Human trafficking and various other forms of child sexual exploitation on the United States-Mexico border are described from social science and law enforcement perspectives, including current laws and definitions, case examples, and descriptions of victims and traffickers. The Southern Border Initiative of the AMBER Alert Project is outlined as one effort to combat trafficking through collaboration between law enforcement agencies and programs in the United States and Mexico. Policy recommendations include increasing knowledge and collaboration between law enforcement, social service agencies, and judicial systems across the border region and between the United States and Mexico.

Key Take Away Points

  • The U.S.-Mexico border is a context with unique and multidimensional problems relating to child exploitation.
  • An understanding of the legal and social realities of child victims is necessary before these problems can be fully comprehended.
  • Children caught up in the sex industry on the border are not criminals; they are victims--of traffickers, drug cartels, sex tourists, and, too often, government inattention.
  • Partnerships between NGOs, law enforcement, government agencies, and media offer a larger perspective on the problem, and a promise for change.

Author Biography

Jim Walters is Assistant Chief of Police for the SMU Police Department, and a retired Captain from the City of Placerville, California Police Department. He is also a private consultant, acting as the AMBER Alert Liaison for Training and Technical Assistance with the U.S. Department of Justice Southern Border Initiative.

Patricia Davis is the Associate Director of the Embrey Human Rights Program, Director of the Center for Religious Leadership, and Adjunct Professor of Leadership at SMU. She is also a licensed attorney in the State of Texas.


The authors wish to thank Southern Methodist University and the Department of Justice AMBER Alert Program for their support in the research and writing of this project.