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The War on Human Trafficking

The War on Human Trafficking: U.S. Policy Assessed

Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The War on Human Trafficking
    Book Description:

    The United States has taken the lead in efforts to end international human trafficking-the movement of peoples from one country to another, usually involving fraud, for the purpose of exploiting their labor. Examples that have captured the headlines include the 300 Chinese immigrants that were smuggled to the United States on the ship Golden Venture and the young Mexican women smuggled by the Cadena family to Florida where they were forced into prostitution and confined in trailers.The public's understanding of human trafficking is comprised of terrible stories like these, which the media covers in dramatic, but usually short-lived bursts. The more complicated, long-term story of how policy on trafficking has evolved has been largely ignored. In The War on Human Trafficking, Anthony M. DeStefano covers a decade of reporting on the policy battles that have surrounded efforts to abolish such practices, helping readers to understand the forced labor of immigrants as a major global human rights story.DeStefano details the events leading up to the creation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the federal law that first addressed the phenomenon of trafficking in persons. He assesses the effectiveness of the 2000 law and its progeny, showing the difficulties encountered by federal prosecutors in building criminal cases against traffickers. The book also describes the tensions created as the Bush Administration tried to use the trafficking laws to attack prostitution and shows how the American response to these criminal activities was impacted by the events of September 11th and the War in Iraq.Parsing politics from practice, this important book gets beyond sensational stories of sexual servitude to show that human trafficking has a much broader scope and is inextricable from the powerful economic conditions that impel immigrants to put themselves at risk.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4157-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxx)

    As a journalist, I realize that many good stories evolve from serendipity. That is what happened during my trip to Romania in the summer of 2000. July of that year happened to be particularly hot: temperatures rose higher than one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity was also high, and drought conditions persisted, making life in Bucharest uncomfortable. So on one particularly sweltering afternoon I retreated to the bar in the Sovitel Hotel and ordered a Coke to quench my thirst.

    I had taken only a few sips of my drink when my cell phone chirped. The caller was Iana Matei, a...

  6. Chapter 1 The Barrio Girls
    (pp. 1-8)

    For the young girls from Santiago Tuxtla, their journey to a personal hell invariably began when those big, fancy American cars drove into the little Mexican town some thirty miles south of the port city of Veracruz.

    Santiago Tuxtla was not a beaming metropolis, but it wasn’t the worst place in the world either. Its population of 51,000 lived in an area bordered on the west by green hills and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico. In the nice section of town, Hollywood stars Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito had once filmed scenes for their movie...

  7. Chapter 2 The Emerging Issue
    (pp. 9-15)

    By the late 1990s, following the much-publicized Cadena and deaf-Mexican forced labor cases, American law enforcement officials had become acutely aware of other instances of immigrants in human trafficking situations. From the Northern Mariana Islands to Chicago, Bethesda, Maryland, New York, and other cities, investigators were discovering cases of migrants who had been forced or tricked into jobs that usually involved prostitution, although officials were finding instances of garment sweatshop labor as well.

    In a number of publicized cases, the immigrants were women from Asia (primarily Korea, China, and Thailand) or Eastern Europe (usually the Czech Republic, Latvia, or Ukraine)....

  8. Chapter 3 The Global Response
    (pp. 16-29)

    After concerted effort in the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. prosecutors succeeded in successfully attacking some forms of traditional organized crime, including La Cosa Nostra. The Five Families of the New York Mafia—Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese—were the focus of a number of prosecutions; and arrests and prison sentences thinned their leadership and culled their membership. American officials used potent enforcement tools such as racketeering laws, witness protection programs, and electronic surveillance to attack the Mob. These efforts didn’t wipe out organized crime in the United States, but they certainly delivered some crippling blows, damaging the syndicates so...

  9. Chapter 4 “We Need This Bill”
    (pp. 30-45)

    In the early summer of 2000, when Los Angeles police asked Shaefeli Akhtar her age, she couldn’t answer them with certainty. She might have been twenty-eight years old, maybe twenty-nine. In Bangladesh her family didn’t keep good records, and neither did that country’s local authorities. But even if she had had access to her records, they wouldn’t have done the young, bruised woman any good: she was illiterate. In any case Akhtar’s age wasn’t the most important thing about her. She had a more disturbing story to relate.¹

    Akhtar told police that she had arrived in southern California in July...

  10. Chapter 5 The Learning Curve
    (pp. 46-51)

    With the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), American law enforcement officials had, by the beginning of 2001, more legal clout and better tools to deal with human trafficking. Not only did the statute codify the offense of trafficking and related crimes, but it also increased the penalties for those convicted. And the U.N. protocol, while not an American statute, nevertheless validated trafficking’s priority as a federal concern. The U.N. document also set the stage for the steady legislative changes in other nations that complemented the Washington initiatives.

    The FBI focused closely on human trafficking, and bureau officials...

