constitutes human trafficking. Human trafficking is not synonymous with moving humans in traffic. It is a legal term and a serious crime. It is always dangerous to introduce actual law into these legal claims, but it is worth noting a couple of salient facts.
This is not a program designed to put people in “peonage” under 18 U.S.C. 1581. Under 22 U.S.C. § 7102(11), prosecutions are based on “sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age” and “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.”
Neither is at play in this program.
The Justice Department has long interpreted its mandate for prosecution under this provision as addressing “a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex.”
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