Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

“Three Florida fruit-pickers, held captive and brutalized [sic] by their employer for more than a year, finally broke free of their bonds by punching their way through the ventilator hatch of the van in which they were imprisoned. Once outside, they dashed for freedom” (The Independent, 2007).

Marino Lucas, Jose Velasquez, and Jose Hari had been enslaved by the Navarette family in the fields of Immokalee, Florida.

To read more of this post on the World Relief blog on immigration, go here. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this connection.

To read more about immigration and human trafficking on this blog, click here.

To learn more about modern day slavery, click here.

To learn more about what you can do, click here or here.

By i eated a cookie/flickr

Many anti-trafficking advocates take it for granted that, when it comes to sex slavery, culture change is the way to go. They argue that, in order to eradicate sex slavery, our culture needs to change the way it views sex. (Though I would argue this doesn’t go far enough. Many countries that have problems with sex slavery don’t have easy access to the most degrading forms of pornography, as we do in the US. I would argue the goal should be gender equity, across the globe.)

But sex slavery accounts for only half of the victims of human trafficking. Forced labor accounts for approximately the other half. Is culture change necessary to eradicate forced labor as well?

My answer is yes.

It is my contention that forced labor thrives in the US in part because of our views toward immigrants.

Hear me out here.

I believe there’s a direct connection between our views as advocates toward immigrants, and how successful we will be at preventing and addressing human trafficking. While I have not heard advocates speak ill of immigrants, we do not speak out as a movement, in solidarity with immigrants rights groups, when others do.

When we as advocates hear of foreign-born victims, we see them as victims first, not as immigrants. But many people who don’t know about human trafficking view victims as immigrants first (see exhibit A).

Think about the comments you hear about immigrants. Much is hate-filled, lacks compassion, and treats (non-European) immigrants as if they are fundamentally different than natural born citizens. That translates into how people view foreign-born victims of human trafficking.

If we go along with the general feeling toward immigrants, and don’t challenge the anti-immigrant culture, we are acting in direct opposition to our efforts as an anti-trafficking movement.

I want to be clear here: I am not saying that all anti-trafficking advocates must hold the same views regarding immigration policy. Rather, I am saying that all anti-trafficking advocates must hold the same views regarding immigrants as human beings because they are one of the most vulnerable populations to slavery in our society.

So what am I arguing for? The idea that we as anti-trafficking advocates must begin to be more vocal about another type of cultural change we need to see in order to eradicate modern day slavery: a cultural change in the way we view immigrants.

I realize that what I’m proposing is very idealistic. I also realize that I am proposing cultural change in the anti-trafficking community itself. Many of us have easily accepted that “porn culture” is bad. But given how ingrained in our culture (and our entire history) anti-immigrant sentiment is, I may be challenging how you yourself may view immigrants.

Ok, now sit for a moment, maybe re-read this post, and consider my proposition.

What do you think? Is this type of cultural change really necessary? Is animosity toward immigrants fostering their victimization or is it a completely separate issue?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched a campaign Tuesday to encourage the public to report possible human trafficking and for victims to come forward and report abuse” reports the Tucson Citizen. The campaign is called “Death is not the only way to lose your life.” This new iniative by these combined agencies assists victims of human trafficking, who can be misidentified as “illegal aliens.” One of their purposes is to make victims aware of special programs and visas they might qualify for.

Another reason I think these two agencies, who are the implementors of most laws in relation to immigration, are trying to address in some ways their relationship to immigrants, indicates to me that perhaps they are trying to deal with the fear that immigrants have of those agencies, particularly as it relates to victims of these types of abuses. Since many law enforcement officials are not able to identify victims, either citizens or immigrants, as victims of human trafficking and subsequent slavery, they often do treat people as offenders of various crimes. It is wonderful to hear that there will be a campaign to raise awareness in the public and train law enforcement officials.

The comments in this article indicate the various aspects of human trafficking, and why it can be tricky business to determine if a person has been a victim. A person may begin as agreeing to be smuggled, or agreeing to a job in the US for which they believe they will be entering the country legally. However, once the smugglers use “force, fraud, or coercion,” people are human trafficking victims. Human trafficking refers only to transport, and NOT to what happens when a person arrives at the final destination. The purpose of human trafficking is only to transport a “product” to the “buyer.” Once a girl is brought to a place where, for example, she is forced to be a prostitute, she is now a slave.

More articles on this story can be found here:

CBP, ICE Launch Effort to Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking found at the Customs and Border Enforcement website.

CBP, ICE Raising Awareness of Human Trafficking found at News Channel 5 in Wesalco, TX!

In a related matter, Michael Mukasey spoke at the 2008 National Conference on Human Trafficking, sponsored by the Department of Justice. The remarks are found here. More info will be provided on this site as it is available.


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Five Immokalee residents pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to charges of enslaving Mexican and Guatemalan workers, brutalizing them and forcing them to work in farm fields. The case is the largest slavery case ever seen in Florida. Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Molloy called it “slavery, plain and simple.”

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