  11. Chapter 6 The Lady from Pitesti
    (pp. 52-59)

    After September 11 the United States realized that it needed the sustained cooperation of law enforcement in other countries to make any headway against terrorism. This meant that American officials had to build relationships with their counterparts abroad and in some cases provide funding and technical assistance to beef up their law enforcement and intelligence capabilities—not only in anti-terrorism investigations but in other areas of law enforcement, particularly human trafficking.

    As I have discussed, trafficking is an element of global migration; and problems that propel emigrants to either seek out human smugglers or fall victim to a trafficker have...

  12. Chapter 7 Finding Leku
    (pp. 60-68)

    In the days immediately after September 11, I met with three men in the nearly deserted lobby of the 1930s-vintage Lido Hotel in Bucharest. All were police officials from Macedonia, but only one—a tall man I will call Peter—was able to speak competent English.¹ Drinks were served, and the Macedonians lit their ubiquitous cigarettes. The whole scene looked like the setting of an espionage movie.

    The men had traveled to the hotel to talk about terrorism and trafficking. Traditionally, law enforcement had not connected those problems. But since trafficking involved illegal immigration, it was logical to believe that...

  13. Chapter 8 Sweat, Toil, and Tears
    (pp. 69-85)

    One complaint raised about the state department’s annual trafficking reports was that they emphasized sex trafficking cases and thus paid too little attention to other kinds of servitude, especially those involving labor exploitation. In the three years after the TVPA’s enactment, federal prosecutions were also heavily weighted toward sex cases. But traffickers were clearly exploiting an even greater number of workers in a variety of other industries, as well as household employees toiling anonymously in seemingly respectable homes.

    One of the largest forced labor cases ever to come to federal attention occurred in the group of islands known as American...

  14. Chapter 9 Sexual Slavery: The Immigrant’s Gilded Cage
    (pp. 86-101)

    As the Cadena case had shown, sex trafficking cases were filled with particular human rights abuses. They invariably involved prostitution and sex-related businesses such as nightclubs that featured topless dances. Like labor trafficking cases, they depended on coercion, sometimes with overt force to back up their intimidation. The migrants found themselves indebted to their masters, much as agricultural and domestic workers were. But sex trafficking was particularly odious because sex lay at the core of the economic transactions that supported the exploitation. In its worst forms sex trafficking involved rape, physical violence, and the special degradation that arises from being...

  15. Chapter 10 New Initiatives, More Controversy
    (pp. 102-117)

    As i’ve noted, the TVPA gave law enforcement more legal ammunition to deal with trafficking; and almost immediately after its passage in 2000, federal officials tried to apply the statute against suspected traffickers. Some of those attempts had mixed results. But by 2003, when certain funding provisions of the act were due to expire, officials had close to three years’ worth of experience with the law and could tell what did and did not work well.

    In 2003 members of Congress introduced new legislation aimed at refining the law, extending appropriations, and strengthening the government’s ability to combat trafficking domestically...

  16. Chapter 11 The Bully Pulpit
    (pp. 118-127)

    Throughout its history the United States has not been shy about behaving like a moral leader and using its clout and dollars to set an agenda. After passing the TVPA, the U.S. government used its bully pulpit to influence other nations’ efforts at dealing appropriately with trafficking. The U.N. protocol included provisions requiring signatory countries to pass domestic trafficking laws. But while the language of some of its provisions was mandatory (particularly those dealing with assistance to victims), others had what Ann Jordan of the Washington-based NGO Global Rights called “weaker terms, such as ‘in appropriate cases’ and ‘to the...

  17. Chapter 12 Measuring Effectiveness
    (pp. 128-141)

    Since passage of the TVPA, the federal government has spent tens of millions of dollars on various anti-trafficking programs, commenced scores of criminal prosecutions, and undertaken numerous international initiatives. How effective have these actions been? As I will show, this question is not easy to answer.

    Because it spells out the components of U.S. trafficking policy, the TVPA can also frame an analysis of that policy. The Clinton administration had designed its original policy around the Three Ps: prosecution, protection, and prevention. The Bush administration essentially stayed with those ideals, fitting its abolitionist aims into the prevention category.

    Of the...

  18. Chapter 13 Final Thoughts
    (pp. 142-146)

    When I visited Eastern Europe in the summer of 2000, the subject of human trafficking had begun to captivate journalists everywhere. Lurid stories about sex slaves and forced prostitution were ideal fodder for the tabloid press, even making the occasional chewy story in broadsheet newspapers such as theNew York Timesand theWashington Post. After politicians took over the situation, the result was significant legislation that has helped to spawn a new federal bureaucracy, pumping tens of millions of dollars abroad and nearly as much into domestic programs. Putting aside the fact that it is difficult to figure out...

  19. Appendix
    (pp. 147-150)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 151-166)
  21. Index
    (pp. 167-176)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 177-178)