Saturday, March 2, 2013

Modern Day Slavery

Photo: Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department
Miguel* is a father.  When his son was diagnosed with cancer, Miguel learned that he could not afford the necessary medical care on his salary in Mexico.  He could make more money in the U.S.  Desperate and unable to afford passage on his own, Miguel took an offer for transportation to the U.S. where he could “pay later.”  Tricked by false promises and threatened with violence, he soon found himself enslaved in the orange groves of Florida. No money went to his son’s care, as all of Miguel’s “salary” went to repay a never ending debt.   

“I felt like a slave from the moment that I arrived because we couldn’t pay for the ride and because we had to pay for that and then they started to threaten us.” Miguel told an interviewer from Free the Slaves.  “It was horrible.”

Because of the intervention of the Coalition for Immokalee Workers, Miguel was rescued.  He was able to secure a real job to support his family and ensure his son received medical care.

Miguel’s story is one of over 27 Million people worldwide who are victims of modern day slavery, also known as human trafficking. According to the U.S Department of State, human trafficking is any situation where a person is obtained and held in compelled service.  Victims are forced to work without pay through deception, fear and violence.  Subjected to physical and psychological abuse, victims are forced into the sex trade, to be child soldiers, or into  various forms of labor, most commonly in factories, restaurants, hotels, and households (maids, nannies, gardeners, etc.)   Captors prey on the vulnerable and use deplorable tactics to ensnare victims and avoid detection by law enforcement.   

Ending slavery requires action from all of us.  So, what can we do to help victims of Human Trafficking?

  • Lean more and inform others (see resources below.)  
  • Urge your local, state and federal representatives to support legislation that criminalizes human trafficking.
  • Advocate for the training of first responders, including law enforcement, fire departments, and  emergency room personnel.
  • Support organizations that provide shelter and other services to victims of trafficking.
  • Purchase fair trade goods, certified as produced without child or slave labor.
  • Know the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's hotline:
    • 1-888-3737-888.  This number can be called to
    • Report a suspected case of human trafficking
    • Connect with anti-trafficking services in your area
    • Request training and technical assistance, general information or specific anti-trafficking resources.


National Human Trafficking Resource Center/Polaris Project

The U.S. Department of State

Project to End Human Trafficking

Free the Slaves

* For protection, Miguel’s name has been changed.  His story is taken from Free the Slaves, where there are more stories of survival and anti-slavery resources.

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