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Human Trafficking

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What Is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of "labor or services," such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will. The factors that each of these situations has in common are elements of force, fraud, or coercion that are used to control people. Then, that control is tied to inducing someone into commercial sex acts, labor or other services. Numerous people in the field have summed up the concept of human trafficking as "compelled service." Every year, human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people around the world, and here in the United States. Human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world.

  • There are more individuals enslaved today than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
  • Each year about 17,500 individuals are brought into the United States and held against their will as victims of human trafficking. Some estimate the number is as high as 60,000 annually. These numbers do not include those who are here from previous years, migrants already in the US, runaways, displaced persons, and those from oppressed/marginalized groups and the poor.
  • States with the greatest concentration of trafficked persons are New York, California, and Florida; Washington DC also has a large trafficked population.
  • More than 200,000 American children are estimated to be at high risk for trafficking into the sex industry each year.
  • Trafficking is the third largest illegal industry worldwide. Traffickers may be professional or non-professional criminals because of the low-start up cost of creating a trafficking business and its highly lucrative results.
  • Slaves in the US come from 60 countries and have been found in 90 cities. They are enslaved in cleaning houses, working on farms and coerced into the sex industry.
  • 50% of slavery in the United States is in the sex industry and another 50% is in agriculture, domestic service, manufacturing and other industries.
  • Trafficking affects both people from the US and not from the US. Sometimes the victim came to the country by choice and then fell into trouble; sometimes victims are deceived from the very beginning; sometimes they are from the US.
  • 27 million slaves are in the world today, the majority in India and African Countries.
  • Slavery is not legal anywhere but happens everywhere.
  • $90 is the average cost of a human slave sold around the world.
  • Victims of trafficking often come from vulnerable populations, including migrants, oppressed or marginalized groups, runaways or displaced persons, and the poor.
  • A victim of trafficking does not speak a particular language or have a particular race; a victim of trafficking can look like anyone.
  • 80% of trafficked persons are women and children. (This does not mean that men are not victims of trafficking. Men are more likely to be victims of forced labor, i.e. day laborers, construction or restaurant workers, etc), while women and children are often exploited in the sex industry. These are not fixed rules, but general trends.
  • Slave holders use many terms to avoid the word “slavery”: debt bondage, bonded labor, attached labor, restavec, forced labor, indentured servitude and human trafficking.

Federal Anti-Trafficking Efforts

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005

  • TVPA 2005 protects all trafficking victims and allows special visas (T-visas) for international victims (not-US born) if they want to stay
  • Provides free shelter, clothing, food, healthcare, etc for victims
  • The survivor can choose not to press charges against her/his trafficker at all, can choose to press charges immediately, or at a later date; free legal aid is provided

Department of Health and Human Services

Anti-Trafficking Persons Division

  • Funds regional grants to improve local anti-trafficking coalitions and infrastructure, and funds services for foreign national victims of trafficking. ATIP also provides certification and eligibility letters so that foreign national victims of trafficking may access refugee benefits, conducts awareness-raising activities through the Rescue and Restore Campaign, and funds the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC).

Department of Justice

Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS)

  • Prosecutes cases of child pornography, sex trafficking of children, parental child abduction, and sex tourism.

Civil Rights Division

  • Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (HTPU) prosecutes human trafficking crimes.
  • Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force, Complaint Line: 1-888-428-7581

Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)

  • Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force Initiative funds approximately 38 collaborative law enforcement and non-governmental (NGO) partner Task Forces around the U.S.

Office of Victims of Crime (OVC)

  • Provides technical assistance to the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Forces, and victim services funding for foreign national victims of trafficking, and pilot sites for U.S. citizen minor victims of trafficking. Click here for a list of grantees.

Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)

  • Human Trafficking Reporting System (HTRS) in conjunction with Northeastern University tracks and analyzes human trafficking crimes reported by the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Forces.

National Institute of Justice (NIJ)

  • Funds research on human trafficking in the U.S. and around the world.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)

  • Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces (ICAC) investigates internet-related crimes of child pornography and enticement, and implements a number of training and capacity-building initiatives related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

  • Civil Rights investigates crimes of human trafficking and participates in the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Forces.
  • Crimes Against Children (CAC) Innocence Lost Initiative investigates crimes involving sex trafficking of children. Collaborates with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and CEOS.

Department of Homeland Security

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

  • Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit investigates crimes of human trafficking primarily involving foreign national victims and participates in the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Forces.
  • Child Exploitation/Operation Predator in conjunction with FBI, NCMEC, DOJ and ICAC investigates crimes of child sexual exploitation, child pornography, and child sex tourism in the U.S. and abroad.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

  • Reviews applications for T and U visas which are available to foreign national victims of trafficking.

