Human Trafficking: What Now?

Individuals can take heroic steps to stop human trafficking. But for every success story, the underground trade finds new ways to exploit women, men and children, many of whom are immigrants.

Arlen Vanderbilt, a San Francisco vice detective, said the bar for proving human trafficking is set high. “Felony charges for pimping and pandering, or human trafficking, require that we demonstrate that the trafficker, or the pimp, is benefiting financially from those transactions, and knowingly,” Vanderbilt said. And so traffickers hide behind seemingly legitimate businesses like nail salons and massage parlors, he explained.

Here are some ways to derail the underground trade of human traffickign..

First: Pass stronger state and federal laws. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) is urging passage of legislation that would require annual reports assessing how each state is doing in the fight against human trafficking. The State Department already requires these reports on a global level. “I know in the Civil Rights Movement, we boycotted states that weren’t moving in the right direction and respecting human dignity,” Maloney said. “We can do the same thing with states that are not responding to the need to crack down on what we call the 21st century form of slavery.” Maloney’s bill, however, is bogged down in gridlock.

Second: Reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was first passed in 2000 and has been reauthorized three times. Now, it’s stalled.

Third: Make it more difficult for Americans to go overseas and solicit prostitutes. Sex tourism fuels demand for prostitution, which in turn fuels human trafficking.

Fourth: Pass comprehensive immigration reform. “Here in the United States, as part of the president’s proposal on comprehensive immigration reform, it’s the notion of reforming the guest worker program so they’re not only protected and there’s more labor inspection and other types of protection like that but also so that they are more able to fit the employers,” said Luis CdeBaca is U.S. Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking. “As long as we don’t have that, we’re going to have human traffickers who are exploiting the cracks in the system.”

Fifth: Urge businesses to take a zero-tolerance approach to slavery in their supply chains.

Sixth: Connect the dots of the underground trade between New York and other cities, including Providence and Boston. Law enforcement should concentrate on the alleged links between organized traffickers who transport women to New England but who start off in New York. This criminal network spans the east coast along the I-95 corridor.

Seventh: Activists argue that individual states, including Massachusetts and New York, should make it more difficult to license and operate massage parlors.

Eighth: Increase funding for fighting human trafficking.

Learn more at Phillip Martin’s WGBH article: Human Trafficking: What Now?

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