Democratic New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez boasted in a 2012 campaign fundraising flyer that said he “has consistently defended a woman’s right to be free from abuse” and “safe from trafficking and exploitation.” As the former mayor of Union City, N.J. that’s a subject he’s familiar with.
The town near New York City has become well-known as the site of a massive prostitution industry comprised of smuggled female immigrants.
Menendez is currently denying allegations that he solicited underage prostitutes during a series of trips to the Dominican Republic. He was Union City’s mayor from 1986 to 1992.
Despite its relatively modest size, Union City is one of the two major East Coast destinations for smuggled female immigrant prostitutes, according to a law enforcement official.
“Many of the females who are smuggled into the United States are brought to two areas: Union City, New Jersey, and Queens, New York,” according to an April 2006 complaint filed by a special agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Herald News in Passaic County, N.J. reported in 2010 that a Union City bodega owner was “serving four years for sending as much as $1 million earned by smuggled prostitutes back to Mexico.”
Two Union City bars were closed in 2005 after indictments were handed out in connection with a Honduran sex-slave operation.
A May 1, 2006 raid by federal agents led to two arrests related to a sex trafficking network between New Jersey and Mexico. The network’s “safe house” for prostitutes was reportedly located in Union City.
Union City and the neighboring town of West New York, New Jersey was the site of another prostitution epidemic that police uncovered in late 2009. Media reports said police were busting a prostitution ring nearly every week.
Union City has become so synonymous with prostitution arrests that the lawyer service Wise Laws advertises online for “Union City prostitution” and “solicitation defense attorneys” working in the town.