In a new report, the U.S. Department of State warns that separating immigrant children from their families could make them vulnerable to human trafficking.
Texas is No. 2 in the nation for reported human trafficking cases. Eight months ago, a 24-hour drop-in shelter for youth sex trafficking victims opened in San Antonio.
Centro Seguro is part of the Roy Maas Youth Alternatives. It was funded by a grant to serve 60 youth the first year and 80 in the second year. But here we are in June and more than 180 kids have reached out for help.
Outreach Specialist Chuck Paul said that the majority are victims of sex trafficking.
"It is the reality of today," he said. "It is the reality of what the world is."
Paul is talking about the the influx of youth ages 11 to 17 he and his staff are seeing walk in to Centro Seguro.
"Seventy percent of our youth has come in as clear concern of sex trafficking," he said.
Roy Maas CEO Bill Wilkinson said that the 24-hour shelter is a safe-place for them. It just opened in October. He said that sex trafficking involving children is a challenge.
"How do you pull these kids in from this life when half the time they don't even realize they are being victims?" he said.
The drop-in shelter is the first of its kind in Texas, which has an estimated 79,000 child victims of sex trafficking.
"In the U.S., 15 is the average age, and reason being, traffickers target the marginalized, the vulnerable. Who is more vulnerable than children?" he said.
Paul is the new outreach coordinator for Centro Seguro. He said that San Antonio is considered a hub for human trafficking.
"If you can imagine the airport area, downtown, and, believe it or not our Medical Center are all areas where traffickers advertise human beings to be raped, and that's what I call it," he said. "I use the word rape."
Centro Seguro is a joint effort with Bexar County Juvenile Probation. It's not just a safe place. The ultimate goal is to get the youth out of this dangerous world and connect them with services.
"We are here to help those kids heal and not get trapped in the cycle of abuse, and to be able to go out there in the world and be successful adults," Wilkinson said.
The organization does expect the number of kids walking in to their facility to go up. They also plan to rescue some of the victims by actually going out to “dark areas,” as they call them, in San Antonio.
For more info on Centro Seguro, click here.