Intro to human trafficking



Human Trafficking in California
As a diverse cultural center and popular destination for immigrants with multiple international borders, California is one of the largest sites of human trafficking in the United States. In the two years between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2012, California's task forces initiated 2,552 investigations, identified 1,277 victims of human trafficking, and arrested 1,798 individuals. -- State of Human Trafficking in California, 2012





In the midst of the gigantic bleat for more water, the direst threats against any governmental interference in over-pumping from surface sources and groundwater, and -- may the Almighty preserve our sanity one more time -- another election years, we thought we might entertain a serious topic, one that everybody knows plays a significant role in "our Valley way of life," human trafficking.
Because they are illegal and often live in remote, hidden locations in the country, though sometimes right under our noses in town, and because we have been conditioned all our lives partaking in the "Valley way of life," to ignore the issue, we rarely think about undocumented workers, and rarer still, do we think about the issue of forced labor, bonded servitude, coerced labor, or imagine that that there is any issue of bondage in the system of the wholesale trafficking of undocumented or fraudulently documented migrant workers in California. Nobody involved in the system has any incentive to talk openly about it. Occasionally, the media will do some exposures and governmental hearings will be called. But soon after, the issue is smothered again under the weight of the general hypocrisy of political economic system that supports this lucrative trade in bonded labor and sex slavery.
Here is a press release from the California Attorney General's office and links to a study completed in 2012. It is conservative in its figures, and quite legalistic, but it's an introduction to the problem. There are also some other examples from recent press coverage in Washington State and California. -- blj
Ed. note: several more articles were added later on 6-30-14.





The State of Human Trafficking in California, 2012



Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery. It involves controlling a person through force, fraud, or coercion to exploit the victim for forced labor, sexual exploitation, or both. Human trafficking strips victims of their freedom and violates our nation’s promise that every person in the United States is guaranteed basic human rights. It is also a crime.
Approximately three out of every 1,000 persons worldwide were in forced labor at any given point in time between 2002 and 2011. Victims of human trafficking include not only men and women lured into forced labor by the promise of a better life in the United States, but also boys and girls who were born and raised here in California.
Victims of human trafficking represent a range of backgrounds in terms of age, nationality, socioeconomic status, and education, but one characteristic that they usually share is some form of vulnerability. They are often isolated from their families and social networks. In some cases, victims are separated from their country of origin, native language, and culture.
Victims who are undocumented immigrants often do not report abuses to the authorities out of distrust of law enforcement, and/or fear of arrest, injury to family members, deportation, or other serious reprisals. Many domestic victims of sex trafficking are underage runaways and/or come from backgrounds of sexual and physical abuse, incest, poverty, or addiction.
Definitions of Human Trafficking


The California Legislature defined human trafficking as "all acts involved in the recruitment, abduction, transport, harboring, transfer, sale or receipt of persons, within national or across international borders, through force, coercion, fraud or deception, to place persons in situations of slavery or slavery-like conditions, forced labor or services, such as forced prostitution or sexual services, domestic servitude, bonded sweatshop labor, or other debt bondage."
As codified in the California Penal Code, anyone who "deprives or violates the personal liberty of another with the intent . . . to obtain forced labor or services" is guilty of human trafficking. Depriving or violating a person's liberty includes "substantial and sustained restriction of another's liberty accomplished through fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or to another person, under circumstances where the person receiving or apprehending the threat reasonably believes that it is likely that the person making the threat would carry it out."
Forced labor or services include "labor or services that are performed or provided by a person and are obtained or maintained through force, fraud, or coercion, or equivalent conduct that would reasonably overbear the will of the person."


Federal law defines trafficking in persons as "sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age"; or "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery."

