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The Price of a Human Life: Migrants Risk Organ Trafficking to Reach the U.S.

The illegal trade in human organs such as kidneys, livers, and lungs is on the rise, and it seems that some of the supply comes from traffickers who target migrants trying to reach the U.S.

Jarrod Sadulski, an expert in criminology and associate professor at the American Military University, brought attention to this issue by testifying before Congress about organ trafficking along major migrant smuggling routes, particularly involving the organs of juveniles.

He recounted the story of a 12-year-old boy who was kidnapped in Mexico so that his eye could be harvested, with the organ being sold for $15,000. The trafficker preyed on families in vulnerable situations, offering money to parents to remove their children from these environments, never to return with the kids.

While much of the immigration debate in the U.S. focuses on those who are apprehended and released into communities, Sadulski and others highlight the plight of those who perish in their attempt to reach the U.S. or fall victim to traffickers.

Sex and labor trafficking are major concerns, with the surge in immigration partly fueling these markets. However, Sadulski believes that organ trafficking is another horrific aspect that deserves more attention.

According to Sadulski, there is a market for juvenile organs, as confirmed by a former gang member.

The scale of the organ trafficking market is difficult to estimate, and determining how much of it is linked to kidnapped migrants is even more challenging. Nevertheless, like sex trafficking, migrants likely make up only a small fraction of the market. Whenever it does occur, it usually operates on the fringes of the smuggling economy, much like sex trafficking.

According to Sadulski, organizations embed spotters within groups of migrants to gather intelligence and single out those who may be susceptible. These vulnerable individuals, who lack funds to complete the smuggling journey, are sold to traffickers, whether for sex trafficking, forced labor, or organ harvesting.

The price of a kidney on the organ market ranges from $50,000 to $120,000, while a liver can cost between $99,000 and $145,000. Lungs, hearts, and pancreases can fetch even higher prices. An eye can be sold for $5,000 to $100,000.

In light of this information, the $15,000 price tag for a juvenile eye, as reported by the former gang member, appears credible.

Members of Congress were shocked by the testimony, with Rep. Josh Brecheen, a Republican from Oklahoma, expressing astonishment at the $15,000 price for an eye and lamenting a failure in addressing this issue.

The U.N. labeled organ harvesting as “one of the least known but growing forms of trafficking worldwide,” with reported instances in North Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Europe, and Central America.

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