Esmeralda Garza, the woman accused of selling her 7-year-old son to settle a drug debt, was back in court today.
Garza has been in the Nueces County Jail since June 29th, when she was arrested by the Department of Public Safety.
She is charged with selling a child. Her bond had been set at $100,00, but that changed dramatically today.
During a brief hearing, Judge Jack Pulcher told the defense and prosecution he did not think the bond was high enough, and he raised it to $300,000.
The judge also set some conditions should Garza be able to raise the money.
She will be required to wear a GPS monitor, she will remain under house arrest, and she will have to observe a curfew. Garza also cannot have any contact with the alleged victims, who are her children.
As shocking as selling a child is, people who encounter the young victims of this crime on a daily basis say sadly, it is not a rare crime. One foster dad sees it all the time: parents selling their kids for money or in exchange for drugs, but it is the children who pay the price.
"Parents are selling their children for drug money. Not just in Corpus Christi, but in every community in Texas and in every community in our nation," Dr. John DeGarmo, founder and director of The Foster Care Institute, said.
Dr. DeGarmo travels the nation advocating for kids in foster care.
For the past 16 years, he has also been a foster dad. More than 55 children have spent time with his him and his family.
"Once I had 11 kids in my home all at the same time. So I’ve seen it all," he said.
However, with the growing Opioids crisis, there is one thing he is seeing more and more of.
"I have children in my own home, who have been sold for drug money by their birth parents," he said. "Recently we had a 4-year-old, and a 5-year-old, they were both brothers. They were sold by their grandfather for 500 dollars each, for drug money."
So Dr. DeGarmo is not surprised to see that Esmeralda Garza allegedly sold her child for the same reason.
While some children who are sold end up in the foster care system, others become trapped in human trafficking.
The founder of a local anti-trafficking organization says it is prevalent in the Coastal Bend.
"Here in the Coastal Bend, one year there were 29 children that were identified, and the FBI estimates about only 1 percent of children are ever identified. So if you take that statistic, we could assume that maybe here in the Coastal Bend we have as many as 3,000 children in our community being sold for sex. And sometime that’s by their parents, or a family member," Minta Moore, founder of New Life Refuge Ministries, said.
According to Dr. DeGarmo, in March through May of this year, 2,300 people in the U.S. were arrested for selling children into human trafficking.
He believes as long as the drug crisis continues, there will be crisis for children.
"Where do these children go? Where do these children go when their parents are being placed into a rehabilitation center, or a hospital, or a jail, or even dying? They’re being placed into a foster care system in Texas and across the nation that can not handle it," he said.
Is there a solution to this grim problem?
Moore says one way to crack down on trafficking is to crack down on the buyers. As for the parents who sell their kids, DeGarmo says there need to be rehabilitation programs for parents with drug problems. before their children suffer, not after.