Order in the Court – Human Trafficking: Modern-day slavery?
By Hon. Todd A. Blomerth
421st Judicial District Judge
It may come as surprise to some, but slavery in many forms is found throughout the world. The modern slave trade can be divided into two types: forced labor and sexual exploitation. It exists in poor areas of the world, such as Sudan where northern Arabs traffic in black South Sudanese anim
ists and Christians captured during the long civil war. It exists in the Far East, where children and women are held as slaves in the sex trade in Thailand. It exists in the Middle East, where men and women from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and other countries are contracted for labor in Saudi Arabia and often end up in debt bondage. The list of countries goes on and on. Slavery has existed throughout the world, and in many places, has never been eradicated.
The Polaris Project, a leading organization in the US combating human trafficking, states that “traffickers use violence, threats, lies and other forms of coercion to force people to work against their will in many different industries. Common types of labor trafficking include people forced to work in homes as domestic servants, farm workers coerced through violence as they harvest crops, or factory workers held in inhumane conditions with little to no pay. Sex trafficking occurs when people are forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade against their will. Child sex trafficking includes any child involved in commercial sex. Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation keep victims involved in the sex industry.”
The numbers are hard to get a handle on, but everyone agrees that the problem is huge. Estimates of those in some sort of bondage range from four million to 27 million worldwide. The US State Department estimates that over 800,000 persons are trafficked across national borders yearly. It is believed that human trafficking is the second largest crime world wide, surpassed only by drug trafficking, with low risks and profits estimates at over $32 billion dollars annually. And, once sold, drugs are used and gone. Persons in bondage situations can and often are used and re-used.
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
So states the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Some in the United States tend to assume that with the prohibition against slavery at the end of the Civil War, that we had, once and for all, resolved the issue of human bondage. But the United States is not immune from this blight on humanity. According to humantrafficking.org., the United States of America is principally a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons.
Who are the victims in the US?
They can be males or females, of all ages and nationalities, although statistically it has been found that 80 percent are women, and 50 percent are minors. Runaway children and “throwaway” kids are at risk, particularly against those in the sex and prostitution trade. It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually. And don’t get human trafficking confused with smuggling. Smuggling is a violation of a sovereign country’s immigration laws. Human trafficking is a crime against a person. They are not the same thing, by any means.
Because of its size and proximity to Mexico, as well as the Interstate 10 corridor, Texas is a major hub for human trafficking in the US. Austin Police report cases in sweat shops, domestic servitude and in brothels. Both Federal and State laws have laws against this crime, but cases are often hard for the police to make, and harder to prosecute. Victims often have language barriers, are afraid of authorities, fear for the safety of families left behind (this is an increasing problem with the Mexican cartels entering into the business in a big way), and fear deportation.
For more information about this growing problem you can access Homeland Security’s homepage at http://www.dhs.gov/files/programs/humantrafficking.shtm. You can subscribe without cost to their Daily Human Trafficking and Smuggling Report. Another source is the Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking (ctcaht.org).