Human Trafficking In Plain Sight: Are You Unknowingly Supporting It?

Human Trafficking In Plain Sight: Are You Unknowingly Supporting It?

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Human trafficking is a worldwide problem, and it’s growing. There are an estimated 45.8 million people who are enslaved today. However, this crisis is not distant. We as Americans unfortunately interact with and often even support this epidemic every day without knowing.

According to former assistant district attorney of New York City, Barry Koch, the these victims are everywhere and hidden in plain sight. With drug dealing taking first, human trafficking and arms dealing tie for second as the largest criminal industries in the world. Yet human trafficking is experiencing the most rapid growth.

The facts:

  • Over 14 million are forced into labor.
  • According to the International Labour Organization, forced labor generated $150 billion in 2015.
  • Construction, manufacturing and mining compose over half of the human trafficking labor force.
  • 4 million of those trafficked are female; 9.5 million are male.
  • Refugees especially are at risk.
  • 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.

The U.S. State Department explains, “The old way of slavery was that the boss really owned you… But now legal recruiters and employers work in tandem to deceive workers who, vulnerable and isolated in a strange culture, are forced to accept harsh terms. It is in that context that you have endemic forced labor today.” Human trafficking knows no race, religion, culture, age, or sex. Everyone needs to be made aware.

According to Dr. Annalisa Enrile, clinical associate professor of USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, says, “When we talk about trafficking, most people assume we are just talking about sex. But there are actually more people enslaved through labor trafficking. Millions more. Impoverished communities, migrant workers and children are all at risk.”

According to the Urban Institute’s 2014 report, Hidden in Plain Sight, 71% of the labor trafficking victims (in the study) came to the U.S. legally with working visas. These are the most common industries where forced labor occurs:

  • agriculture
  • fishing
  • construction
  • factory work
  • domestic servitude

These victims are often separated from others with no documentation, keeping them under the radar. A San Diego State University study found that in San Diego County, 31% of undocumented, Spanish-speaking migrant workers had experienced labor trafficking. How do we find the perpetrators? Possibly the best way to find out is to follow the money. There are individual people, organizations, businesses, and even governments that thrive off of human trafficking.

According to Koch, “We can make a difference in the fight against labor trafficking and labor exploitation by passing laws (and monitoring for compliance) that regulate supply chains. Consumers can refuse to purchase goods from retailers who use trafficked labor or child labor in their supply chains. Institutional investors can divest their positions in such companies.”

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What can YOU Do?


As consumers, it takes conscious effort to buy fair trade items,
or items not made under harsh labor conditions. 
Check out some helpful apps here to help fight the demand for human trafficking.
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