Human Trafficking in the Americas: Hidden in Plain View

BY JORDAN HOLMES — Recently, a human trafficking ring in Canada was discovered, leading to the arrest of Marius Trifu Miclescu, a 38-year-old Romanian man living in Montreal.1 Miclescu had lured young girls out of Romania by promising them a better life in Canada, and then forcing them, through beatings and threats, to work in erotic massage parlors.

Situations like this, however, are far from isolated incidents. Advocates call Montreal a “hot bed of human trafficking,” and America is not without its own problems. According to the June 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report,2 15,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation, with young girls often hidden in plain view, working in strip clubs, massage parlors, and even nail salons. And activists estimate that more people are enslaved in the world today than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.3

With human trafficking and enslavement at an all-time high, it becomes a necessity for countries and states to crack down on these crimes. This is especially true in light of the fact that many human trafficking victims are young girls. In response to this, 39 of the 50 states passed anti-trafficking laws in 2013.4 The Polaris Project published a report recently showing that 32 of the 50 states are now rated as Tier-1, the highest rank available based on anti-trafficking laws and initiatives taken by a state. Some important categories that states are ranked on include the availability of victim services, the posting of hotline information, and the enactment of safe harbor statutes, which recognize sexually exploited children under the age of 18 as victims in need of protection rather than criminals in need of prosecution.

While the improvements made in the past year need to be celebrated, we are far from achieving the best protection available for victims of human trafficking in the
United States. While Florida ranks as a Tier-1 state, many western states rank much lower. Currently, South Dakota is the only state in the bottom tier; Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Utah rank only slightly higher in the third tier—meaning that they have made only “nominal efforts to pass laws to combat human trafficking.”

Many Floridians may have noticed the efforts Florida has made to combat trafficking, such as posting hotline information in the women’s bathroom in public locations such as the Miami Metro Zoo, the work to end human trafficking is far from over. And while nobody wants to be reminded of the horrors of human trafficking while enjoying a day at the zoo, having these resources available in public is the only way to combat modern day slavery, which has been hidden in plain view all along.

The efforts made by Florida and other Tier-1 states may make some uncomfortable, but the continued veil of ignorance that other states have proposed cannot suffice; such nominal efforts will only perpetuate the myth that slavery does not exist, rather than combat the evil so that hopefully one day it may not.





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