Even in the American Food Industry, Slavery Still Exists

Even in the American Food Industry, Slavery Still Exists

The following article features a new report by Polaris, an organization that fights human trafficking and helps survivors.

Drawn in by false promises of good employment and legal immigration, human trafficking victims are smuggled from different parts of the world into the United States as forced labor for restaurants, bars, food trucks, and everything in between. They are forced to live in terrible conditions, enslaved in debt.

In the same report, Polaris takes the human trafficking that occurs in the U.S. and breaks it down into 25 different business models. Not only does it occur in the food industry, but in salons, hotels, and so on.

“Because human trafficking is so diverse … you can’t fight it all at once and there are no single, silver bullet solutions. You have to … fight it type by type,” Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, told reporters. “We see this report as a major breakthrough in the field.”

Aiming to identify human traffickers, their victims, and their methods; Polaris has examined 32,208 human trafficking reports as well as 10,085 forced labor reports from 2007 to 2016.

According to Janet Drake, a senior assistant attorney general in Colorado and former prosecutor of human trafficking cases, Only 16% of hotline calls involved labor trafficking. She says, “But now we realize through the work we’ve done that labor trafficking is probably at least as prevalent, if not more so, than sex trafficking. And that’s a real problem we’ve had as prosecutors – being able to identify and disrupt these labor trafficking networks.”

Out of the 25 categories, three were involved in the food industry. Specifically, the categories were restaurants, bars, and agriculture.

Those who were forced to work in agriculture were commonly drawn in with promises of getting paid at an hourly rate- only to be paid significantly less and be denied healthcare, safety in their work environments, and decent living as they suffered in miserable conditions.

In restaurants where human trafficking occurred, 1 in 5 were minors and performed nearly every task.

Some have even been forced into supplying both sex and servitude. Not only were they tricked with promises of good pay and safe immigration, but with intimate relationships. According to Jennifer Penrose, data analysis director for Polaris and co-author of the report, they are required to sell drinks as well as sex at bars or cantinas.

If these victims did not continue to comply, their traffickers threatened them with deportation. At times even threatening to hurt loved ones at home.

“Potentially, restaurant trafficking may be much higher than we’re learning about, but we’re just not getting enough of those hotline calls to be able to describe that,” Myles has noted.

See full article at npr.org

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