Human Trafficking in the USA

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Just days ahead of the 2014 Super Bowl, a multi-million “one-stop shopping” drug and prostitution ring was busted in New York City. Some of the women involved claim to have been forced into the prostitution ring - an alarming indicator of possible instances of human trafficking. With thousands of spectators expected to visit New Jersey and New York for the big game, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tweeted “If you do try it, expect to be caught. And when you are caught, expect to be prosecuted”. Governor Christie’s tweet is a reminder of not only the prevalence of prostitution and its clients, but also human trafficking in our own local communities. Human trafficking agencies such as the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking as well as Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (SOAP) recently took matters into their own hands, training volunteers to hand out bar soap with a hotline number near motels and hotels in the Super Bowl area to help victims of human trafficking escape.

Human trafficking is often referred to as the “hidden crime” because of the difficulties of identifying a trafficked individual in our own local communities. Trafficked individuals “are of all ages and all social, cultural, economical, and religious backgrounds” (Clause & Lawler, 2013: 18). This apparent difficulty in identifying modern day slaves is partially manifested in the victims’ difficulty to escape their trafficker. Victims often face barriers making it difficult for them to escape. For example, traffickers may hold their victims legally hostage, as they confiscate all immigration, citizenry, and identification documentations of their captives. Lack of financial resources, knowledge of the language, as well as fear and some...

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...nes, 2004: 222). This popular misconception of trafficked victims as unauthorized criminals, however, is beginning to change. For example, many countries have eliminated previous laws that punished victims of human trafficking for immigration or prostitution crimes (Haynes, 2004: 234). The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are seeking “victim-oriented” anti-trafficking models, as opposed to prosecution-oriented ones (Haynes, 2004, 238). Since 2001, the US government has spent over $528 million on anti-human trafficking programs internationally, and $23 million on domestic projects. The Anti-Trafficking Persons Division under the Department of Health and Human Services funds regional grants in an effort to advance anti-trafficking projects and also funds coalitions for international victims.
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