MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican prosecutors said Tuesday they have freed two children held by pimps who used their hold over the young girls to force their mothers into prostitution in the United States.
The raid last week in the central Mexico town of Tenancingo appears to confirm one of the most chilling allegations about the prostitution trade operated by organized gangs, which are able to force some women into sex for hire because they fear their children will be harmed if they rebel or attempt to escape.
The pimps often woo the women with seemingly legitimate promises of love and marriage, father children with them, and then leave the kids with family members in Tenancingo, an impoverished town in central Tlaxcala state considered the pimps' stronghold.
The federal Attorney General's Office said the mothers of the two rescued children had been forced to prostitute themselves in Texas and New York.
"These people (the pimps) ... used their children as a form of coercion," the prosecutors' office said. "They are separated from their mothers and left under the care of families in Tenancingo, and the women are forced into exploitation to get money, which was supposedly destined for the care of the children."
Prosecutors said three people had been arrested in the raid and all appeared to be members of the same family. They face human trafficking charges.
Though the office did not give the children's ages, Rosi Orozco, an activist familiar with the case, said they were aged 6 and 9.
Orozco, who has worked with victimized women to free them from pimp gangs and recover their children, said the hostage situation makes victims less likely to identify their pimps to police in either country.
"This is why they sometimes won't say that they're victims, because the lives of their children are at risk," she said.
Orozco said that adding to the burden of the women forced into prostitution, the mothers are often made to guard and supervise younger females trapped by the pimps.
Citing the example of one women, Orozco said, "The worst thing she told me she was forced to do, at 16 with her daughter held in Tenancingo, she had to 'subdue' a young girl of 14. She had to watch her make sure she didn't escape. She said it was one of the most horrible things she had to do, but her child's live was at stake."
In a recent case in New York, three brothers from Tenancingo pleaded guilty to sex trafficking charges in a scheme that authorities said brought girls as young as 14 to the U.S. from Mexico and forced them to work as prostitutes. The victims were beaten to compel them to work and as punishment for not earning enough money.