Department of State

Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP)

  • Conducts awareness-raising activities, diplomacy with other countries, and funding for international anti-trafficking initiatives. The G/TIP office also publishes the annual Trafficking in Persons Report which rates countries on their anti-trafficking efforts.

Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center

  • A collaborative effort between the Department of State, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and functions as a centralized information center for smuggling, human trafficking and national security.

Department of Labor

Labor Bureau of International Labor (ILAB)

  • Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking publishes reports on international child labor, forced labor and human trafficking and provides funding to combat international child labor.

Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

  • Enforces federal labor laws including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act (AWPA) and assists with human trafficking investigations involving the violation of these laws.

Take Action

Service/Avodah (Avodah in Hebrew)

  • Educate yourself to recognize the signs of trafficking
  • Tell other students about human trafficking
  • Save the hotline number in your cell phone: 888-373-3888
  • Wear a T-shirt or sweatshirt with an anti-trafficking message
  • Ask to put up public service posters in the hallways, restrooms and lunch room of your school or JCC
  • Volunteer to do victim outreach
  • Volunteer to teach computer skills to rescued slaves
  • Start a New Abolitionist club or meetup
  • Create and pass out hotline wallet cards
  • Write a report or research paper on human trafficking
  • Write a petition and get students other people on campus to sign it
  • Get connected to the online community and find events/ organizations in your area
  • Join an anti-trafficking organization:

Local Anti-Trafficking Groups

NYC

  • Safe Horizon
  • Girls Education and Mentoring Service
  • The Sex Workers Project

CA

  • Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking
  • Boat People SOS
  • Tahirih Justice Center

FL

  • Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking
  • Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center
  • Florida Freedom Partnership
  • Shelter for Abused Women & Children

DC

  • Break the Chain Campaign
  • Ayuda
  • National Anti-Trafficking Groups
  • Polaris Project
  • Salvation Army
  • The New Underground Railroad

Philanthropy/Tzedakah (Tzedakah in Hebrew)

The money you raise will help organizations to provide social services to human trafficking survivors, to operate the national human trafficking hotline, to improve and push for better implementation of state and federal policies, and much more.

While the possibilities are endless, there are a few common and effective ways to raise money. These include hosting a house party or other event, conducting a letter or email campaign, or creating a personal online fundraising page.

You could also donate money to local or National anti-trafficking groups on their fundraising page. The Polaris Project, based out of Washington D.C., provides many resources for philanthropic involvement with the sex trafficking epidemic at http://www.polarisproject.org/take-action/fundraise.

Advocacy/Tzedek (Tzedek in Hebrew)

Human trafficking affects every community. Effective legislation at the state level is important because it gives states the opportunity to create laws that are comprehensive and victim-centered. Additionally, state legislation can also catalyze community awareness and increase local media attention, leading to increased victim identification, protection, referral to services, and prosecutions. A single piece of legislation can make a huge difference on an issue because of the resources of the federal, state, and local government. Of course, at any given time, the legislation on an issue will change. Remember: good citizens make their voices heard to their elected officials.

  • Find out if your state has an anti-trafficking law
  • If your state doesn’t have an anti-trafficking law, ask your legislators to get one passed
  • Write to your congressman.

Jewish Perspectives

  • The enslavement of Jews during biblical times, and their subsequent exodus, gives hope to all living in slavery today. The Torah instructs Jews to "remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from there."
  • The Torah explicitly regulated the process of slavery. Owners were instructed to treat slaves as human, and runaway slaves were not to be returned to their masters. Human trafficking was strictly prohibited. Respect for the worker is a recurring theme throughout the Torah.
  • The Jewish practice of jubilee required the release of Hebrew slaves by their owners, as well as the cancellation of all debts, every seventh year. It was the Prophet Isaiah who declared that God had sent him to "proclaim freedom for the captives."
  • Two Jewish sects, the Essenes and the Therapeutae, were actually abolitionists. The Essenes condemned slavery and all forms of servility and required everyone they associated with to free their slaves. The Therapeutae declared slavery to be unnatural.
  • Maimonides advised Jews: "do not rule over your laborer ruthlessly." He went on to stress the importance of freeing the enslaved. In the 1800s, reform Rabbi David Einhorn called slavery, "the greatest possible crime against God."
  • In recent times, Jewish reformists have joined those of other faiths to fight modern-day slavery. "Human trafficking destroys someone’s spirit, displaces them from their community, and creates wounds that will never heal," says the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. "One who destroys one life, it is as if he destroys an entire world," the group says. "And one who saves one life, it is as if he saves an entire world."

Passover and the Present: A Slavery-Themed Seder

Judaism, perhaps more than any other major world religion, is deeply connected to the themes of slavery and freedom. Link your Passover celebration to the plight of the world’s 27 million slaves, and to the hope and prayer for their freedom. Reform Jewish prayer books even offer blessings for those still enslaved.