International Labour Organization (ILO)

The ILO, an agency of 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 of 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. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the removal of organs."
Difference between Human Trafficking and Smuggling
Though they are often confused, human trafficking and smuggling are separate and fundamentally different crimes. Human trafficking is a crime against the person whereas smuggling is a crime against the state. Smuggling occurs when a person voluntarily requests or hires a person, known as a smuggler, to transport him or her across a border for a fee.
At least theoretically, a person who is smuggled into the United States is free to leave upon payment of a prearranged fee, while a victim of human trafficking is enslaved to supply labor or services. Unlike smuggling, the crime of human trafficking does not require travel or transportation of the victim across borders. Thus, human trafficking can (and does) occur domestically, with victims who are born and raised in California and other states.
Human Trafficking in the United States
The United States is widely regarded as a destination country for human trafficking. Federal reports estimate that 14,500 to 17,500 victims are trafficked into the United States annually. This does not include the number of victims who are trafficked within the United States each year.
Human Trafficking in California
As a diverse cultural center and popular destination for immigrants with multiple international borders, California is one of the largest sites of human trafficking in the United States. In the two years between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2012, California's task forces initiated 2,552 investigations, identified 1,277 victims of human trafficking, and arrested 1,798 individuals.
Types of Human Trafficking

Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking is the act of forcing, coercing, or transporting a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act. These crimes are primarily committed against women and children. Sex trafficking can occur in residential brothels, brothels disguised as massage parlors, strip clubs, and via online escort services and street prostitution.
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Labor Trafficking

Labor trafficking is the act of forcing a person to work for little or no money. It can include forced labor in underground markets and sweatshops, as well as legitimate businesses such as hotels, factories, restaurants, construction sites, farming, landscaping, nail salons, and traveling sales crews.
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Domestic Servitude

A form of labor trafficking, domestic servitude often involves women who are forced to live and work in the homes of employers who confiscate their legal documents and prevent them from leaving. Domestic workers can be U.S. citizens, lawfully-admitted foreign nationals, or undocumented immigrants.
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What Is The Farm Guest Worker Program And Why Is It Controversial In Wash. State?
People in Seattle are familiar with the H-1B visa program that brings high-tech employees from abroad, but another, more obscure foreign worker program has churned up a lot of controversy in the state recently.
It’s called the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program, and it’s administered by the Department of Labor. Under that system, farms apply to bring foreign workers here temporarily — and legally — if they can prove they’re facing a labor shortage.
For Steve Sakuma, board chairman of Sakuma Brothers Farms in Skagit County, the program sounded like a promising solution to fill a labor shortage he says began in 2012 and forced them to leave hundreds of thousands of pounds of berries unpicked.
A few weeks ago, Sakuma led a few reporters on a tour of his family’s berry farm in Burlington, north of Seattle. Rows and rows of berry plants stretch out in the distance. The farm began as a small operation in 1935 when Sakuma’s father moved there from Bainbridge Island.
The family managed to hold onto their land through the help of a family friend, even though many of the Sakumas were sent to Japanese internment camps during World War II. After they returned, they gradually were able to buy more acreage.
“Over time, it just grew and grew, and grew as our family grew,” Sakuma said.
Worker Strikes 
Like all farmers, the Sakumas face uncertainties, such as the weather, the price they can get for their produce and their ability to find the right number of workers.
But last year, the harvest was tumultuous because many of their workers formed a workers’ association, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, and walked out on repeated strikes. TV crews descended as hundreds of berry pickers, mostly indigenous Mexican workers from Oaxaca, refused to work, protesting their pay and the firing of a couple of employees who had spoken out.



Steve Sakuma
Credit Brett Davis / Washington Farm Bureau
Around the same time, the Sakumas brought in about 70 Mexican guest workers under the H-2A program. Steve Sakuma says the family decided to turn to guest workers after not being able to find enough workers in 2012.
“That caused us to look at the H-2A program, because it was the only tool out there that provides us the opportunity to have some level of control of inputs to have the right labor force required when we needed it,” Sakuma said.
Then this year, the farm applied for many more guest workers. The farm also told hundreds of strikers from last year that they wouldn’t be hired this year because they had unexcused absences and hadn’t completed the contract.
Workers ' Lawsuit
The workers’ association sued the farm and a Skagit County judge issued a temporary restraining order in their favor, telling Sakuma Brothers that they had to allow workers who had gone on strike last year to apply to work this year.
So the farm has now reversed course. The farm says it is not going to hire H-2A workers this year and will just hire locally.
“We recognize that it is a risk to go in this direction given that the H-2A program provided us a safety net for securing a labor force, but we are hopeful that working with local community farm worker advocates we will be able to hire the work force we need,” Sakuma said in a press release.
Labor Shortage?

