Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day...but not for everyone

Happy 4th of July! Happy Independence Day!

Today is a day to celebrate our freedom as Americans and thank service men and women who continue to serve so that we may have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And these things I am, indeed, grateful for daily. However, did you know that the US Dept of State estimates that some 18,000-20,000 individuals are trafficked into the US annually?

These individuals, many of whom are women, are deceived, kidnapped, exploited, and coerced into our country. Now, just to clarify, trafficking is different from smuggling. Trafficking centers on exploitation, while smuggling centers on transportation. So, I am not referring to smuggling in which immigration laws are deliberately evaded. Rather, I am referring to individuals subjected to an unfree or abusive status in our country. 18,000-20,000 individuals per year living as our neighbors, co-workers, etc? Wow!

“Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, or abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation

According to the Polaris Project, "human trafficking victims have been identified in cities, suburbs, and rural areas in all 50 states and in Washington D.C." Forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor and involuntary domestic servitude are only several forms of trafficking within the U.S. These take many forms within themselves: peddling and begging rings, restaurant and food services, domestic work, hostess and strip clubs, massage parlors, internet based, truck stops

So today, as we celebrate our freedom, please remember that our fight is far from over. "Today there are more people held in slavery than at the height of the transatlantic slave trade" (Polaris). Within our own country there are many, many people victimized and exploited. Check out the Polaris Project of Denver for more information.

Also, if you're wondering more about your individual state, look at this map. It will tell you how the total tips and crisis calls the Polaris Project gets for each state, whether the state has an anti labor trafficking provision, and how many hotline calls are received in total.

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