Labor Trafficking Targets

According to a three-year study by San Diego State University sociologist Sheldon Zhang, nearly a third of unauthorized migrant workers in San Diego County have been victims of labor trafficking.

The project — “Looking for a Hidden Population: Trafficking of Migrant Laborers in San Diego County” – was funded by the National Institute of Justice, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice and is billed as the first of its kind in the country.

Zhang interviewed 826 unauthorized, Spanish-speaking migrants who were working locally over a three month period. He found that 31 percent had experienced labor trafficking, almost all of it occurring after they came to the United States. “Labor trafficking in San Diego is not only common, it is rampant,” said Zhang, adding that a main factor is the victims’ lack of legal status. “This requires systemic changes. This is not something that law enforcement alone can deal with, or one or two prosecutions can solve. This is not just regular fraud about intent to pay, this is far worse. This is violation of human rights and infringement on one’s freedom to move and communicate.”

“This study produces the first scientifically grounded measure of human trafficking in the U.S.,” said John Picarelli, program manager for transnational issues at the National Institute of Justice. “Trafficking victims are a hidden population. The combination of their enslaved situation and the physical, mental and other trauma they endure makes them less likely to seek assistance.”

Learn more at Elizabeth Aguilera’s North County Times article: Unauthorized migrants are targets of labor trafficking.

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