Human Trafficking in the United States

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Human trafficking has evolved over ages but this vice remains to be fully combated. Historical records inform that slavery was pivotal in establishing various nations where people were trafficked from various countries and sailed to host nations for various exploitative reasons. In the US, slavery was fundamental in shaping the nation as it was a major contributor to the economy. The victims of slavery experience various forms of discrimination and oppression in the hands of the captors or owners.

In the modern world, slavery is common in the form of human trafficking where the purposes are mainly for labor and sexual exploitation. Globally, humans are trafficked from various countries to work in farms as well as serve as prostitutes in the host nations. In the US, human trafficking is prevalent and it exists in various forms. The offenders and the victims possess various characteristics that suit them to be part of the human trafficking business. However, the US has made various efforts and continues to put measures that seek to stop human trafficking


Slavery in the US has been regarded as critical in the formation of this country. It has played a major role in advancing the economy but the victims suffered in return. Modern slavery is apparent in human trafficking where victims are exploited for labor and sexual purposes. In the US, human trafficking embodies the purposes for exploiting illegal migrants in farms as well as in commercial sex industries. Globally, human trafficking involves the transportation of humans from their home country to overseas nations either in pursuit of perceived better living or as a result of forced transportation. This study seeks to investigate what modern-day slavery as well as provide ways in which it has been combated.

Historical and Modern-Day Slavery

Slavery is well-known that has shaped many nations around the globe. In particular, the US has been well documented in reference to slavery from the early years of America as a nation up to the abolition of slavery in 1865. In the US, the South played a critical role in promoting slavery since the farming of cotton depended on slaves. In particular, the farm owners in this region needed slaves for growing cotton to keep up with the region as the global needs of this crop (Wharton, 2010).

The North was also complicit in slavery since it depended on the cotton grown in the South to manufacture textile to export to other nations (Wharton, 2010). However, slave labor in the US has had a significant change to develop into the slavery that came to be known worldwide.

Forced labor first existed as contracted servitude where the employers would contract this labor for a period of years and the labors were regarded as property to the extent of being passed down to the next generations in form of will (Wharton, 2010). This type of forced labor was transformed into slave labor from which it expanded across America to boost the country’s economy specifically due to cotton production.

Modern-day slavery is apparent in various labor institutions across America that incorporates human trafficking. It mostly exists in the form of labor and sexual exploitation where the weak in society suffer as the powerful enjoy their self-imposed propagative status. In American farms, Latino women especially Mexicans have been forced to serve as prostitutes to workers in these farms (Butler, 2015). Moreover, high poverty rates, poor living conditions, and homelessness promote human trafficking concerning Native Americans as victims (DOJ, 2017).

Modern-day slavery in the form of exploitative labor is rampant in American farms. In documenting the Mexican migrant life in American horticultural farms, Holmes (2013) noted that many farm workers worked harder than native workers and received little medication attention that made them suffer and still work under painful conditions.

Recruiting Victims of Human Trafficking

Majority of the people who end up as victims of human trafficking do not realize that they will end up as victims during recruitment. According to Belser (2005), traffickers use coercive methods such as deceiving potential victims of prosperity in the destination country and upon recruitment, the victims are informed that they will gain freedom once the debt has been repaid. other methods of recruitment include forced recruitment such as kidnapping and sale by parents (Belser, 2005). This form of recruitment leaves the victims with no choice since it is a forced mechanism.

The traffickers use various techniques to control the victims. One of the common ways that offenders use it to steal the official papers belonging to the victim including passports (Wharton, 2010). This approach ensures that the offenders are in full control of the victims since the latter are virtually incapable of traveling or seeking basic services without official documentation.

Children are also potential victims due to their vulnerability. According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ, 2017), children are considered easy to control and more profitable and they are targeted in bus stops, networking sites, and other areas. Additionally, children from poor families or broken homes are coerced by pimps that they will be provided with food, shelter, and care upon which the offenders built their exploitative mechanism.

Major Contributing Factors to Human Trafficking

The factors that fuel human trafficking are usually based on demand as well as the culture of a country. The demand for particular humans is growing due to certain needs of the consumers of human trafficking. As noted by Butler (2015), the white population is a market for native and black women and girls for prostitution. This is because there exists an appetite for certain races as wells as the historical situation in America that normalized the oppression of native and black women.

