Raising awareness about the alarming numbers of children being brought across the border for sexual and labor exploitation is the goal of a group called Children At Risk who are touring the state to get the word out.
They started in Brownsville calling it one of the major gateways of human trafficking in the state.
A modern form of slavery is the strong message from the local and state leaders looking to protect the youngest and most vulnerable of those being transported illegally into the United States.
Dr. Bob Sanborn, President and CEO of Children At Risk, says, we know that about 17,000 people come across our border each year that are trafficked, that means they're not being smuggled. These are kids many times that are trafficked for sexual or labor purposes."
Dr. Sanborn brings his message to the city of Brownsville and other Valley border towns which serve as a hub, he says, for international human trafficking.
According to Children At Risk, of the people trafficked across borders each year, 70 percent are female and 50 percent are children, the majority of which the Department of State says are forced into the sex trade.
"Here in the Valley many times, these are weigh stations before children and other people are brought up to cities like Houston and Dallas."
The thought of these kids being herded onto trailers like cattle and then distributed among households to work or do unspeakable things has Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada asking his community to look out and be a voice for those children.
"It's up to us as leaders to introduce laws, but also to enforce them and that's what we're trying to do here with the 81st legislation and bring awareness to our community that this is a serious problem," Dr. Sanborn says, "if you see children that are going through a house that don't seem to be there against their will, they aren't going to school, they aren't part of a family, that's a suspicious thing."
If you suspect a child is here illegally and being exploited, there is a human trafficking task force set up to investigate the claims. You can call them at 1-888-373-7888.