Friday, April 5, 2013

Human Trafficking/Modern Day Slavery

Human Trafficking 

is an Insidious Crime

Photo Source: Aleshia Clarke

An insidious crime is well-established in the United States. It is called modern day slavery. Its victims endure daily exploitation in the most grotesque ways. The public perceives it as prostitution fueled by the current drug addiction epidemic. In fact, human trafficking appears in a variety of different forms, and each one of us could potentially become a target.

Trafficking in persons 
Monitoring human trafficking is difficult due to the crime’s highly mobile nature. Traffickers simply move to a different location if law enforcement becomes suspicious. The United States government estimates between 600,000 – 800,000 persons are trafficked across our borders each year. Fifty percent of those victims are minor children under age 18. There are no current federal standards to monitor enslaved victims inside U.S. borders.  

Typical victims
Human traffickers target immigrants for forced labor. They lure victims into the U.S. by offering lucrative jobs and affordable housing. Their passports are confiscated upon arrival. They are placed in over-crowded boarding rooms with deplorable living conditions. They work in low-paying factory positions. Their payrolls are deposited directly into the trafficker's bank account. 

Women and Children
Kidnapped women and children typically become sex workers. They must service up to 100 Johns per day after initial beatings and sedation with addictive opiates. 

The Elderly
By either threat or coercion, elderly victims sign their retirement benefits and bank accounts over to traffickers. After their assets depleted, they are forced to commit fraudulent schemes, or to obtain prescription drugs for their traffickers to sell.

The marketplace
This black market offers evil at an extremely affordable price using an unlimited amount of human flesh. Buyers find slaves and associated merchandise for sale in big cities and in remote rural areas. It is a matter of simply asking around. Highway rest areas and truck stops pose as common storefronts. Big name events, including the Super Bowl and the Times Square New Years Eve party, bring in large profits. 

Escape is difficult
Slaves may look like transients or drug addicts. But they are in bondage and cannot escape for several reasons: 
  • Their captors initially torture them until submission becomes the only means of survival.
  • They believe escape will result in their execution (similar to African American slaves).
  • Undocumented Immigrants don’t complain for fear of being reported to Immigration and Naturalization Services.
  • Social and family isolation insures compliance from the elderly.
  • They want to protect their families from becoming enslaved or harmed.
  • They have no financial means or resources to escape. 
  • They are ashamed of what they have become.
  • They have lost the will to live.

Law enforcement efforts
Recently passed laws are assisting law enforcement to put traffickers in jail for longer amounts of time. Unfortunately, there is not enough staff to keep up with local trafficking networks. Police need common citizens to be the eyes and ears of their community and report suspicious activity. Still, many citizens are afraid to get involved. Jurisdictional disputes may hamper an arrest - where was the crime committed, and which state will be responsible for prosecution? Local district attorney offices make the final decision.

An effective response
Mainstream American society is slowly beginning to realize that we have a big problem. Committed activists work tirelessly to increase awareness. The public arena and political platforms have not yet taken this issue to task. According to the Polaris Project, the human trafficking market flourishes within the business model of supply and demand. A large demand for services combined with a large supply of victims has created an affordable easily accessible market. Employing strategies to reduce supply and demand may crush the market. The following are some recommendations for an effective response: 
  • Education: Target public awareness campaigns towards potential buyers who may not realize that the services involve force, fraud, and coercion.
  • Deterrents: Make the punishment for sellers and buyers severe and highly publicized to discourage risk-taking behaviors.
  • Community Outreach: Train communities to create a local task force, to enact policies for monitoring suspicious activities, and to make plans for a quick response to incidents.
    For further information, please refer to the following materials: