Human Trafficking is considered a “modern form of slavery,”[i] carried out by means of transporting, transferring, recruiting, and harboring individuals by means of coercion, abduction, deception, fraud, or abuse of power.[ii] Trafficking is said to generate billions of dollars through an estimated 20.9 million victims, with 1.5 million just from the United States.[iii] It is popular belief that human trafficking is only an international problem, that human trafficking only occurs in third world countries. This is far from the truth. Human trafficking happens all over the United States, even in your own “backyard.” According to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. is “a source, transit and destination country for men, women, transgender individuals, and children…subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.”[iv]
Did you know that the Super Bowl is the single largest event in the U.S. that hosts the largest populations of trafficked humans?[v] Victims are brought to the city where the event is held and are expected to have sex with a certain number of people. Because of this, Super Bowl cities have attempted to double their training for officers, airport employees, and public service personnel in general, on how to identify and protect a trafficking victim.[vi]
The month of September, alone, there have been numerous arrests across the United States for human trafficking. In Ross County, Ohio, police arrested a 36-year-old man as a person of interest in both drug trade and human trafficking in the area.[vii] In Johnson County, Texas, police arrested 16 individuals suspected of human trafficking. The cops entered into a hotel room to find a 44-year old man who was expecting two 16-year old girls. An interview of the man revealed that the man was there to “seize the girls” and to “become their pimp, and prostitute them in Dallas.”[viii]
Earlier this year, a man was arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico for human trafficking. This man was charged with forcing young girls into prostitution, including a 17-year old girl he found at a bus stop.[ix] After his arrest, the man even continued his trafficking operation while in jail! At trial, the jury found him guilty and the judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison.[x]
The United States is a considered a “Tier 1” country when it comes to human trafficking. This means that the U.S. government fully complies with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.[xi] The government goes to great lengths to investigate and prosecute traffickers. The U.S. also has very high prosecution rates in trafficking. The U.S. has services that are specialized in helping those who were trafficked return to civilization, including a pathway to citizenship for those trafficked from outside of the country.[xii] However, because trafficking still exists, there is still more that the U.S. can do to prevent it.. Both federal and state governments need to create victim-centered policies to ensure that victims are not punished for crimes committed and to ensure support for their health and safety.[xiii]
On the other end of the spectrum, many developing countries such as Cambodia, Cuba, and Kenya are considered “Tier 2 Watch List” or “Tier 3” countries. When countries are considered to be either of these Tiers, countries are not fully complying with the TPVA’s minimum standards. Tier 2 Watch List countries are known to make some effort into complying with the TPVA’s standards, however the number of victims are significantly increasing. Tier 3 countries are simply those with governments who are not complying with the TPVA’s minimum standards and who are not making efforts to do so.[xiv]
In countries such as Cambodia, Cuba and Kenya, it is important to draft and finalize guidelines on how to prevent trafficking. One of the reasons trafficking is so high in these countries is because these countries are still developing and many areas are poverty stricken. Countries with a higher percentage of poverty lead people to migrate to other countries for a chance of better life, making it a lot easier for traffickers to find victims. Traffickers prey on people who are in search for a “better” life and deceive them with such lies that their dreams will come true, only for them to end up in brothels and forced to have sex or in fields or workshops for forced labor. It is important for countries like these to implement more services to help prevent forced labor and to implement protocols to prevent and protect victims of human trafficking.
In many ways, it may be easier for the U.S. to both implement and carry out such plans. Due to the government structure, which consists of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the State Department, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Labor (DOL), among others, the U.S. can divide and focus on one aspect of trafficking, whether its reporting, investigating, or prosecuting, and implement plans and share reported data with the other divisions of the government. The U.S. has a system that other countries do not, which may be why the U.S. is considered a Tier 1 country. Although the U.S. is not the only Tier 1 country, the large majority of other Tier 1 countries are developed, with the infrastructure in place to combat and prevent human trafficking. Developing countries often find themselves classified as either Tier 2 or Tier 3 due to the lack of infrastructure, financial resources, and human support and expertise. With such countries, it is necessary to focus on the root of the problem, namely poverty, to truly combat human trafficking.
Overall, it is important to know and understand human trafficking so that one may protect themselves and their loved ones from becoming victimized. There is a lot of information on trafficking, and while it may not be necessary to know all of the ins and outs, it is necessary for one to know how trafficking can be prevented and what steps to take. Although the U.S. government has implemented plans on preventing human trafficking, trafficking still happens and has not yet been eliminated.
Everyone can do something to prevent human trafficking. Are you? Find where your state ranks and ways to work with organizations in your area on how to stop human trafficking. http://sharedhope.org/what-we-do/bring-justice/reportcards/
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Raiven Taylor is third year law student at the University of Baltimiore School of Law and is completing her concentration in International Law. She has an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Bowie State University. She has studied abroad in London, England and Clermond-Ferrand, France. She is an Senior Staff Editor for the Journal for International Law as well as Secretary for the International Law Society. Additionally, Raiven is a Rule 16 student attorney in the Immigrant Rights Clinic. Her passion and interest in international law is human trafficking and international human rights law.