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Human Trafficking

April 18, 2007

After hearing and reading about the Virginia Tech massacre, I really wanted to write about gun control vs. gun rights. But I might save it for next week because I want to read up on that stuff a bit more this weekend.

In the meantime, I thought I’d talk about human trafficking, a subject that has always interested me personally because it happens so much in my native country. Human trafficking is not a foreign issue in the United States. Yet, when it comes to human trafficking in the Unites States, most of us young lawyers don’t know to what extent it exists here. And a lot of us don’t even know much about this topic.

What is human trafficking? It is the modern-day version of slavery, where victims are forced or tricked into prostitution or to work in quarries and sweatshops, on farms, as domestics, as child soldiers, and in many forms of involuntary servitude. Many of these victims are tricked by promises of employment, educational opportunities, marriage, and a better life.

Due to the “hidden” nature of trafficking activities, gathering statistics on the magnitude of the problem is a complex and difficult task. However, it is estimated that each year, 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders (many international and non-governmental organizations place the number far higher), and the trade is growing. (U.S. Department of State. 2004. Trafficking in Persons Report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State.) Of the 600,000-800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year, 70 percent are female and 50 percent are children. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade. (Ibid.)

No country, including the United States, is immune from human trafficking. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the United States is one of the top three destination countries to which people are trafficked into modern-day slavery. Each year, an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States. The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country each year is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. (U.S. Department of Justice. 2004. Report to Congress on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons in Fiscal Year 2003. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.)

The largest number of people trafficked into the United States come from East Asia and the Pacific (5,000 to 7,000 victims). The next highest numbers come from Latin America and from Europe and Eurasia, with between 3,500 and 5,500 victims from each. (U.S. Departments of Justice, Health & Human Services, State, Labor, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. 2004. Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.)

“In the United States, where slavery was outlawed nationally more than 130 years ago, this tragic phenomenon should no longer exist. Yet it does,” the Justice Department said in a report to Congress.

I’d like to end this blog by sharing with you an excerpt from an article I wrote for the Philadelphia Lawyer magazine a couple of years ago:

“The conditions were nightmarish for workers at the Daewoosa garment factory in American Samoa, where clothing was made for J.C. Penney, Target and Sears. Workers were held in rat-infested barracks surrounded by barbed wire, paid less than $100 month (if at all), and fed inedible, substandard food consisting mainly of boiled cabbage. Some of the workers were sexually harassed and assaulted and were beaten when they complained about their treatment. In addition, upon their arrival in American Samoa, a United States territory about 2,300 miles south of Hawaii, their passports and travel documents were confiscated by Daewoosa, leaving them with no way to get back home. Yet, because American Samoa is a U.S. territory, the clothes these workers sewed carried ‘Made in the USA’ labels, giving the impression that their manufacturing was in compliance with U.S. labor laws.”

If you’d like to learn more about human trafficking, please go to the salvation army website at:

The site above contains information on a variety of topics dealing with human trafficking, including what it is, the responses to trafficking, and how to identify victims of trafficking.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. TallNotSoDarkNotSoHandsome permalink
    April 18, 2007 2:16 pm

    It is deplorable that an American territory can operate a labor camp for Fortune 500 companies without any repurcussions. Within the past year I have seen a documentary on Human Traficking in Eastern Europe where young women from parts of the former USSR are lured into Turkey & Hungary under the pretense of entertainment want ads. Normally disguised as want ads for dancers, the women answering the ads end up being forced into sexual slavery with slim hope of ever collecting enough money from their “employers” to get back home. While not as widespread, the “Washy Washies” in Center City and AC operate under this same procedure, namely bringing in women from Asia and forcing them to be prostitutes while they work towards saving enough money to buy their freedom from the massage parlor owner. Prostitution by choice may be morally questionable, but prostitution by force and imprisonment is morally reprehensible. The only difference between a garment factory in America Somoa or Washy Washy in Philadelphia and Nazi work camps is the lack of an “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign and the realization that keeping your prisoners alive is worth more money than killing them.

  2. girlygirl34 permalink
    April 18, 2007 9:02 pm

    Good comments. Wasn’t there a massage parlor in Chinatown that got busted for having trafficked victims?

  3. JefffromBB permalink
    April 19, 2007 1:35 am

    Human trafficking is known by many names and the definition is not clear to the general public. Alien smuggling, human smuggling, prostitution, slave labor and involuntary servitude are all terms used interchangeably with human trafficking. Distilled to its essence-human trafficking involves individuals (primarily females and children) transported from country to country either against their will or through deception. Human trafficking is flourishing globally for three main reasons. First, human trafficking is a lucrative business with profits estimated at U.S. $9 billion annually. Second, supplementing the financial allure, minimal criminal penalties provide little or no deterrence. Finally, some local law enforcement agencies do not recognize human trafficking as a significant criminal activity and levy few or no resources to combat it. Girlygirl34 is to be commended for raising such an important issue in such an elegant and cogent posting.

  4. girlygirl34 permalink
    April 19, 2007 1:58 am

    Wow, thanks for the compliments! You are obviously well informed on this topic. Do you deal with the issue of human trafficking at work, or did you read up on this topic because you’re curious? What is BB?

  5. JefffromBB permalink
    April 19, 2007 11:23 pm

    Girlygirl34, I thank you for taking the time to reply to my posting. I do not deal with this issue during the course of my employment. Nevertheless, I’m intrigued by the topic and have done a considerable amount of research. BB refers to Big Bear Lake, California-a place where I escaped to from Los Angeles. I recommend BB to all my east-coast friends when they travel to California. Do you have any plans, or desire to travel to “The Golden State”?

