Modern-Day Slavery: The Disturbing Rise in Human Trafficking

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales described human trafficking as “the exploitation and enslavement of society’s most vulnerable members.”  The Attorney General of Nevada describes human trafficking on its web site as “a form of modern-day slavery” that impacts the most vulnerable populations within Nevada. The Nevada AG goes on to describe human trafficking as “a brutal, complex, and widespread crime in which children are used in commercial sex and adults are targeted through force, fraud or coercion to engage in activity against their will.”

Unfortunately, it appears certain members of society are more than happy to engage in this horrific and exploitative practice all in the name of profit.

Data from the U.S. Department of State estimates that approximately 17,500 people are trafficked into the country each and every year. Between 2001 and 2005, the Civil Rights Division of DOJ and United States Attorneys’ Offices filed 91 trafficking cases. This represented a 405 percent increase over the previous four years. In these cases, DOJ charged 248 trafficking defendants, which represented a 210 percent increase over the previous five years. Approximately 140 of those defendants were convicted of trafficking-related crimes.

If that was not bad enough, the nefarious individuals engaged in human trafficking are making tremendous amounts of money. In fact, human trafficking is the third most profitable criminal enterprise after drugs and arms trafficking. For example, human trafficking generates roughly $9.5 billion in profits worldwide for those who participate in this pernicious criminal activity, according to a report published by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Scope of Human Trafficking is Truly Disturbing

The State Department further estimates that between 800,000 to 900,000 men, women and children worldwide are trafficked each year across international borders for sex, labor, and other purposes. While human trafficking generally involves transporting people across borders, it can occur within a nation.

Human trafficking within the United States violates an individual’s human liberty guaranteed by the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Human trafficking, therefore, offends the basic civil rights this nation guarantees to all those living within its borders.

Legislative Efforts to Address Human Trafficking

In response to the horrors involved in global human trafficking, Congress enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. This statute protects victims of any “severe form of trafficking in persons” with the ability to access certain public programs and benefits. The statute provides that a “severe form of trafficking” includes recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or detaining individuals for one of the three following purposes:

  • Labor of services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion; or
  • A commercial sex act, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion; or
  • If the person is under 18 years of age, any commercial sex act, regardless of whether any form of coercion is involved.

Three Major Form of Human Trafficking

The DOJ directs its investigative and prosecutorial efforts at three primary forms of human trafficking:

  1. Sex trafficking,
  2. Labor trafficking, and
  3. Child sex trafficking.

In addition, the FBI launched an “Involuntary Servitude and Slavery/Trafficking in Persons Initiative.”

More Action and Public Focus Needed

The efforts of Congress, DOJ, and the FBI are laudable, but more effort, action and focus is needed to truly combat human trafficking. The public needs to know that human slavery is not a vestige of the past. It remains pervasive and active in the present.