Slavery Persists in the US


Slavery persists in the US.

As we near the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 2013, it surprises many to realize that slavery persists, known by the term “human trafficking”.


Image from

One trafficking site is Immokalee, FL.  An agricultural town that provides winter tomatoes and many other crops across in the US, most labor is provided by migrant workers (primarily from Central America). Many women are lured there with promises of employment only to be forced into sexual slavery.  Among the many problems faced are: physical/mental abuse, drug addiction to keep them “compliant”, and risks of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.  Part of their entrapment includes their lack of English language skills or understanding of US culture, knowledge that they are in the US illegally and thus fear of speaking out or seeking help from the authorities, threats of physical abuse, fear and shame of returning to their homes, and other issues. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has long been involved with trafficking issues of forced labor, but has recently increased their work in combatting sex trafficking. 


Across the state, the FL Chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW) and the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking have been increasing their efforts to expand awareness and provide opportunities for citizens to take action. On a federal level, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 established policies that better protect trafficking victims and expanded prosecution of traffickers.  The current administration holds annual summits of the President’s Interagency Task Force To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons chaired by the Secretary of State.


Learn more about this human rights and public health crisis.  Contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center for resources or to report suspected trafficking. Although many positive steps have been made, the issue is little known by the public.  Get informed and get active.


5 Responses to “Slavery Persists in the US”

  1. tunglisa Says:

    Thank for this posting this subject. I think this an area that gets easily forgotten and swept under the table because it is not a limelight public health issue such as obesity or diabetes that can be fought with health education, medication and lifestyle changes. In this case, you can’t give medication to alleviate the disease symptoms. This is a much bigger issue that involves many different parties, and harms those most vulnerable based on age, economic status, and lack of education.

    Sex trafficking seems to be big business these days, not just in the U.S., but all around the world with young women and children as the target group for exploitation. On a similar note, I recently heard a radio story about child prostitution in California. Girls as young as 14 years of age were forced into prostitution and expected to earn $800/day for their pimps. The organization Children of the Night helped many of these young girls who got pulled into the industry by rescuing them from their formers lives.

    You mention the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 having policies in place to prosecute those who are trafficking, but little is done to those who are demanding the services of these young women. Until something is done to make the “johns” held accountable for their actions, namely being prosecuted for soliciting prostitution, the trafficking will continue on and more young children will continue to suffer this horrific experience.

  2. evansmolly Says:

    Thank you for posting this interesting blog. I agree that this is a forgotten public health problem. I am impressed that the Coalition of Immokalee workers exists. They provide a valuable resource to an otherwise voiceless group. Another aspect of this human trafficking problem is that these victims most likely do not get the support of the immigration authorities. In the eyes of the law they are here illegally when really they are enslaved and cannot control their circumstances. Public health systems could address the working conditions for field workers, the forced prostitution and STI risks associated with that, and the psychological trauma that is sufferred as a result of this tragedy.
    I visited Haiti and learned about the restaveks who were child slaves. Pedophilia seemed to be a common problem. The children were at risk for HIV but also for PTSD and other psychological problems.

  3. meghanrimelspach Says:

    CIW is a really inspiring example of a community organizing and working toward their own goals. I feel like sometimes public health professionals go into communities and define problems, rather that working alongside communities. There are a lot of reasons why community-based public health doesn’t happen, but groups like this illustrate how well it can work. I would have liked if this post had a little bit more of what I could do to address this issue.

  4. abbhirami Says:

    Thanks for posting about this important but rarely-spoken-about issue. I am involved with an organization back in India called Prajwala ( fighting trafficking of women and children (the founder is a courageous woman who actually goes out into the field to rescue women and children!).
    I know that in the last few years there has been a shift toward involving men in these anti-trafficking organizations (here in the US as well organizations such as Stop child trafficking) and also members of these organizations are increasingly voicing their opinions about penalizing “johns” (as the other commenter mentioned).

  5. tliccardi Says:

    This blog was an eye -opener for me. I subconsciously am aware that slave trafficking exists, but really have not given it much thought in my own life. It is pervasive in our lives. Most electronics for instance which we use have somehow involved the exploitation of humans. A corporation in China, Foxconn, that distributes its products to multiple electronics companies treats their employees terribly. Young individuals who cannot make a living in the country had no choice but to come work for this company. They are confined to sterile cinder block dormitories working long hours with no outside stimulation. Foxconn was recognized in the news for the high number of suicides that were occurring at the company. It is even more horrific to know that the electronic companies includingApple have known of these human injustices and cruelty and only with negative media coverage are beginning to sanction the company.

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