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: www.salvationarmyusa.org/trafficking.
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.