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Human trafficking, one human offering another human to an organization, or another person for a service for profit on the black market. Human trafficking is a global epidemic with major hubs in big countries like Russia and China. The United States is one of the top ten places where human trafficking occurs frequently. Being a multibillion-dollar market on the rise, human trafficking is definitely a pervasive problem. Human trafficking is more than the illegal transportation of people. It is a synonym for, the equivalent to, slavery.
Human trafficking is the illegal transportation of people with a motive of forced labor or sexual exploitation. There are many forms of human trafficking, one form is labor trafficking. Labor trafficking is forcing, or coercing someone into work for either little pay, or no pay. Another form of labor trafficking is debt bondage, in which a person is set to work off a debt, but the work does not end, and the debt is never quite paid off; similar to indentured servitude. In the United States it is common to witness labor trafficking as wage theft, nonpayment of agreed wage for work that has been completed, paying far below minimum wage, or no pay at all. Labor trafficking can occur in state prisons where inmates work and receive very little to no compensation for work, but goods are sold outside of the prison system for profit. The state labor camps make up 10% of labor trafficking in the United States.
Another form of human trafficking is sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is the selling of a person for sexual acts, and is similar to prostitution and sex slavery. It can happen to children and adults alike. This type of trafficking can come in the form of domestic sex trafficking, where one spouse pimps out the other spouse, and in the form of sex tourism, in which people travel to other countries to take advantage of the lack of restrictions on prostitution.
Organ trafficking has quickly risen as another form of human trafficking. Where someone’s organs are harvested for the sale and profit of someone else at the expense of the trafficking victim.
Human trafficking can happen to anyone at any time, but there are a few groups of people who are more susceptible to being taken or coerced into trafficking. In the United States, undocumented immigrants, runaway children, and similar marginalized groups are the main targets and victims of human trafficking. Undocumented immigrants are one of the biggest targets for traffickers because they are trying to make money to support their family while being under the radar. Since their income is not monitored and is unreported anyway, their traffickers take advantage and have no valid reasons to pay them a fair wage. With them being undocumented, they live with the fear that their traffickers or employers will inform immigration of their status and whereabouts if they cause trouble. Traffickers often threaten the undocumented worker’s freedom to remind them of their power over their lives. Runaway children are second on the list because they fall under the category of vulnerable, and traffickers prey on the vulnerable. Runaway children often have insecurities and immediate needs, and traffickers supply those needs. Then, once their trust is built and gained, the traffickers begin to manipulate them. The traffickers will present themselves as friends, parental figures, or even lovers to children who feel abandoned and unloved. Marginalized victims often fall victim to trafficking because they are people that are often pushed to the side and over looked by society. With that said, vulnerability is definitely an important characteristic that traffickers look for in potential victims. Children make up 25% of trafficking victims, men make up 60% of labor trafficking victims, and a staggering 98% of sex trafficking victims are women.
Human trafficking is a federal crime, and is punishable by a minimum of fifteen years under the Trafficking and Victims Protection Act. The Trafficking and Victims Protection Act, also known as TVPA, was established in 2000. TVPA was the first federal policy created in the United States to combat and penalize human trafficking. There are many policies that fall under TVPA’s umbrella, but TVPA itself has two main groups; the President’s Interagency Task Force which is a conglomerate of fifteen government agencies, and the Senior Policy Operating Group which is a smaller five committee group. The President’s Interagency Task Force is comprised of senior officials who coordinate government-wide efforts to combat human trafficking. While the senior policy operating group is more centered around research, making grants, public awareness and outreach for trafficking victims. The Trafficking and Victims Protection Act was crafted to prosecute traffickers, prevent human trafficking, and protect human trafficking victims. TVPA has been updated five times since its establishment in 2000 with the most recent in 2013. In 2013 programs to ensure United States citizens do not purchase products made by trafficking victims were included; along with efforts to ease chagrining of trafficking victims and expanded collaboration with state law enforcement.
The federal government has over seven policies to protect against human trafficking within and beyond United States borders. Before human trafficking was being recognized as it is today, the United States government passed the Tariff Act of 1930, which prohibits importing goods made by forced labor. As an addition to the Tariff Act of 1930, the Customs and Facilitations and Trade Enforcement Act of 2009 was passed; prohibiting imported goods made by victims of human trafficking and coercion. There is also the Mann Act; which focuses on the sex exploitation side of human trafficking. The Mann Act criminalizes the transportation of minors and coercion of adults to travel across state lines with the intent of engaging in commercial sex acts. Like the Mann Act that focuses on criminalizing sexual exploitation, there is another federal policy called the PROTECT Act, that also focuses on sexual exploitation. However, the PROTECT act specifically focuses on protecting exploited children. PROTECT is an acronym for Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today. The PROTECT act was established to make tougher penalties for individuals engaging in sex tourism either within or outside of United States borders.
Human trafficking is a federal crime under Title 18 U.S. code section 1584. Although human trafficking is a federal crime, penalties are also determined by states, and state policies differ greatly from one another. Wyoming, Arkansas, and Montana are three states known for having the worst, and weakest human trafficking laws. Wyoming is the worst of them all with the weakest laws. The penalty Wyoming has is almost insignificant. If caught soliciting services of trafficking victims in Wyoming, the penalty is a $750 fine, or six months in prison. Arkansas is next on the list of the weakest penalties with a maximum fine of $1,000 or 90 days in prison for soliciting of human trafficking. Montana is last on the list with slightly harsher punishments than the last two, but still quite lenient. Montana has a maximum of 15 years in prison penalty with no fine. The federal minimum is 15 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
In the United States, human trafficking can occur anywhere, but it is most likely to occur in border states with high immigration traffic. California, New York, and Texas all have high immigration rates which easily makes them the top three states for human trafficking in America. California is the main hub for sex and labor trafficking with three major cities, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, being hubs of their own. Next, is New York with New York City being the trafficking hub of the state due to its high population of undocumented immigrants. Lastly, there is Texas with Houston being the focal city due to its high rates of immigrants and runaway rate. Houston is home to thousands of runaway children annually which makes Houston an ideal place for sex traffickers.
There are many negative physical and psychological effects of human trafficking. The physical and psychological effects are greater for victims of sex trafficking. Some of the physical effects include sexually transmitted diseases, broken bones, malnourishment, and a weak immune system. Some psychological effects are anxiety, post-traumatic stress, trauma, trust issues, and insecurities to name a few. For labor trafficking, the physical effects include cardiovascular and respiratory problems, hearing loss, and vision problems due to long, laborious, and strenuous hours.
Human trafficking cases are increasing, but the rate at which they are increasing is decreasing. In 2017 trafficking cases increased by 13% from a 35% increase in 2016 which was from a 38% increase in 2015. The human trafficking market globally generates billions of dollars annually. According to the international labor organization, human trafficking in the United States alone generates 20.9 million dollars. 14.2 million from labor trafficking, 2.2 million from forced state labor, and 4.5 million from sex trafficking. It is a morally unjust system that deprives human beings of their natural right to freedom, control of their own lives, and is a rising global problem that affects many. Human trafficking may make a small few wealthy, but the suffering it causes its victims are profuse and greatly significant.


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