Modern day slavery is on the move in Southern California.

A man shot multiple times a few days ago in Moreno Valley, the Riverside Press Enterprise reports, was likely a victim of human smuggling.  The Riverside County incident points to a recent trend noted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.  Human traffickers are shifting operations from Los Angeles to the Riverside and San Bernardino areas.

The problem expands far beyond Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino.  More help is needed.

What Is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the process by which a person is recruited to be controlled and held captive for the purpose of exploitation.

It involves the use of coercion, deception, or force, and places men, women, and children in slavery or slavery-like conditions.

How Big Is The Trafficking Problem?

Estimates compiled by the Coalition To Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) show the staggering magnitude of human trafficking:

  • Approximately 27 million people are enslaved around the world
  • It is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the 21st century – a nine billion dollar industry
  • The majority of victims are women and children.  14,500 to 17,500 persons are trafficked into the U.S. each year.  70% of the victims are women, 50% are children.
  • The U.S. is one of the top three countries for trafficked victims.  California, Texas, and New York are the leading U.S. destinations.
  • About 10,000 women are being held in Los Angeles underground brothels.  This figure does not include those who are involved in domestic work, sweatshops, and other informal industries in Los Angeles.

Uniting To Meet The Challenge

Trafficking cannot be fully understood just in terms of statistics.  Trafficking is about human lives.  Humans living in degrading situations as modern day slaves.

One survivor recently shared her story in a video interview.  She was taken from her hometown at the age of 15, with promises of work in the U.S.   Upon her arrival, she was sold for $200.  She was beaten, raped, and often forced to work 18-20 hours per day until her owner died.

Most trafficking victims lack adequate English skills, financial resources, and identity documents.  Their ability to defend themselves is non-existent.

A few non-profits, like CAST, have emerged to lead the crusade against trafficking.  But the fight is too big for any organization on its own.

As a Riverside immigration attorney, I recently agreed to join the fight.  After participating in a day long course on how to effectively represent trafficking survivors, I decided to help victims on a pro bono basis.

I strongly encourage my fellow bar members in Southern California and other parts of the country to consider helping organizations like CAST.  Trafficking survivors need more allies.

As an immigration lawyer, fighting trafficking is a worthy endeavor.

Slavery demeans all of us.