News/US: Once-hidden Slave Trade A Growing U.S. Problem

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Subject: News/US: Once-hidden Slave Trade A Growing U.S. Problem
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Fri Jun 09 2000 - 11:57:49 EDT

Once-hidden Slave Trade A Growing U.S. Problem
The New York Times, April 2, 2000

WASHINGTON - As many as 50,000 women and children from Asia, Latin America
and Eastern Europe are brought to the United States under false pretenses
each year and forced to work as prostitutes, abused laborers or servants,
says a CIA report that is the government's first comprehensive assessment
of the problem.

The carefully annotated and exhaustively researched 79-page agency report -
"International Trafficking in Women to the United States: A Contemporary
Manifestation of Slavery" - paints a broad picture of this hidden trade and
of the difficulties government agencies face in fighting it.

Completed in November, the report is based on more than 150 interviews with
government officials, law-enforcement officers, victims and experts in the
United States and abroad, as well as investigative documents and a review
of international literature on the subject.

Law-enforcement officials have seen episodic evidence for years of
trafficking in immigrant women and children, some as young as 9. But the
report says that officers generally do not like to take on these slavery
cases because they are difficult to investigate and prosecute. What's more,
it says, the nation does not have sufficient laws aimed squarely at this
problem, meaning that the penalties often are insubstantial.

Two years ago, Attorney General Janet Reno chartered an inter- agency task
force to attack the problem, saying, "We are not interested in containing
modern-day slavery; we want to eradicate it." The report mentions many
efforts to fight the problem, but also many barriers to doing so.

During the past two years, while up to 100,000 victims poured into the
United States, where they were held in bondage, federal officials estimated
that the government prosecuted cases involving no more than 250 victims.
The Justice Department said it could not provide precise figures.

The report was prepared by a government intelligence analyst who was
working on assignment to the CIA. While the report is not classified, it
has not been made public. Another government official who wanted the
report's findings publicized provided a copy.

It describes case after case of foreign women who answered advertisements
for au pair, sales clerk, secretarial or waitress jobs in the United States
but found, once they arrived, that the jobs did not exist. Instead they
were taken prisoner, held under guard and forced into prostitution or
peonage. Some of them were, in fact, sold outright to brothel owners, the
report says.

"Examples of this may include Latvian women threatened and forced to dance
nude in Chicago," the report says. Thai women were brought to the United
States "but forced to be virtual sex slaves." Chinese-Korean women were
"held as indentured servants." And "Mexican women and girls, some as young
as 14," were promised jobs in housekeeping or child care but, upon arrival,
"were told they must work as prostitutes in brothels serving migrant workers."

Girls from Asian and African countries, some as young as 9, were
essentially sold to traffickers by their parents, "for less than the price
of a toaster," one government official said. This mainly happens in
cultures where female children are not valued. The girls are smuggled into
the United States where, in a typical case, they are forced to work "in an
indentured sexual-servitude arrangement," the report says.

A Nigerian smuggling ring, the report says, citing an Immigration and
Naturalization Service case, charged parents from that country $10,000 to
$12,000 to bring their children to New York so they would have "better
educational opportunities." But once here, the smugglers "forced the
Nigerian children to work as domestics."

Some of these cases received prominent news coverage when they were
discovered. But they are only a tiny fraction of the problem. The report
says 700,000 to 2 million women and children worldwide are victimized by
traffickers each year. Although the numbers who come to the United States
are relatively small, the report says that the problem "is likely to
increase in the United States."

At a three-day conference in Manila, Philippines, last week, delegates from
23 Asian countries met to discuss the problem and called on governments to
seize the profits of crime syndicates. A Filipino group estimated those
profits at up to $17 billion a year.

Frank E. Loy, undersecretary of state for global affairs, told a
congressional subcommittee in February: "It seems incomprehensible that at
the dawn of the 21st century, the primitive and barbaric practice of buying
and selling human beings occurs at all. Yet international trafficking in
persons, predominantly women and children, is a widespread and, by all
indications, a growing reality."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The CIA is located online at:
Melanie Orhant <<>>
Stop-traffic is facilitated, international electronic list
funded by the Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
of the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH)
dealing with human rights abuses associated with trafficking
in persons, with an emphasis on public health and trafficking
in persons for forced labor, including forced prostitution,
sweatshop labor, domestic service and some coercive mail
order bride arrangements.
Stop-Traffic archive:

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