Human Trafficking Part 2
My argument is that trafficking, in all its forms, is not only a global issue, but an issue that is prevalent and detrimental to the United States. Slavery, despite being abolished, is still rampant in the nation. “’These are human beings who are owned by someone else, who lack the ability to walk away, who lack the ability to make a decision in their own self-interest to do something else,’ said [Ernie] Allen. ‘If that’s not slavery, I don’t know what is.’” (ABC Primetime: 2006)
Throughout the paper I will provide evidence that human trafficking could happen in any state, that there are people actively working to solve the problem, and in fact there are many stories that are not being widely told that could bring awareness to the problem. It is important to understand that this issue is not just in third world countries, nor is it contained to a specific part of the world. Not only are people trafficked into the United States to be used as slaves, domestic populations are also being forced into slavery in large numbers.
I also argue that without awareness, there is no possibility of this problem being resolved, and that the community has to work together and be prepared to make sacrifices in order to help those in slavery. I will give examples of who has already helped to bring about awareness and made sacrifices in my analysis, as well as what can continue to be done to resolve the issue, although most likely not in my lifetime.
Human trafficking is detrimental for many reasons, such as physical, emotional, and psychological suffering, as well as financial burdens that cripple the victim’s ability to make a new life for themselves. In New Orleans, slaves were forced to eat pigeons and drink dirty water during the time after Katrina, where they had no escape from their situation (Hepburn: 2010). In Minnesota a woman was pimped around fifty times a night, and she created a serious drug problem in order to stop the pain (Feyerick: 2012). Those who have been trafficked are particularly vulnerable to psychological issues such as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), so much so that they are unable to help with the investigations against their attackers (Hopper: 2004). These stories from the United States are clear indicators of the problem at hand, and currently the solutions to the problems are limited, as I will explain throughout the paper.
My method of research was based on previous literature from people within the anthropological field, and a few other closely related fields discussing the topic. My search terms mentioned human trafficking in general, and then more specific terms involving the United States and hidden populations. While this information is useful, much of it is focused on sex trafficking and other places in the world. Library research was limited, so most of my searching was done through search engines, such as Anthrosource, Ebscohost, Jstor, and the like.
Other parts of my research came from government documents, such as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Minimum Standards for the Elimination of Trafficking in Persons, and the Trafficking in Persons report. Many of the interviews from survivors were found through Facebook pages that were dedicated to eliminating the problem of human trafficking, and the newspaper articles were found through various open search engines, such as Bing and Google. My research was then broken down into several sections that will be expounded upon throughout the rest of the paper.
Many anthropologists are calling for better methodology during research when it comes to hidden populations such as those being trafficked (Pijl: 2011, Gozdziak: 2008, Tyldum: 2005). Scholars are discouraged by the challenges of estimating the problem, and the research that has been done has been more systematic rather than focused on human involvement. Literature and academic research is particularly limited when it comes to children, who are often shoved into the “women and children” category, making the information less specific (Gozdziak: 2008). In some areas, children are not considered trafficked unless they have been recruited against their own will, which leads to the question of how much agency a child can have and what the culture considers childhood (Breuil: 2008).
Oftentimes, inferences are made about the information that is available, making estimation of the problem more difficult. Most of the studies come from taking police information about trafficked individuals, immigrants who are taken advantage of, and standard information about migrants. This is a problem because the information is not inclusive of all trafficking victims, nor does it give any indication of numbers (Tyldum: 2005). Methodology is tricky for this kind of information, and the reasons why will be extrapolated throughout the paper.
Those who don’t understand trafficking might also have a skewed idea of what trafficking is and who it affects based on modern culture, such as when white slavery stories were created and affected the early 1900 trials against prostitutes in New York, and in fact drew off of true events and made them more novelized (Donovan: 2011). This is an issue because it might draw awareness to certain groups and not to others, as well as press the idea that it is important to rescue certain people. The media oftentimes sticks to stories of missing people who are white, and although there are many ethnically diverse people disappearing into trafficking rings, it is not noticed by the general public.
Due to different methodology being used for research, information within the anthropological community about human trafficking is sometimes at odds with each other. The information can therefore be skewed and cause disproportionate numbers. “’Victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ are stereotypically imagined whereas their experiences are diverse and their roles more complex and criminal networks are imagined as being omnipotent, spanning the globe and operating swiftly and fluidly” (Piji: 2011). Non-profit organizations, the government, and the media tend to speak of victims and perpetrators in similarly simple terms (Molland: 2011). This leads to only “severe” stories of trafficking being reported or noticed, something that will be further analyzed in the law section of my analysis.
Also, stories about the condition of trafficking vary greatly, considering the issue is globalized and culture affects perception (Pijl: 2011). Each country has their own norms and environmental factors that affect their views, such as with India and the caste system, or the United States and its trouble with immigration laws (Hepburn: 2010). Illegal immigrants, for example, may not feel that they have an option in their situation to gain help, or they may still consider the work to be useful in order to get money to their families. In fact, those who are trafficked for debts may continue to be in the trafficking business simply because it provides money for them and their family, and sometimes become traffickers themselves in order to gain more money. This brings them from the victim to the perpetrator role, and makes the discussion more tricky (Lyons: 2006).
My research is based off of literature that mostly comes from anthropologists. This information comes from all over the world, and the writers are different in their opinions about agency, statistics, and methodology. A few of the articles are stories from survivors of trafficking; others are newspaper articles discussing the problem in the local area. Much of the information about governmental laws comes from governmental documents, as well as some personal stories from survivors. However, most are peer reviewed articles discussing technical aspects of human trafficking, flaws in the governmental and local laws, stories of survivors and activists, and what impact human trafficking has on the United States and those who are brought into the United States.