  6. girlygirl34 permalink
    April 20, 2007 1:11 am

    Huh? Big Bear Lake? I am not very familiar with it. Are you guys big on preservation of natural lands and lakes in that area? Do you live in Los Angeles? What do you mean by you escaped to Big Bear Lake from L.A.? I am very confused. And how did you get this website? Funny you should ask if I desire to travel to CA. I may be vacationing there next. Not L.A., though.

  7. JefffromBB permalink
    April 20, 2007 2:27 am

    Girlygirl34, once again, thanks for your reply. In response to your many questions: Yes, we are in favor of preserving the natural lands around the lake. I do live in “The Southland,” a term Southern Californians coined to describe where they live. In reference to escaping from L.A.-Los Angeles County alone, has over nine (9) million people. There are over 20 million people in the area from Los Angeles to San Diego. The car is king. All of these individuals, coupled with their cars, make for a congested, stress-filled environment that needs to be escaped at times. I’m in Philadelphia working on a long-term project with certain event horizons. I hope you enjoy your trip to the land of the 7th largest economy in the world.

  8. postdocgp permalink
    April 23, 2007 7:01 pm

    Well, girlygirl34, to get back to your original topic, another aspect of trafficking relates to HIV/AIDS. A few random thoughts for you.

    Trafficking of girls (mostly it’s girls, though not all of course, e.g., camel jockeys to the Middle East) to India results in HIV with some frequency. There is also a great deal of internal trafficking, e.g., within India. These figures are not reflected in the international/across borders figures yourquoted in the beginning. Also I think the estimates are quite low.

    Often public health people try to help out and in other ways deal with this issue. However, they can be a bit out of their element, since they are basically dealing with criminals.

    A colleague I worked with, Matthew Friedman, wrote a very interesting novel about how a woman was trafficked within India, based on a variety of true experiences. It’s called “Tara: A Fleshtrade Odyssey.” Well worth reading to get a flavor of how this can be done.

    Also there are many instances where the parents or other relatives may sell the girl into trafficking, e.g., to support their drug habit or for other reasons. It’s altogether a sad topic.

  9. girlygirl34 permalink
    April 24, 2007 12:01 am

    Thanks for sharing this info. Yes, I realize that the figures I quoted are quite low. Many organizations place the number much higher. It is interesting that you mentioned trafficking of girls to India. When I think of human trafficking, I generally think of South East Asian countries and Eastern European countries. I didn’t know that it was such a big issue in India as well. It is a sad topic indeed.

  10. Jean permalink
    February 23, 2008 10:35 pm

    Hi girlgirl34, postdocgp, and JefffromBB

    Thanks for posting these comments. I’m a student in Philadelphia and I’m trying to start a research project on sex trafficking specifically in Philadelphia and how we can mitigate this problem through the legal system. Girlygirl34, you said that you thought a massage parlor in Chinatown got busted – do you know if this was in Philli and if there are any articles about it?


  11. February 25, 2008 2:40 pm


    Yes, around the time I wrote this blog post, I believe a massage parlor in Philly got busted. I don’t know the details of this, but I remember reading about it somewhere. I imagine some assistant district attorneys might have more info on this particular subject. If there is any ADA out there with this info, could you please leave a reply on this post for Jean?

    To answer your question re: the legal system (and don’t quote me on this — since I am not an expert in this area) all I remember is that in 2002, the T visa was created to aid trafficking victims. This T visa allowed eligible trafficking victims to remain in the U.S. for three years with employment authorization. To be eligible for the T visa, each applicant had to provide a detailed statment explaining, inter alia, how they came to be trafficked, the conditions they experienced, how they escaped, and their current situation. Each applicant also had to show that he or she would experience extreme hardship if removed from the U.S. In addition, each applicant had to demonstrate that he or she had complied with any reasonable request for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking in persons.

    I hope this helps. Good luck with your research project.

  12. February 26, 2008 2:40 pm


    The City Wide Vice Squad of the Philadelphia Police Department routinely busts Asian Massage Parlors involved in prostitution that may involve human trafficking. You may want to call Lt. Vanore who is the Public Relations Officer at the Police Dept (Call 215-686-1776 the City Hall operator to get his number). Also you can call 215-686-5819 and speak with Beth Grossman the Chief Asst DA in charge of the Public Nuisance Task Force, the unit that routinely shots down these establishments. Lastly, I know an expert in human trafficking and organized crime, Prof. Louise Shelley, formerly of UPENN now at American University in Washington, D.C. You should look her up and reach out to her. Hope this helps. Feel free to contact me directly at 215-735-3900 or if you need further assistance.



  13. Jean permalink
    February 29, 2008 7:29 pm

    Scott and girlygirl34,

    Thank you so much for your help! Scott, thanks so much for the references. I’ll be sure to look into them – things are looking good so far for the research proposal but still a lot of work to be done. I’ll keep in contact w/ further questions/any big breaks 🙂


  14. July 15, 2010 9:38 am

    Wow, thanks for the compliments! You are obviously well informed on this topic. Do you deal with the issue of human trafficking at work, or did you read up on this topic because you’re curious? What is BB?
    killing games

    • killing time permalink
      July 19, 2010 9:51 am

      According to the comments above, BB = Big Bear Lake, CA.

  15. August 31, 2010 12:10 am

    A very interesting post. I intend to pay more visits to this site very soon.

  16. March 15, 2011 10:28 am

    I have got added your website simply because I find it valuable to me. You talk about a lot of useful post. Maintain the excellent work!

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