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Human Trafficking in the United States: Types and History

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Rights
Wordcount: 2658 words Published: 5th Aug 2019

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Human Trafficking is indeed a social deviance. In fact, its role in the building of our great nation is astounding. The exploitation and dehumanizing of people was once considered a social norm by some segments of society, just as it in present day. Those who oppose, start organizations to inform and eradicate such blatant disregard for human dignity and life, just as those in the past did. Human trafficking has different types and they can be found in many of the segments of our society, For example, sex trade, farm industries, debt bondage. While the focus of this paper is Human trafficking in the United States, it occurs globally. Technological advances, such, as the internet, virtual worlds, and the cell phone have had a tremendous effect on the continued practice and growth of Human Trafficking.  It seems that while the times change, behavior/social deviance remains the same, it’s just called something else

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 A Look at Human Trafficking

While human trafficking occurs globally, the focus of this paper will be of its existence in the United States. Although the name today is different, human trafficking, it is in fact slavery, human enslavement.  End Slavery Now says, “there are 20.9 million people trapped in some form of slavery today. It’s sometimes called “Modern-Day Slavery” and sometimes “Human Trafficking.” At all times it is slavery at its core.”

“Human trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit. In some cases, traffickers’ trick, defraud or physically force victims into providing commercial sex. In others, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions. It is a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 24.9 million people around the world.” (polarisproject.org)

The United Nations defines human trafficking as:  “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” (sf-hrc.org)

The three (3) most common types of human trafficking are, Sex Trafficking, Forced Labor, which according to the United States Department of State, is the largest sector of trafficking, and Debt Bondage.  Additionally, the Polaris group recognizes 25 human trafficking business model types in the United States. These models are, Recreational Facilities; Health Care; Forestry & Logging; Carnivals; Remote Interactive Sexual Acts; Factories & Manufacturing; Commercial Cleaning Services; Arts & Entertainment;  Illicit Activities; Landscaping; Hotels & Hospitality; Construction; Health &Beauty Services; Personal Sexual Servitude; Agriculture & Animal Husbandry; Peddling & Begging; Restaurants & Food Service; Traveling Sales Crews; Pornography; Bars, Strip Clubs,& Cantinas; Domestic Work; Residential; Outdoor Solicitation; Illicit Massage & Beauty; and Escort Services. Clearly, human trafficking exists in many aspects and segments of our society. (Polarisproject.org).

Sex trafficking is when women, men or children are forced into the commercial sex industry and held against their will by force, fraud or coercion. (EndSlaveryNow.org).

Forced Labor, another form of human trafficking, is work under the threat of violence and for no pay. They are treated as property and exploited to create a product for commercial sale. (EndSlaveryNow.org).

A normal work day for labor trafficking victims in domestic work is 12=18 hours per day with some 24/7 for little or no pay. Many of the traffickers are wealthy and sometimes from the victim’s home country. Because of trafficker’s status, (one of power), A-3 & G-5 visa holders’ victims are extremely vulnerable due to intimidation. Victims are predominately middle-aged to older aged, women from the Philippines while many are U.S. citizens or survivors from Latin America, India and many countries covering Sub-Saharan Africa, (polarisproject.org).

Bonded Labor, the most common form of enslavement in the world, is when people are made to work in order to repay a debt and are unable to leave until the debt is repaid.  U.S. law prohibits the use of a debt or similar threat of financial harm as a form of coercion for forced labor. The earliest U.S. legislation outlawing bonded labor following emancipation of U.S. slaves in 1865. Peonage was its Spanish name.  Former slave holders and white Americans in need of labor for their workforce, after the civil war, developed ways to force African Americans to work. African American were arrested and fined for various crimes, because these former slaves had little money, they couldn’t pay the fines. White businessmen forced the emancipated slaves to take on debts in exchange for paying them. The bonds held over the slave’s heads were exploited to the point where they could never be repaid. (EndSlaveryNow.org).

The following timeline, (nationalgeographical.org), is included to aid in understanding the evolution of slavery/human trafficking, mainly Forced Labor, in the United States and American society’s’ disposition.


  • Spanish and Portuguese settlers bring slaves from Africa to the Americas
  • Santo Domingo, New World’s first international slave port


  • Colonial America’s slave trade ship, Desire, built and launched in Massachusetts. Cargo included a group of imprisoned Pequot Indians shipped to Bermuda in exchange for salt, cotton, tobacco, and Negroes. (nationalgeographic.org)


  • Slavery Legalized, Massachusetts first state to officially legalize


  • Pennsylvania Quakers pass Germantown Quaker Petition Against slavery. First formal anti-slavery resolution in what would become the United States.


  • Virginia passes penalty for manumission, a law making it financially risky for owners to free slaves.


