- It wasn't made illegal in the US until 2000.
- Today, hundreds of thousands of human trafficking victims are thought to be working in exploitative conditions in the US.
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In 2016, then-President Barack Obama told the Clinton Global Initiative : "I'm talking about the injustice, the outrage of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name: modern slavery. It is barbaric and it is evil and it has no place in a civilized world."
Human trafficking is when people are recruited or harbored, by threat or force, to be exploited, according to the United Nations . Mostly, it's commercial sex or labor exploitation, and a victim does not need to be transported anywhere in order to fall under the definition.
Trafficking is covert and illegal, and precise information is not easy to get. The US State Department and trafficking hotlines are helping to paint a clearer picture of what's going on.
Hundreds of thousands of victims are estimated to be working in the sex industry, or in the hospitality, beauty, or agricultural industries where such conditions could be occurring.
Here are 20 facts about human trafficking in the US today.
Human trafficking wasn't illegal until 2000, when the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed, which made it a federal crime.
Larry Downing / Reuters
The United States, along with Mexico and the Philippines, was ranked one of the world's worst places for human trafficking in 2018. In the US, there is no official number of human trafficking victims, but estimates place it in the hundreds of thousands.
Brian Snyder / Reuters
Since 2007, more than 49,000 cases of human trafficking in the US have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which receives an average of 150 calls per day.
Jacquelyn Martin / AP
The most human trafficking cases have been reported in California, Texas, and Florida, according to the hotline. Las Vegas is also a hot spot due to the city's culture and high rates of homelessness. But every state in the US has reports of human trafficking.
Isaac Brekken / AP
New York, and Queens in particular, is a documented destination for trafficking, because of its location on the eastern corridor, as well as being close to rural areas like Vermont. As Homeland Security assistant special agent Akil Baldwin told AM New York, "New York is the epicenter of everything, legitimate and illegitimate".
Mario Tama/Getty Images
It is estimated that between 18,000 and 20,000 victims are trafficked into the United States every year.
Patrick Semansky / AP
Source: Women's Center
Children are more vulnerable than adults. They're easier to control, cheaper, and less likely to demand working conditions, researchers explained. More than 300,000 young people in the US are considered "at risk" of sexual exploitation.
Lynne Sladky / AP
Source: US Department of Health
In 2011, California passed a law to help with trafficking in the manufacturing industry. The law required major manufacturing and retail firms to disclose what they were doing to stop human trafficking in their supply chains. By 2015, however, less than a fifth of businesses had complied.
Source: The Guardian
Children raised in foster care have a greater chance of becoming victims. In 2013, 60% of child victims the FBI recovered were from foster care. In 2017, 14% of children reported missing were likely victims of sex trafficking, and 88% of those had been in child welfare, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported.
Aaron Josefcyzk / Reuters
A 2014 study of sex trafficking by the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, found 71% of labor trafficking victims entered the US legally.
Source: Urban Institute
The Mexican state of Tlaxcala has been identified as the biggest source of sex slaves to the US. In 2015, five out of 10 of Homeland Security's "most wanted" sex traffickers were from Tenancingo, in Tlaxcala. There were estimates that one in 10 people from Tenancingo were involved in trafficking.
Native American women are at particular risk. In 2016, a reported 506 Native American women disappeared or were killed in American cities. In Phoenix, another of the top trafficking jurisdictions in the US, it was estimated that 40% of sex trafficking victims in 2015 were Native American.
Jay Pickthorn / AP
In 2016, after US Immigration and Customs arrested 2,000 human traffickers and identified 400 victims, airlines started training staff to spot signs of human traffickers. Some of the signs that someone is a victim are not being in control of their own boarding pass or money and if they seem "disoriented and lost."
Mike Blake / Reuters
Other than the sex trade, trafficking victims often work in private residences, on farms, in the hospitality industry, and in the health and beauty service industry. Seen here is the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. In 2019, its owners were arrested on prostitution charges, which was part of a larger investigation on the role of human trafficking in massage parlors.
Brynn Anderson / AP
Migrant farm workers can become trafficking victims because their legal status in the US is often tied to employment. According to a 2017 report, the most commonly worked crop for victims was tobacco, followed by cattle and dairy, oranges, tomatoes, and strawberries.
Jim Young / Reuters
Source: Polaris Project
Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore started a non-profit to help combat sex-trafficking, called Thorn. He reported that they identified 5,791 child victims, and rescued 103 in 2017.
Trafficking is no longer just on the street it's gone online. Fifty women said in March that they were sexually abused as victims of Backpage, an online sex marketplace that pleaded guilty to the human-trafficking charges.
Source: Business Insider
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said 73% of 10,000 child sex trafficking reports it received per year involved ads from Backpage.
Rachel La Corte / AP
Source: Washington Post
In 2018, the US Department of Justice funded 45 victim service providers with $31 million, almost doubling its budget from 2017, when it provided $16 million to 18 organizations.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Source: Fox News
But the Trump administration removed funding for legal services for trafficking victims. This funding was previously used to expunge criminal records and help the victims assimilate back into society.
Jim Young / Reuters
The Trump administration also changed the requirements to get a "T visa", which allows victims to stay in the US, get government benefits, and put them on track to become US citizens. Now, victims must prove their ordeal or potentially be deported. Previously, they did not have to fear being deported.
US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement / Reuters
There's no accurate estimate on how much money trafficking makes in the US, since victims are often guarded by captors, lack proper documentation, and work behind the scenes.
Nick Ut / AP
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
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