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Human Trafficking

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Human Trafficking

Research Paper

Miriam Webster online states that human trafficking is defined as the “organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited (as by being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor)”. Many of the victims are enticed with false promises of high-paying jobs.  Instead, once they are lured from their homes, they intimidated, sometimes tortured, and forced into prostitution or domestic servitude. Human trafficking is a modern day slave trade that is happening right in our own backyards.  It is a problem that is constantly in the news headlines but very little is actually known by the general public, and even worse, many think it’s only a concern overseas.  However, research suggests that the problem of human trafficking in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate and is no longer just an issue for “other” countries, but it is showing up across America, and cuts across gender, age and ethnic backgrounds, therefore it can only be solved by stronger enforcement, and increased awareness. 


According an article written by I. Resendez, estimates show that at least 0,000 children, women, and men are trafficked into the US annually for forced labor and/or prostitution, and the problem is growing.  It is considered to be one of the most severe humanitarian crises in generations (Migrant Health Newsline, 2012). However, not all human trafficking involves prostitution.  Labor trafficking is common in the farming industry as well.  Among the seasonal/migrant farmworker population, victims include children as young as 5, as well as elderly women and men who are forced to work in fields and orchards harvesting crops with little to no pay.  Generally migratory farm work involves seclusion and constant relocation so crew leaders can take advantage of these conditions and instill fear.  The traffickers use threats of violence and debt to control the workers who don’t understand their rights. Unfortunately, these victims rarely get help, because if the traffickers are caught, the victims are sent back to their home countries and the cycle starts over. 


One of the ways that the U.S. government is trying to combat the problem is by enacting laws and regulations to assist victims.  The U.S. has studied various other countries and enacted laws but sadly the laws alone are insufficient.  The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was passed in 2000 and then subsequently renewed in 2003, 2006 and 2008.  It lapsed in 2011 but was attached as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act that passed in 2013.  Regrettably, the TVPA doesn’t do much to actually protect victims of human trafficking because it requires the individual to be part of the prosecution process and trafficked victims are typically fearful of retaliation upon themselves and/or their families.  Human trafficking succeeds because traffickers use control and intimidation.  They threaten, beat, sexually assault, and usually introduce drugs into the situation so as to control the victim’s reality.  When victims are found, they are rarely willing to speak out against their traffickers. The TVPA expects victims to self-identify and only has a classification for “severe victims” so it fails to account for most victims’ realities.  Victims rarely self-identify due to the conditions they have been subjected to. Most are fearful and will not come forward.  Thus the TVPA has become more of a deterrent than actual assistance to the victims.  The TVPA also mostly applies to those victims that are brought into the U.S. illegally and therefore doesn’t actually help U.S. citizens that are trapped in the trafficking cycle very often.   


In his article, Single, young female - seeking asylum: The struggles victims of sex trafficking face under current United States Refugee Law, D. Squillate tells the true story of a young woman who was kidnapped, raped, tortured, and forced into prostitution (2014).  She was finally able to escape her captors and fled to the U.S., where she sought asylum.  Regrettably, her request was denied and she was shipped back to her home country, where more brutality was awaiting her.  The article sheds light on the challenges faced by sex trafficking victims under the United States refugee law.  There have been numerous lawsuits that have tried to address sex trafficking over the years, but the article reveals that very little has been accomplished by the lawsuits.  The trafficking victims are not being helped overseas or in the U.S. because they are not truly being protected.  Author B. Carr wrote an article titled, Examining the reality of foreign national child victims of human trafficking in the United States, the failures of the TVPA are highlighted.  The article argues that the TVPA provides inadequate protections to foreign national sex trafficking victims because it has a “one-size-fits-all approach” and doesn’t allow law enforcement to further examine situations the victims are involved in (Washington University Journal of Law & Policy. 2011). 


However, those that are brought into the country illegally are not the only victims of trafficking.  The sad truth is that kids in the trafficking trade go largely unnoticed.  In C.N. Butler, wrote a paper in the Seton Law Review titled Kids for sale: Does America recognize its own sexually exploited minors as victims of human trafficking? (2014). Many children are thought to be runaways and law enforcement agencies are not equipped to pursue the cases.   The article covers the truth about kids in the trafficking trade and how sexual manipulation of youths in the human trafficking industry is often swept under the rug.  An estimated 1 out of 7 runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are likely sex trafficking victims. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the United States is 12 to 14 years old.  Many victims are, in fact, runaway girls who were either sexually abused as children or who got caught up with drugs.  The author, C. N. Butler, argues that better laws and efforts to combat child prostitution are needed because, “child sex trafficking regulations have failed”.  Federal laws only provide a blanket fix but don’t address the root of the problem. Most states have anti-trafficking laws but are unsuccessful in following the TVPA definition of child sex trafficking and leave many children without protection.  The article contends that without a clear explanation of child sex trafficking, law enforcement agencies and other community officials have their hands tied when it comes to identifying and helping victims. Child trafficking is a real problem that can only be addressed with better definitions and more stringent laws.  If law enforcement agencies were to have enhanced training available and the laws and regulations were written in a way that clearly defined the issues; perhaps what constitutes a victim, and how to protect them from retaliation, countless lives could be saved. 



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