...The Sakumas opted out, but use of the H-2A program has surged across the state. The number of H-2A positions certified in Washington has grown from 1,984 in 2009 to 6,251 last year. Washington ranked fifth in the country last year for the number of H-2A positions certified, even ahead of California.
Dan Fazio is with Washington Farm Labor Association, a nonprofit group that manages H-2A applications for many farms in the state. He says what’s driving the growth is that farmers can’t find sufficient workers.
“We last had serious labor shortages in 2006, and I’m predicting we’re going to have labor shortages again this year,” Fazio said.
...,He says there are many reasons farms have had a tough time finding people lately, including the tightening of the U.S.–Mexico border.
“The border’s closing is one of them. There are less workers. The workers are aging and no longer willing to do that,” Fazio said. “And, of course, the primary driver is that people don’t want to do seasonal work.”
But not everyone is convinced there’s a labor shortage. Among them is Nina Martinez of the worker advocacy group Latino Civic Alliance.
“I’m hearing that the growers say they can’t recruit, and then we hear from the farmworkers directly from themselves that it’s not true, that they’re showing up to these farms and wanting to apply and work,” Martinez said.
Fazio points to state surveys that show farmers haven’t been able to find all the workers they need. Martinez says if there is so much demand, why haven’t wages risen?
H-2A Program Design
The reason why this is important is that farmworkers who are already here have little chance of agitating for better conditions if they can be easily replaced.
The guest worker program is designed with built-in disincentives in order to prevent farmers from using it as a substitute labor pool.
The H-2A program has a lot of red tape and can be expensive, because farmers have to pay to transport workers here and back and must pay a higher minimum wage. In Washington this year, the minimum wage under the H-2A program is $11.87 per hour, compared with the state's $9.32 minimum wage. Farmers also have to apply that higher minimum wage to all domestic employees if they employ H-2A workers.
Nevertheless, historian Cindy Hahamovitch of the College of William and Mary says farmers have long advocated for guest worker programs.
“You can request a certain number of workers. They’re supposed to arrive when you need them. They go away when you don’t want them anymore,” Hahamovitch said. “It makes perfect sense that this would be a desirable program, and if you’re faced with a farm labor union that’s stirring things up, then there’s even more incentive.”
Past Legal Troubles
Here in Washington in recent years, some domestic fruit pickers have been fighting in court, saying they were denied work because farms hired H-2A workers instead, even though they’re supposed to hire domestic workers first.
Apple pickers in Yakima Valley successfully sued, saying they lost out on work because two farms hired H-2A workers from Thailand. Their attorney, Joe Morrison with Columbia Legal Services, says what’s more, Global Horizons, the company that brought the Thai workers here, illegally charged them $10,000 to $12,000 apiece to get those jobs.
“It’s really bringing in indentured servants to this country, and that’s one of the most extreme cases we had ever seen,” Morrison said. “So that’s the height of abuse.”
Dan Fazio of the Washington Farm Labor Association defends the H-2A program, saying it’s good for farmers and workers. Farmers get a legal, stable source of labor, and workers can make a lot more money than they do at home.

The H-2A issue is likely to come up again, if and when Congress moves ahead with immigration reform. Farmers want it to be streamlined and easier to use, and worker advocates want it more closely monitored. 










