"Those individuals are being held on state charges with federal charges pending," said ICE spokesman Bryan Cox. "It's an ongoing operation we have throughout southeastern Louisiana."
Cox said anytime there are big events with big money, human trafficking seems to follow, whether it's the Super Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Essence Fest, Mardi Gras or many of the other big events New Orleans hosts.
Cox says human traffickers often intimidate their victims into not seeking help by convincing them that they will be arrested for prostitution. Cox said that's something ICE, other law enforcement agencies and help agencies have been fighting against.
"These are not willing participants, these are victims of human sexual trafficking," Cox said. "These people are forced into this activity and we treat them as victims."
The New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Hornets, with the Archdiocese of New Orleans, enlisted the help of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle, and others to record a public service announcement to help raise awareness of human trafficking. In it, Archbishop Gregory Aymond referred to it as "modern day slavery" and "a powerful evil."
Saints owner Tom Benson said in the spot that "a major event, such as the upcoming Super Bowl can drastically increase this tragedy."
The public service announcement urges victims or those with knowledge of human trafficking crimes to call (888) 373-7888.