This is the 3rd in a series on human trafficking by guest blogger Tobi Aclaro. (See previous articles written by Tobi Aclaro.)
If you’ve been reading my guest blogs, you know what human trafficking is, and ways to identify possible victims or a possible situation. And, just as important, that modern-day slavery can actually happen right here, in the US, in California…and in any town. All that’s needed is someone to exploit another person for profit.
Today, we’ll cover two excerpts that highlight recent news:
There is some good news in the field—an increase in convictions in the US. Indeed, according to US State Department Luis CdeBaca on October 9, the US succeeded in gaining “five convictions in the past three days in labor trafficking, including California.” One of the cases is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
That day, KRON-TV reported on a human trafficking case involving a real estate agent in Walnut Creek. The trafficker, herself a female, was convicted of labor trafficking and related charges by falsely promising fair pay and standard working conditions to a nanny in return for childcare services. Through fraud and psychological coercion, the trafficker confiscated the nanny’s passport and under threats, forced the nanny to work 15 hours per day for two years under substandard conditions.
US Ambassador CdeBaca and US Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez highlight an Orange County “town hall” forum on human trafficking.
On October 9, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Rep. Loretta Sanchez and officials from the Westminster Police Department addressed the issue of human trafficking with community groups, human rights organizations, social service providers, law enforcement, students and faith-based leaders at Vanguard University, Costa Mesa.
I attended the event along with many colleagues from Southern California. CdeBaca was appointed by President Obama and serves as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and directs the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP). Congresswoman Sanchez represents California’s 47th District and serves as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
“The chains of slavery may not always be visible; but it’s up to us to look for them”. He described indicators similar to those listed on my earlier blog post. CdeBaca referred to the plight of one his earlier cases, where over 50 Mexican deaf workers were smuggled into the US and forced into involuntary servitude selling trinkets on the streets of New York. “They can only beg with their eyes,” he said. (For victims still out here, now, on the streets) “let us be their voices.”
Think about where we inadvertently create demand.
Another point was to focus on demand. “We don’t know, in the last four hours, what we’ve done to inadvertently contribute to slavery,” said the Ambassador. “We don’t ask the questions ‘The shirt that I’m wearing-- The coffee that I drank this morning—where did these come from, and were they made by slave labor?”
He also pointed out slave labor throughout places around the world rich in minerals and resources, but brutal in oppression of women, children and those caught in the midst of civil wars or violence spilling across borders. Congo, for instance, is the key country where tantalum is mined—critical in the production of cell phones. “It’s not ‘their’ supply chain, CdeBaca said of goods bought and sold worldwide. “It’s MY supply chain, because we buy it.”
He also advocated to “look for root causes: poverty, gender imbalance, organized crime...”
According to the State Department, approximately 600,000 to 800,000 victims are trafficked across international borders worldwide each year. An alarming 14,500 to 17,500 of those victims are being trafficked annually into the United States. (http://www.state.gov/g/tip/) And this estimate doesn’t include victims already in the US, or US citizens such as teens or runaways lured into forced prostitution.
According to the United Nations, "an estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labour (including sexual exploitation) at any given time is a result of trafficking. People are reported to be trafficked from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries, affecting every continent and every type of economy." (Download a pdf fact sheet.)
What you can do.
If you see a possible trafficking situation or to learn more about human trafficking resources, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (24/7) at: 888-3737-888.