Popular culture, media, and technology have also contributed to human trafficking especially for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Music and movies portray certain races as low in society and are deemed worthy of exploitation (Butler, 2015). The internet has also made it possible for sexual exploitative transactions to be carried out on a wider scale driving up the market for human trafficking. Another contributing factor is that human trafficking is highly profitable. In a study by Belser (2005), it was found that forced labor accounts for about $ 44 billion annually from which profits from trafficked victim exploitation account for over 70%.

The findings from this study asserted that the profits from this illegal business strengthen the international crime syndicates as well as corrupt state authorities. Additionally, the demands for cheap labor promote human trafficking for farm owners and agricultural corporations in the US gain from reduced labor costs. As noted by Martin (2018), the majority of labor in US agricultural farms is composed of illegal migrants mostly from Mexico who prove cheaper labor. Traffickers benefit from transporting victims to these farms and the owners also gain from the cheap services provided by these people.

Global Transportation Patterns

In global terms, human trafficking is mostly concentrated within countries as opposed to across regions. Most cases of human trafficking occur within the same countries as the reported victims and in reference to child prostitution, this vice is common in developing countries such as in some part of Asia (Belser, 2005). However, in industrialized countries, victims of human trafficking mostly emanated from other countries. In terms of agricultural work in the US, most of the labor is from migrants who often lack essential rights as well as receive poor pay since their wages include a deduction from the traffickers (Belser, 2005).

In the UK and Italy, the agricultural farms also benefit from migrant labor that mostly comes from North Africa and Eastern Europe and the victims experience similar challenges as those experienced in the US. Although some victims may be recruited voluntarily to work in these farms, the nature of work, poor conditions, and poor wages constitute labor exploitation of these workers. These people seek better lives in destination countries to escape poverty in their original countries. In terms of sexual trafficking, it is estimated that it is most prevalent along the US border with Mexico (DOJ, 2017).

Traffickers, Their Victims, and the People Who Buy Humans

Offender Characteristics

The traffickers operate either as a global organization or as individuals. They can be global crime syndicates or particular individuals and the latter in most cases have the same nationality as the victims of human trafficking (Belser, 2005).

Characteristics of Victims

Victims of human trafficking are mostly grouped according to gender. Over 90% of trafficked victims are women and about 9% are men (Wharton, 2010). These victims end up in various trafficking destinations for various purposes. It is estimated that about half of these victims are placed in the labor areas that are exploitative and most of them irrespective of gender experience sexual abuse (Wharton, 2010). In developed nations, the trafficked women as mostly foreign (Belser, 2005).

Characteristics of Customers or Consumers of Human Trafficking

Those holding victims of human trafficking employ various methods to retain the victims. According to Wharton (2010), the consumers usually threaten the victims that they and their families will be harmed if the victims refuse to cooperate and additionally deceive them that the law enforcers will harm them if they try to escape. The consumers are usually farm owners who require cheap labor as well as people who operate commercial sex activities.

Why Do Victims Remain Hidden from Authorities?

Victims of human trafficking remain hidden from authorities depending on the nature or purpose of the trafficking. According to Wharton (2010), forced labor is not paid enough attention in the US as compared to sexual exploitation given the fact that slavery is acknowledged in the Constitution but Congress has passed multiple laws that target human trafficking for prostitution purposes. Given this, victims in the forced labor domain may remain obscured from authorities since states are focused on one particular form of human trafficking.

Additionally, the culture of America has promoted the concealment of victims of human trafficking from authorities. That is, in regards to racism, particular groups of victims of human trafficking are not identified as a result of continuous or institutionalized oppression of a particular race. Butler (2015) argues that since the people of color have been undermined from history, there exist no tangible effort to identify and support black women facing sexual exploitation give that laws such as the Mann Act served to preserve the rights of the white women instead of all women irrespective of color. The implication of this phenomenon is that only a section of victims will be identified while others will be hidden away from authorities.

Another factor that may explain the lack of identification of these victims involves the illegality of their nature in that country. As noted earlier, traffickers usually steal the official documentation of their victims which makes it harder for the said victims to receive help in the host country. Additionally, the illegal migrants know that they are incapable of receiving any compensation for employer’s wrongdoing in a court case since various rulings have affirmed that undocumented workers should not receive any such payments (Chacon, 2006).