Feds file human-trafficking suit against farm labor contractor





LOS ANGELES, California - The federal government is calling a human-trafficking lawsuit against a California-based farm labor contractor and eight farms the largest case of alleged forced labor of farm workers in the United States.
The lawsuit, made public Tuesday in Los Angeles by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accused Global Horizons Manpower Inc., based in Beverly Hills, California, and eight farms in Hawaii and Washington state of luring more than 200 men from Thailand to work at farms where they were subjected to abuse.
The government alleges that between 2003 and 2007, Global Horizons promised hundreds of workers lucrative jobs in the United States, and then charged the workers exorbitant recruitment fees that they were expected to work to pay off. In some cases, according the lawsuit, the workers owed tens of thousands of dollars.
Telephone numbers listed for Global Horizons offices in Hawaii and California were not in service Wednesday. The company did not respond to a CNN e-mail request for comment.
The men were brought to the United States under a federal H2-A visa program, which places foreign workers on U.S. farms. But once the men arrived, the suit says, their passports were confiscated and they were not paid for their work. It also alleges that many of the workers were barred from leaving the farms and were forced to live in cramped, dirty conditions.
In many cases, the Thai workers were threatened with deportation if they complained about the conditions, the lawsuit said.
The government named six farms in Hawaii and two farms in Washington in the lawsuit, alleging the companies not only ignored abuses but participated in the "obvious mistreatment, intimidation, harassment, and unequal pay of the Thai workers."
"Upon arriving to the U.S., their passports were confiscated and they were threatened with deportation if they complained," Michael Farrell, an EEOC attorney said during a news conference in Honolulu announcing details of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges the workers endured screaming, threats and physical assaults by their supervisors.
"In some cases bodyguards were stationed around the farms to ensure that none of the workers escaped," Farrell told CNN affiliate KHON.
Federal criminal charges were brought last year against Global Horizons' owner, Mordechai Orian, and others for the alleged trafficking of more than 400 Thai workers.
Tuesday marked the first time the federal government implicated farms in the case. None of the farms face criminal charges.
The farms in Hawaii include: Captain Cook Coffee Co., Del Monte Fresh Produce, Kauai Coffee Co., Kelena Farms, MacFarms of Hawaii and Maui Pineapple Farms. The farms in Washington state were identified as Green Acre Farms and Valley Fruit Orchards.
Telephone messages left by CNN seeking comment were not immediately returned by Del Monte, Kauai Coffee Co. and Mac Farms of Hawaii. There was no answer at Maui Pineapple Farms, and the owner of Captain Cook Coffee Co. declined to comment until he had read the lawsuit.
A telephone message left by CNN for the attorney representing the Washington farms was not immediately returned.
The federal lawsuit accuses Global Horizons and the farms of violating the Civil Rights Act. It is seeking back pay and monetary damages of between $50,000 and $300,000 for each worker. The EEOC said that the case could potentially involve hundreds of victims and witnesses.
The case was brought to the attention of the government by the Thai Community Development Center in Los Angeles after a number of farm workers reached out to the nonprofit agency for help.

Six teen prostitutes rescued in Bay Area child-sex sting
By David DeBolt
POSTED:   06/24/2014 05:53:42 AM PDT26 COMMENTS| UPDATED:   6 DAYS AGO

OAKLAND -- Six teens forced to work as prostitutes were rescued, and dozens of suspected johns and pimps were arrested over the weekend as part of a nationwide sting targeting child-sex trafficking, authorities announced Monday.
Officers fanned out in every corner of the Bay Area for 14 operations, arresting 54 johns, 13 pimps and 57 adult prostitutes and rescuing six minors forced into prostitution -- one as young as 15 -- as part of Operation Cross Country, now in its eighth year.
Child prostitutes were taken off the streets in Oakland, Santa Clara, San Francisco, South San Francisco and Contra Costa County, authorities said.
"These may just be numbers or statistics, but we remember that behind each one of those numbers, each one of those statistics is a person and a life," said FBI Special Agent in Charge John Lightfoot.
Nationally, 168 children were rescued and 281 pimps arrested, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Twenty prostitutes were arrested along International Boulevard in East Oakland and San Pablo Avenue in West Oakland, both hot spots for prostitution. A 16-year-old girl from Texas, who was exploited by a boyfriend, was among the 20, said Lt. Kevin Wiley.
All of the women and girls were offered services to help them get off the streets, Wiley said.
Sex trafficking is a growing criminal enterprise, said Oakland police Chief Sean Whent. "When you think of human trafficking, you think of something that occurs elsewhere in the world, but in reality it exists alive and well in cities across this country, including the city of Oakland."
Marin County law enforcement agents arrested 22 johns and nine prostitutes. In the Contra Costa cities of Concord and Pittsburg, two pimps, and six adult prostitutes were arrested, officials said. And in San Jose, 16 adult prostitutes and four johns were arrested.
Names of those arrested were not released.
The arrests were announced at a news conference at the former National Lodge, a hotel on International Boulevard in East Oakland that was once a major hub for prostitution. A judge ordered the hotel to close in 2012 after residents and the Oakland City Attorney's Office provided evidence that the hotel fostered prostitution and relied on the revenue it generated.
The hotel has since been sold and is slated to become a strip mall.
‘These Are Our Children:’ FBI Sting Rescues 168 Human Trafficking Victims
A nation-wide sweep last week by the FBI netted the arrest of almost 300 human traffickers and rescued 168 underage trafficking victims. “Operation Cross Country” was carried out in 106 cities across the U.S., the 8th such sting of its kind by the FBI. Since the beginning of this operation, over 3,600 children have been rescued.
These are not children living in some faraway place, far from everyday life,” FBI Director James Comey said in a press conference Monday. “These are our children. On our streets. Our truck stops. Our motels. These are America’s children.”
There are a multitude of reasons that children get swept up into human trafficking. Here in the U.S., traffickers learn to prey on vulnerable young people: the lonely, the outcast, those with little or no family support. In the video below, Nicole talks about her experience as a trafficked person.
California's Children
Human trafficking
Fresno Big Bro/Big Sis, opens newest runaway Safe Place

