News/USA: COMMENTARY - TRAFFICKING IN HUMANS ISN'T BEHIND US YET - WORKERS -

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Subject: News/USA: COMMENTARY - TRAFFICKING IN HUMANS ISN'T BEHIND US YET - WORKERS -
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Sat Feb 26 2000 - 10:18:40 EST


11Feb00 USA: COMMENTARY - TRAFFICKING IN HUMANS ISN'T BEHIND US YET -
WORKERS - A PROPOSED BILL IS THE FIRST STEP IN ...
By HAE JUNG CHO ANGELICA SALAS, Hae Jung Cho is project director for CAST,
the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking. Angelica Salas is acting
executive director for CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of
Los Angeles.
COMMENTARY - Trafficking in Humans Isn't Behind Us Yet - Workers - A
proposed bill is the first step in combating the modern-day version of
indentured servitude.

LEAD: The recent coverage of Chinese "smuggling" in cargo containers fails
to address the critical issue of these cases as examples of trafficking in
human beings for slavery and slave-like practices, a growing problem in the
United States. Angelenos may remember the 1995 case of the El Monte "slave
shop," a classic trafficking case, in which 75 Thai garment workers were
held in slavery, sewing clothes for some of the top U.S. manufacturers. The
only difference between the recent Chinese trafficking and El Monte is that
the Chinese workers never made it to their destination.
Trafficking in human beings is not particular to the Chinese community. It
is a highly organized global phenomenon. Reps. Christopher H. Smith
(R-N.J.) and Sam Gejdenson (D-Conn.) have proposed the Trafficking Victims
Protection Act of 1999 (H.R. 3244), a comprehensive anti-trafficking bill
that would provide protection to trafficked persons, strategies for
prevention of trafficking and more effective prosecution of traffickers.

Traffickers actively recruit workers, facilitate their migration and
deliver them to a site where they will be held in bonded servitude for many
years working for little or no pay, seven days a week. Workers often come
>from underdeveloped regions experiencing war, economic collapse,
environmental degradation or ethnic conflict. Workers who are smuggled
generally know what they're getting into and the arrangement upon arrival.
Workers who are trafficked, on the other hand, are easily recruited, based
on deceptions about the nature and conditions of the work situation. Upon
arrival in the destination country, their identification papers are
confiscated, and they live and work in subhuman conditions. Through
violence or the threat of violence, employers control every aspect of the
workers' lives.
Trafficking in human beings is highly profitable because of the length of
time workers can be held in servitude paying off enormous debts. Trafficked
persons work in garment factories, restaurants, agriculture and other
informal labor sectors where they may be subjected to serious physical and
psychological abuse by their employers.
These people are victims of human rights violations. Trafficking is a crime
against the individual. Even though a person may have initially consented
to go with a trafficker, at some point the purported terms and conditions
of the initial work contract disappear. The workers then are coerced or
forced into slavery or subjected to slave-like practices. The issue of
consent is irrelevant because no one willingly consents to slavery.
Cracking down on the victims will only drive trafficking further
underground and force traffickers to invent more dangerous and elusive ways
of bringing workers into the United States. As opportunities for legal
migration are shrinking globally, workers will continue to be lured by the
false promises and deceptions of recruiters.
Oftentimes, trafficked persons are re-victimized by a justice system that
offers few incentives for their cooperation in going after the
perpetrators. Even when victims act as witnesses against their traffickers,
they are held in Immigration and Naturalization Service detention without
legal or social services throughout the course of the trial process, which
could last one to two years. At the end of the proceedings,
victim-witnesses are deported to their countries of origin, where they
could face serious reprisals from their traffickers. Some governments, such
as Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), have even imprisoned deportees.
Abuses will continue unless law enforcement recognizes trafficking as a
human rights abuse and an issue of workers' rights. Programs that offer
protections to exploited workers must be provided so they will be able to
come forward and exercise a fundamental human right: freedom from
exploitation. Trafficked persons must be provided with the opportunity to
obtain legal status in the U.S., especially when they provide critical
evidence in the prosecution of their traffickers. The proposed legislation
would be a critical first step in combating this egregious crime against
exploited workers.
EDITION: Home Edition
SECTION: Metro
(c) The Times Mirror Company 2000.
LOS ANGELES TIMES 11/02/2000 P7


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