Live from Music Row, Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – guest host Gulbransen welcomed all-star panelist and The Epoch Times’ Editor-at-Large Roger Simon and Mission America Foundation’s Aaron Spradlin in-studio to discuss the staggering numbers of American children that are trafficked each year and the money needed to combat it.
Gulbransen: We have in our studio an all-star panelist, the great Roger Simon. And we also have Aaron Spradlin, who is the chairman of the Mission America Foundation and also the President and CEO of Pale Horse Global Risk and Security. So we talked about this last time you were on the show.
We started teasing it a little bit a couple of segments ago. But let’s get into more of the meat on this issue of human and child trafficking in Tennessee. And I’m just going to let you go from there.
Spradlin: Well, I think I might have touched on that when we were talking a couple of weeks ago about how the general population thinks that this is an international issue or a South American issue.
And it’s much bigger here than we even see. Hardly at all. The meaning of that is over a third of the trafficking in the world is done here. And of those children that are trafficked in the United States, over 83 percent of them are American children.
Yes, the border does play into this heavily. There are an estimated 150,000 new unaccompanied minors who will come across the border by the end of the year. And so they’re going to fall into it.
There are organizations right now currently on the border that are trying to capture the ones that are receiving, as far as the traffickers on this side. But here in Tennessee, when we first started, it was 76 out of 95 counties that had child trafficking.
That was 2016. And now we have 95 out of 95 counties that have child trafficking. So it’s not just a Metropolitan area. It’s everywhere. It’s in rural Tennessee, it’s in rural America. East Tennessee has enormous numbers of people that are trafficking their own children for meth or rent money.
As horrible as that sounds, that’s an actual, real thing that’s occurring, and it’s hidden right in plain sight. The biggest bust in the last 10 years was also in East Tennessee. There were 42 arrests.
And the head of the organization was the youth pastor of the church. And that’s supposed to be the most trusted person to teach your children anything. That happened. And a lot of high-power, high-profile people went down for that.
Gulbransen: That’s a disturbing thought. Here’s just a question that popped in my head as you were talking: does it increase during periods of bad economic times, too?
Gulbransen: Because people are having a hard time paying their rent?
Gulbransen: That’s disturbing.
Spradlin: It went up during COVID.
Simon: Here’s another question for you. For John Q. Citizen, what do we look for, so that we can alert people to this if we see it? What’s a tell-tale thing?
Spradlin: First and foremost, and I’ll give you an example. That’s the best way to do it. And you could see them all over the state and the country.
When a child is escorted by somebody that doesn’t look like they should be with them, that’s one of the things that the people in the airlines or the FAA have really done a good job of showing through their different airlines.
People travel with these children on planes, but it’s an out-of-place moment. For instance, we had gone into a gas station one time and there was a young girl that was being escorted by somebody that the demographics were not right.
You have to profile in order to be right. I hate to say that, but it is. If there is a little Latino girl with an old white man, that’s kind of weird.
And then he’s standing guard over the bathroom that she’s in until she comes out and then her head is down. And there will always be a look of shame, a look of fear.
When you’re a teacher or you’re an educator, you could look for signs of the physical abuse part because these kids go to school just like anybody else. It’s not just they’re kidnapped and are kept in cages.
That happens, too, but they’re living their life. But there’s shaming, there’s a fear of family being hurt, fear of them being outed to the family and then being kicked out of the family.
Spradlin: It’s just getting bigger and bigger. It’s a $150 billion dollar industry globally, and it’s increasing. When we started …
Simon: That’s more than we gave Ukraine.
Spradlin: Just a little.
Gulbransen: That’s a lot more than we gave Ukraine. Oh, dear. And actually, that is a good question. How much of that might have gone to fund part of that over in that part of the world? Because it’s not like money is exactly tracked very well over in Eastern Europe.
Spradlin: And it’s a huge area for, I mean, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, enormous traffic.
Gulbransen: What can our government do, since we talk a lot about public policy, what can our government do to help with the situation better? What can be done?
Spradlin: First and foremost, and this is what we speak about when we’re talking to various organizations that are in the political realm, there needs to be an absolutely separate fund that is in our state government that is just to fight this with the law enforcement.
It costs about $1.6 million a year to run a four-man team or five-man team four days a week with all of their insurance, their cars, their salaries, their health insurance, et cetera, et cetera.
It comes out to about $1.6, but you have to get them out in the streets. That’s the reason we even exist. It’s just another set of eyes as a team out there to see this and report it to law enforcement.
Simon: A four-man team doesn’t sound like much for what you’re talking about, really.
Spradlin: No, but multiple. So if every state, or every county, or every major Metropolitan or, say, for instance, district. I know you run into jurisdiction issues with law enforcement, but this is something that I think that if you had, like the drug task force.
The drug task force is very effective in Tennessee by taking down the drugs, then they take and sell these assets, sell assets, and repopulate their fund with those monies.
So do the same thing. Because on our side of this we’re going after the john more than we’re going after the pimp. Because you get rid of one pimp, there’ll be a pimp tomorrow, right?
The demand is going to lessen the supply if you lessen the demand, and that’s the main focus of what we try to do. Because when these people are put away, you see some pretty high-profile people go down. Because they’re doing it.
Simon: We might also build the wall. (Chuckles)
Listen to the interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.