March 19, 2014: We're in the middle of National Safe Place Week, highlighting the national 

Safe Place program that "brings together business and volunteers to provide immediate help and safety to teens facing abuse, neglect, bullying or other crisis situations." Prevention is the key, says a spokeswoman in the video below -- because within 72 hours of leaving home, runaways -- an old and low U.S. stat says there are 2.1 million a year -- will be approached (and become a victim), or they will make a decision to commit a crime ... 
There is a national network of Safe Place locations that give support to young people in crisis, the most recent of which is the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Fresno that starts today with an open house  (food and entertainment at 4 p.m., 905 Fulton Street). In Fresno, the Safe Place network currently consists of more than 268 businesses and community buildings that display a black-and-yellow Safe Place sign. Last year, Fresno EOC's Sanctuary Youth Shelter served 254 youth, providing them a safe place during crisis. About 92 percent were reunited with family or introduced to a safe setting upon exit.
(In 2009, Fresno EOC Sanctuary was awarded a federal grant to create the Central Valley Against Human Trafficking program, after the staff became increasingly aware of children arriving at the sanctuary that had a history of trafficking victimization. The region served -- one of the major sex trafficking routes in the nation -- includes the counties of Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern.)
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House approved $868mil to care cope w/ dramatic increase in illegal imm'g of alone-kids from Central America

January 20, 2014:  John Kelly, editor-in-chief of the 

Chronicle of Social Change, highlighted a few items in the Omnibus Spending Bill (there are 12 bills in one) that we missed. As he posted last week:
...It’s always eye-catching when the happy-to-cut House goes ways above the president’s request. So it is with the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program, which is overseen by the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Obama asked for about $500 million, which is well above the $302 million set for the program in 2013 and $267 million in 2012. The House-approved figure for 2014: $868 million.
The program essentially mirrors most foster care assistance for children who arrive as refugees, seeking asylum, or as victims of trafficking....
(However, there are some dangerous differences, as the Pew Charitable Trusts' Stateline reported  last spring: "...Part of the process involves fingerprinting sponsors, but the federal government often lifts that requirement if the sponsor is a parent. Advocates say that in some cases, the children may not have seen their parents for years. There is also a concern that some children are being released to people who claim to be the parents but aren’t. [The Unaccompanied Minors Program] also is not required to do background checks or a 'home study' that includes home visits for every sponsor, and advocates say many sponsors don’t receive either."...)
 Politico noted: 
...In federal-speak these are UAC’s: Unaccompanied Alien Children. Three quarters are male, averaging just over 14... But more girls are showing up...The Women’s Refugee Commission will release a detailed report in mid-October on its own findings from interviewing more than 150 of the children. Already from briefings, it seems clear that the wave of violent crime from drug cartels and trafficking in Central America is a factor.
The WRC report found:  ...Almost all of [the UACs apprehended by the US Border Patrol] told distressing stories of mistreatment at the hands of BP officials, including being dragged along the ground and Tasered, and held in ice-cold cells at BP stations known as la hielera (the freezer). The children were unable to file complaints about the abuse they suffered because they had no Internet access in federal detention....
    ...[HHS] needs new resources to care for poor, unaccompanied minors coming across the southern border from Latin America. The number of these migrants has more than tripled in recent years, and the Obama administration has stepped up efforts to provide housing and place the children with families rather than assign them to detention facilities. But the costs are significant and the $868 million in the draft bill is more than double the 2013 appropriation and significantly above the president’s initial request.
Stateline, the daily news services of the Pew Charitable Trusts, gave statistics in a report last May:
 ...The Border Patrol apprehended 24,481 unaccompanied children in 2012, more than three times than in 2008. Of that total, federal authorities referred a record 13,625 children to [the Unaccompanied Minors Program]...These children, most of them teenagers, are temporarily cared for by the federal government in shelters and group homes in more than a dozen states, including Texas, Illinois, Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Virginia. The federal government foots the bill...The remaining 10,000-plus children caught at the border last year were mostly from Mexico, and many were sent home. 
Most of the children who remain in U.S. custody are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Many say they arefleeing violence from gangs and drug cartels as well as abuse, sometimes by their own family members.Others are trying to break free from poverty and get a better life in the United States, or to reunite with family members already in the states...
Whatever the reason, the increase has been so dramatic that it caught the government and advocates by surprise. In a typical year, federal authorities handled between 7,000 and 8,000 unaccompanied children. The total was 13,625 in 2012. By government estimates, [the number of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. without documentation] could climb to nearly 24,000 [by the middle of this year]...
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LA Supes to crack down on "johns" of minors: Steve Lopez in LAT

