Human Trafficking Part 3

by wildfeministappears

Read part 1 here:



            Maria Elena was smuggled into the United States from Mexico under the premise of being able to make money waiting tables.  Instead, she was prostituted and forced into sex with up to 30 men a day.  12 year old Ashley got into a fight with her mother, stayed with a friend’s brother for the night, and was prostituted the next day (Victim’s Stories: 2013).  Chicago, Illinois is considered a main area for human trafficking in the United States because of its tourism and conventions, with about 4,400 prostitutes active every week (Chicago Tribune: 2012).  The number of minors involved in sex trafficking is over 5,000 in Nevada, where it is easy to slip through the cracks of a busy city (Siskin: 2010).

            These cases were purely sex trafficking issues, whereas trafficking of all types happens in the United States.  In fact, human trafficking for the purpose of labor may be just as prevalent, if not more (Hepburn: 2010).  Bennu, a 10 year old Egyptian girl, was forced to do labor in California for two years, and was physically and emotionally abused by the family keeping her (Hepburn: 2010).  A woman in Texas worked a young girl to the point of exhaustion in her home, and when the girl would doze off from exhaustion, the girl would be blasted with pepper spray so she would stay awake.  Another slave was forced to write letters to the master’s dogs, and was put into a portrait photo with the animals, as part of one of the pets of the house, stripping her of her humanity entirely (Bales: 2009).

            Organ trafficking is also a possibility within the United States.  In 2011, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum admitted in Federal Court to trafficking three kidneys in the New York area.  He retrieved these organs from Israel to give to United States citizens.  This is called the first confirmed case of organ trafficking in the United States, but it is very unlikely it is the first case altogether (Freeman: 2011).  With the current waiting time for an organ being an average of 10 years, it is not impossible that some desperate people would barter with the black market for life saving body parts.  Nancy Scheper-Hughes has spent many years tracking down stories of organ trafficking, and has proved that it is no myth to have an organ taken away from an unsuspecting victim (Interlandi: 2009).

The FBI estimates of 100,000 women and children are trafficked in the United States as of 2006 (ABC Primetime: 2006).  The gender division is stark for sex trafficking, where 98% are women and children.  In labor trafficking, however, the numbers are far more even, with 44% being men and boys.  40 to 50% of those forced into labor trafficking are children (Hepburn: 2010).  Federal and state investigations are raised for sex trafficking far more than labor trafficking, possibly adding to the lack of information or stories about those in other types of trafficking (TIP report: 2012).

            The following sections are broken down by different themes.  The first section speaks to the prevalence of human trafficking in the United States.  The second section covers governmental and state laws that affect those in human trafficking, and those studying the crime.  The third section talks about what is being done by the United States activists, government, and others to help those being trafficked.  The final section speaks about current methodology in research to quantify and understand the crime.


Where in the United States is trafficking happening?

            As of 2010, the United States was one of the top 10 places that people were trafficked into for forced labor and sex.  Reports of trafficking have come from over 90 US cities, and while this may not seem like a lot of cities, it is also difficult to ascertain how many people are actually being trafficked (Hepburn: 2010).  Estimations range greatly, from 17,000 children being trafficked into the United States to 17,000 people in general being trafficked.  This is due to different methods of quantification, which will be discussed more thoroughly in the methods section of the analysis.  Since the beginning of the TVPA in 2000 until 2006, only 102 children were identified as eligible victims (Gozdziak: 2008).

            Ohio has made strides to come up with strong numbers for their trafficking problem, but have limited themselves to children rather than the whole of the problem.  According to their numbers, 1,078 domestic children are trafficked annually.  783 foreign born individuals are guessed to be in a trafficking situation within the state.  However, the report blatantly states that the numbers are impossible to verify with perfect certainty (Siskin: 2011).

            This limitation is due to the difficulty in studying hidden populations, those for which there is no known size or boundaries, and oftentimes the people within the population are involved in illegal activity, making it difficult to speak to them (Tyldum: 2005).  The U.S. makes estimations every year, and has been increasingly conservative with its numbers.  In 2000, the estimates were 45,000-50,000 victims, and the number jumped to between 50,000 and 100,000 the next year.  The estimations decreased from there.  Most recent estimates are based on foreign born trafficking victims, ignoring the domestic numbers entirely (Hopper: 2004).

            Trafficking is not only in the streets and homes of those in the U.S.; it is also in the fields and businesses.  The Coalition of Immokalee workers has been investigating since the early 1990’s to find out what kind of modern day slavery is happening in agriculture.  Laborers are being abused and killed to keep prices low, and the numbers continue to the big corporations in the food industry (Bales: 2009).  Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver, Pizza Hut, and A&W, was boycotted by CIW until it paid a penny more per pound for the vegetables that it was bringing in so that trafficking and slavery would be cut significantly in the fields.  Other companies, such as Subway and McDonalds, quickly followed suit.  Wal-Mart has yet to join in on helping against slave labor, and considering its large pull in the United States, labor trafficking continues at a strong pace (Bales: 2009).