We don’t have auction blocks in center city anymore, but people are still being enslaved in America–often in plain sight.
Consider the preteen girls from Togo and Ghana, whose families were tricked into thinking they were sending their daughters to the United States for an education and never knew their children were slaves in Newark, N.J. hair-braiding salons.
Twenty girls spent five years enslaved in plain sight until a tip to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement saved them. The girls worked in the salons seven days a week right out in the open. The slaves—some 12 and 13 years old— were on their feet 12 to 14 hours a day–sometimes until 2 a.m.—weaving intricate, elaborate hair braids. Apparently the customers did not consider this unusual, excessive or illegal.
Ironically most of the customers were African-American women, many of whom could have descended from slaves brought to America hundreds of years ago. They thought nothing odd about young teens weaving braids until the wee hours of the morning?
“I wish one of my customers … would have gone to police,” a victim called Nicole said. “I wish they would have helped me.”
The real-life drama Nicole and the other slaves suffered would make a good segment on the ethical dilemma series “What Would You Do?”.
The African couple and their son who hid the girls’ passports, forced them to sleep on the floor, fed them little, beat them into silence, sometimes sexually assaulted them, paid them nothing—they even stole their tips—made about $4 million dollars before they were caught. Four million dollars.
“Human trafficking is extremely profitable,” said Bridgette Carr, a law professor and national expert on human trafficking. “It’s so profitable that we are seeing some drug traffickers get out of drug trafficking and into human trafficking.” Carr teaches law at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor.
New Jersey is not unique. Slavery occurs in every one of our united states. Some states fight it. Others don’t seem to care. The Polaris Project, based in Washington, D.C., publishes a Dirty Dozen list of states the advocacy group says fail to adequately address human trafficking.
The states that don’t address the crime of human trafficking at all are Hawaii, Massachusetts, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The remaining states—Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, South Carolina, Oregon, Virginia and until recently Ohio—“criminalize only sex trafficking or labor trafficking but not both, only include human trafficking as a mere sentencing enhancement, or have laws that are too weak or so narrowly drafted that investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking cannot proceed,” according to the Polaris Project.
States that take the most action against human trafficking in a comprehensive way include Connecticut, Minnesota, Texas and Washington, among others.
Perhaps singed by its inclusion in the Dirty Dozen, Ohio took a step early this month toward making human trafficking a felony crime.
The State Senate voted 32-0 to make human trafficking a stand-alone, second-degree felony, punishable by up to eight years in prison. The bill now heads to the House, where it’s likely to be approved; Gov. Ted Strickland supports the measure.
State Sen. Teresa Fedor sponsored the bill, saying Ohio’s lack of a tough, clear law has left the state open to people looking to enslave others. To put it mildly.
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