  • South Carolina slaves prohibited from hiring themselves out., eliminating a valuable means of establishment of some independence; acquisition of new skills; and formation of communication outside their owners’ household


  • Quakers Prohibit Slavery


  • First Abolition Society formed. The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage.
  • Vermont first state to abolish slavery


  • Freedom Suit.  Establishes precedent for legal end of slavery in Massachusetts.


  • Northwest Ordinance established, Forbid slavery in the Northwest Territory.
  • Prince Hall Freemasonry, lodge providing services to black community and lobbying against slavery and discrimination, formed.


  • United States Constitution ratified with two provisions applicable to slavery.


  • Naturalization Act of 1790 denies naturalization to anyone not a free white, freeman slaves, Native Americans, indentured servants, and Asians. Although amended several times, the race-based prohibitions remained in place until after civil war.


  • Second Great Awaking. Period of religious revivalism, slaves convert to Christianity in large numbers for first time. Formation of African Methodist Episcopal in south and African Methodist Episcopal Zion in the north.


  • The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves formulated. Notably, the law outlawed slave trade, not slavery.


  •  Missouri Compromise.
  • Slavery forbidden in the Louisiana territory north of Missouri’s Southern border.
  • Maine admitted to union as a free state and Missouri as a slave state.


  • Liberia founded as a colony for African Americans fleeing the United States
  • The American Colonization Society’s “back to Africa” movement.


  • Mexico abolishes Slavery.
  • Becomes refuge for American fugitive slaves
  • Conflict between Mexico & its territories in Texas,
  • Independent Republic of Texas makes Texas slave state in 1845.


  • Anti-Abolitionist Riots
  • Many Northerners thought that immediate abolition would threaten the economy and culture of the United States
  • Resentment of black freeman among recently arrived Irish immigrants


  • U.S. House of Representatives adopts “gag rule” to automatically table all issues pertaining to abolition.


  • Anti-Slavery Society Split over the issue of women’s rights.
  • Gap exposed between moderate abolitionist, who supported peaceful change through existing social structure, and radical abolitionist who supported immediate recognition of the human rights of all people.


  • Free Soil Party, a political party opposed to westward expansion of slavery, formed by Anti-slavery groups. Focused on the economic threats’ slavery posed to labor in western territories.


  • The Clotilde, last slave ship to bring slaves into the United States, lands in Mobile Bay, Alabama.


  • Abraham Lincoln Elected president of United States


  • Civil War.
  • Confederate Vice President, Alexander Stephens says that the institution of African slavery was the immediate cause of civil war.


  • Emancipation. Proclamation

December 18, 1865

  • Slavery Abolished
  •  United States Constitution, Amendment XIII, Section 1: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction
  • Section 2: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

This timeline shows the history of, human trafficking, specifically, Forced Labor, as well as the views held by society at various times.

The United States Trafficking Protection Reauthorization Act defines sex trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of an individual who under force, fraud or coercion is induced to perform a commercial sex act. Sex trafficking is a crime when women, men and/or children are forcefully involved in commercial sex acts. Any minor under the age of 18 engaged in commercial sex acts is automatically considered a victim of sex trafficking under the law in the United States. (EndSlaveryNow.org).

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Physical violence is used by traffickers more often in outdoor solicitation than in in other types of sex trafficking, in addition to isolation from support networks; and inducing and exploiting substance abuse to maintain control of victims. Recruitment is achieved by the traffickers posing as a romantic partner or exploiting an existing intimate relationship. Economic and emotional support are also tools used when victim is vulnerable in those areas. Sex Traffickers tend to operate independently than in networks with other traffickers. There has been documentation of some domestic gang influences. Sex Trafficking within residences informally used as brothels usually involve child victims, with boys making up a growing percentage. (Polaris 2017).

Human trafficking, referred to as modern day slavery is the second most profitable criminal enterprise in the United States. (Department of homeland Security, 2018). Because of its many forms, getting an accurate account of the number of victims and perpetrators is difficult.  Technology has been beneficial to both law enforcement and traffickers.  Traffickers can entrap victims, advertise their services and cover up their own illegal activities using social media, communication platforms, accessibility of on-line advertisements and encrypted messaging apps. Law enforcement and governments can locate the root of trafficking rings and stop it at its core. Banks and corporates are pressed to innovate and improve their systems to themselves for the purpose of spotting any nefarious activity and feeding data back into the global effort to stop trafficking. One example of technological innovation against human trafficking is Microsoft PhotoDNA. (Globalbankingandfinance, 2018).

To conclude, Human trafficking is indeed modern-day slavery and has been around throughout the history of the United States. It occurs globally. There are many business model types of human trafficking.  There are many groups against human trafficking. Polaris, End of slavery Now and the San Francisco Human Relations Commission are just a few. Technology has benefited both traffickers and the Law enforcement. Despite all the technological advances, Human trafficking continues to thrive worldwide.



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