Released 2 November 2011
My name is Kristen Folde, a Norwegian living in New York City. I have had
the pleasure of spending five weeks with the International Social Justice
Commission in my pursuit of a Masters Degree in Global Studies with a focus on
Trafficking in Persons in New York.
Having heard rumours that there is an estimated 30 million slaves in the
world today, my first aim was to see if New York City (NYC) has a trafficking
problem. After reading the annual Trafficking in Persons (June, 2011) report
written by the US Department of State, it is evident that this problem is a
current issue in the US as well as in New York State (NYS). In fact,
trafficking has been, and remains so prevalent in NYS that the State
implemented a new Human Trafficking law in 2007.
Through a few interviews and panel discussions I found that the diversity in
trafficking in NYC (like anywhere else in the world) is only limited to the
imagination of the trafficker.
Slaves are found in industries such as, but not limited to domestic
servitude, construction work and sex trafficking. One of the stories I
read and heard about in several contexts was the one of 54 deaf and mute
persons trafficked from Mexico to NYC for exploitation on the subway. They were
given 100 trinkets to sell for a dollar a day. They were not allowed to come
back until they had sold them all. Running away from their captivators was very
difficult because they were without papers and could not speak or write any
English and American Sign Language is different from Hispanic Sign Language.
In a recent report by the NYS the numbers show that around 80% of the people
trafficked in NYS are without immigration status. The same report also shows
that there are 5000 T-visas (visas issued to people who have been trafficked
into the USA) that can be issued each year and the past 10 years, approximately
2000 visas have been issued. The obvious question is then, “Does the law
serve its purpose?”
In my interviews with various people one of the common issues that came up
was the frustration with law enforcement. Why, for example, is it necessary for
New York State Police to complete training in spotting victims of trafficking
but deemed not necessary for NYPD to receive the same training?
What can I do?
Most victims of trafficking are unaware that they are being trafficked or
enslaved and seldom come forward and state that they have been trafficked. Most
times they come forward for something else, i.e. receiving healthcare or
perhaps good Samaritans (everyday people who stretch out a hand) seeing that
something is not normal and take action. In situations that involved bad
working conditions, I was encouraged not to view it as merely a poor working
condition but looking at it through the lens of human rights. Awareness is the
key and the New York slogan – “If you see something, say
something!” has never been more relevant or appropriate.
If you would like to learn more on Human Trafficking in the USA, please