Human Trafficking in 2013

by keith on July 19, 2013

Human Trafficking and Slavery affects the United States

When you hear the word slavery, you might think that only happened in the past or only in a third world country. But slavery is a very real problem in today’s society and affects the United States as well as the rest of the world. According to CIA estimates, as many as 15,000 to 17,500 people are enslaved and trafficked into the United States and every year. There are an estimated 12.3 million people enslaved around the world today. Los Angeles is one of the top 3 destination cities where victims are enslaved. Human Trafficking is estimated to be a nine billion dollar industry and is the fastest growing criminal industry of the 21st century.

The real test is “Are you being Exploited?”

“According to the United Nations, human trafficking is the process by which a person is recruited to be controlled and held captive for the purpose of exploitation.” Many of the people who are trafficked in the United States are undocumented (and documented) foreign nationals. There are also quite a number of United States citizens who are also trafficked including many children.

Trafficking Victims Protection Act

In the year 2000, the US passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. This act brought a lot of attention to this serious issue in addition to criminalizing human trafficking and also defining it.

Severe forms of trafficking is defined by U.S. federal law as: (a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or (B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. (22 U.S.C. § 7102 (9).)

The term coercion in this context is defined as, “A) threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; (B) any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or (C) the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.” (22 U.S.C. § 7102 (3).) Coercion comes in many forms including threats to a victim’s family back in their home country, threats of deportation, or jail since many times the trafficker will take their papers from them, physical, sexual and mental abuse, and even the threat of black magic.

Help for Human Trafficking Victims requires a law firm with many skill sets.

Human trafficking is not just an immigration issue, forced labor issue, sex crime issue, or violent crime issue. It is a crime which can and does subject a victim to many abuses and horrors covered by many different laws. The majority of victims are women and children, however there has been an increase in victimization of men as well.
Although there is federal law and state laws regarding human trafficking and its various forms, there is a lot of tension between current criminal laws and human trafficking laws including tension between the federal and state levels.

Victims require multi-faceted approach to being helped due to the nature of the crime which involves so many other crimes. Many victims face many legal problems on both sides including facing charges for crimes they were forced to commit or help with as a slave.

Despite the fact that federal law declares all minors who are forced into commercial sex as victims of human trafficking, many state laws contradict this. Under California law, a child engaging in prostitution is a criminal even though the child cannot legally consent to sex and the adult who hired the child has committed statutory rape. In fact 14% of all prostitution arrests in California are under 18 years old.

Victims of human trafficking who are also undocumented foreign nationals may also be eligible for the T nonimmigrant visa which is specifically designed for victims of human trafficking. The requirements for a T-visa are that you are a victim of human trafficking as defined by law, you are in the United States, you comply with any reasonable requests of law enforcement and you can demonstrate that you would suffer extreme hardship if you were to return to your home country.

What can you do to help? The most important thing anyone can do is to understand and be aware of the community and environment in which they live. Many tips come from neighbors who notice something out of the ordinary or wrong. Early identification is very important. Many times it is not until a victim is arrested by law enforcement that they are identified as a victim. Education on this issue is also very important. The more care providers, first responders, and law enforcement that are educated on human trafficking, its forms and how to identify and help, the better the situation will become.

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