In recent years, the topic of human trafficking has seen some much-needed attention in the United States. Thanks to countless organizations dedicated to bringing attention to the issue, people have been gaining more and more awareness of the subject and learning that it actually occurs much closer to home than some would think. According to the Polaris Project, a non-profit organization that oversees the National Human Trafficking Hotline, they received nearly 60,000 calls since 2008, with a 61% increase in self-identifying victims since 2010. Such calls reportedly came from all 50 states—and even then, this does not include all the cases that went unreported. Indeed, human trafficking is much closer to home than some would think.
Last month, the attorney generals of Mexico and California met to sign an accord intended to crack down on human traffickers who have been crossing the border to do their work. This has been a problem for some time now, as transnational gangs take advantage of weak spots in the Mexican border to traffic sex slaves into the US. It’s estimated that somewhere around 16,000 victims are trafficked into the United States every year. Of the calls to its hotline, the Polaris Project said that 36% came from foreign nationals.
The accord will help to better target traffickers and improve coordination between Mexico and California law enforcement to investigate such trafficking. More than 15% of the calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline originated specifically from California, so it has clearly become a major issue in the area. California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has made it a priority in her career to do away with human trafficking in the state.
“Criminal trafficking organizations are among the most dangerous threats that we confront, and they are drawn to the trafficking of human beings by the high profit and low risk,” she said. “If we aim to be smart on crime, we have to change that calculus. Our goal is to disrupt trafficking networks, increase convictions and force these international traffickers away from our borders.”
President Obama also recognized this issue recently at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. “It ought to concern every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name, modern slavery.” He then went on to say that this would be a focus of his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Although human trafficking is a tragic issue that will not disappear without a fight, governments and citizens alike are beginning to take action. It will require people who care, but the war against modern slavery can be won—if only one step at a time.