Current U.S. Efforts to Stop the Sale of Humans

The US continues to strive to stop the sale of humans especially through the legal foundations that serve to punish the human traffickers. Since the adoption of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000, human trafficking has been combated by the judicial systems and law enforcement institutions (UNODC, 2009). The criminalization of human trafficking in the US through laws has enabled various institutions to combat this vice as well as establish other organs to specifically deal with various forms of trafficking.

In particular, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are key institutions that handle trafficking cases (UNODC, 2009). Additionally, the Department of Justice has also constituted various departments that deal with specific aspects of human trafficking such as the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (DOJ, 2017).

Since human trafficking encompasses labor exploitation purposes, the US has put in place measures to guard against exploitation of people in the labor market. Specifically, the Department of Labor establishes labor laws that are intensive enough to cover labor exploitation in connection to human trafficking (UNODC, 2009). Over the years since the enactment of the Trafficking Act, an increasing number of people have been charged in the US for trafficking offenses in relation to forced labor although the numbers have not been as high as those concerning sexual exploitation (UNODC, 2009).

Since sexual exploitation has been cited as one of the major purposes for sale of humans, the US has made efforts to combat this crime. A report by the UNODC revealed that the number of persons convicted of trafficking for sexual exploitation has risen from 25 in the year 2005 to 86 in 2007 (UNODC, 2009). In efforts to stop human trafficking, the US also takes initiatives to protect the victims of human trafficking in this country. As noted by UNODC (2009), legal protection, temporary stay, and minimum attention are provided to these victims by authorities in conjunction with other organizations.

Ethical considerations

The study will ensure that ethics are upheld at the highest standards. Privacy of people’s names will be ensured as well as ascertain that personal details are not publicly revealed. Additionally, data from this study will be kept safe and only used by authorized persons.

Research methods and design

This study will use a mixed method strategy to obtain relevant information regarding human trafficking. As noted by Denscombe (2007), mixed methods incorporate different approaches that provide a comprehensive report on the research. The study will combine surveys and personal interview. Surveys provide multiple benefits in social research such as the availability of empirical data, extensive and inclusive data, cheaper than experiments.

In this strategy, the researcher will use document reviews and personal interviews in a semi-structured design to obtain a factual and wide range of information on human trafficking. Document review will involve research on government documents, journal articles, news articles, and non-government publications regarding human trafficking. This strategy will produce empirical and inclusive data (Denscombe, 2007). Personal interviews are advantageous because they help the researcher obtain factual and inclusive information as they are able to notice if the respondent is lying. Interviews, as study methods are useful when researchers are investigating controversial issues that are not simple (Denscombe, 2007).

Proper authorization from relevant authorities or organization will be done as well as the correct venue. The information will be recorded by writing it on paper. The documentation review will assist in comparing the validity of the interview information. In analyzing the qualitative data, the information will be coded into various categories such as labor or sexual exploitation. Themes will then be identified and general conclusions will be drawn.


In sum, human trafficking is a menace that needs to be fully dealt with. Modern slavery has a connection to historical slavery although the latter’s nature has evolved due to legal reasons. This study seeks to advance knowledge of human trafficking and explore ways in which the US has made to combat this crime. The knowledge from this study will be critical in understanding how modern-day slavery occurs and develop more effective mechanisms to stop human trafficking.


  1. Belser, P. (2005). Forced Labour and Human Trafficking: Estimating the Profits. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1838403
  2. Butler, C. N. (2015). The racial roots of human trafficking. UCLA L. Rev., 62, 1464.
  3. Chacón, J. M. (2006). Misery and myopia: Understanding the failures of US efforts to stop human trafficking. Immigr. & Nat’lity L. Rev., 27, 331.
  4. Denscombe, M. (2007). The good research guide: for small-scale social research projects. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
  5. Holmes, S. (2013). Fresh fruit, broken bodies: Migrant farmworkers in the United States (Vol. 27). Univ of California Press.
  6. Martin, P. (2018). Agriculture and International Labor Flows. Economic Review-Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, 55-74.
  7. Wharton, R. L. (2009). A new paradigm for human trafficking: Shifting the focus from prostitution to exploitation in the trafficking victim’s protection act. Wm. & Mary J. Women & L., 16, 753.
  8. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). (2009). Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. Retrieved from UNODC website: https://www.unodc.org/documents/Global_Report_on_TIP.pdf
  9. US Department of Justice (DOJ). (2017). National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/humantrafficking/page/file/922791/download

Cite this paper

Human Trafficking in the United States. (2021, Feb 07). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/human-trafficking-in-the-united-states/

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