September 1, 2013:

 Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez reported yesterday on the intentions of LA County supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Donald Knabe to introduce a resolution calling for a crackdown on johns who patronize underage prostitutes; the motion will call for a, making solicitation of a minor a felony rather than a misdemeanor, raising the fine from $1,000 to $10,000, seizing property if necessary to pay the fine, and making the names of the johns public.
..."...we need to stop calling these girls prostitutes and call it what it is: statutory rape," Ridley-Thomas told [Lopez]... The average age of juveniles entering "this horrible life" is 12...
 Sex trafficking is big business in Los Angeles County... Between 2010 and 2012, according to the county Probation Department, 555 juveniles were arrested for prostitution-related offenses. Authorities believe far, far more are never caught...
Michelle Guymon, who runs a sex trafficking unit for the Probation Department, [said] she underwent a dramatic change in perspective on the girls caught up in this life after getting to know them.
"I always made a judgment about them; I thought it was their choice," she said. "I didn't realize the exploitation and coercion involved..." It was easier to view the 17- and 18-year-old girls as responsible for their own actions, she said. But she discovered they had been involved in the trade for years, having started as runaways from abuse, broken families and foster homes. "When I came across my first 10- and 11-year-olds, I thought, 'There's no way this was a choice.' You don't wake up one day and say this is what you want to do with your life."
Posted at 07:55 AM in Child Abuse and NeglectChild labor Foster ChildrenGangsHuman traffickingLegislationSafety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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AlterNet/Salon reports: From foster care into the sex trade

“People are beginning to realize that juvenile justice is not appropriate to serve sexually exploited children. People are frustrated that those kids are going to the criminal justice system rather than the foster care system, which is designed to help kids." -- Kate Walker, at left, an Equal Justice Works Fellow and attorney at Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law.

Walker was quoted in yesterday's Salon, in an article originally published on AlterNet by Charlotte Silver, "From Foster Care into The Sex Trade," that gives an excellent overview of the work of Oakland's National Center for Youth Law (see history below), and places the late-July FBI sting on sex-trafficking of minors in context. 
 Previously reported on this topic: March 1, 2013: In a report issued yesterday, "Ending Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California, the Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law asks that the state  Child Welfare Council create a commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) action committee.
Continue reading "AlterNet/Salon reports: From foster care into the sex trade" »
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FBI sex-trafficking sting highlights vulnerability of CA's foster kids

July 30, 2013: A three-day, nation-wide sting, "Operation Cross Country," in 76 cities resulted in the rescue of 105 sexually exploited children 13-17, nearly all females, the FBI announced yesterday.  The largest raid was in the San Francisco area, where officers said they rescued 12 juveniles and arrested 17 pimps. In the Los Angeles area, two juveniles were recovered and three people arrested.

The Los Angeles Times story by Alexei Koseff reported that the results of the sting brings "renewed attention to the vulnerabilities of foster children, who are disproportionately targeted and recruited by child sex traffickers, sometimes right out of the foster care system...."
Kimberly M. Scott in the Guardian Express adds: John Ryan of theNational Center for Missing and Exploited Children in cooperation with Operation Cross Country says the sting has opened doors for discovery of how juveniles end up in such horrid circumstances. With 70-90% of the children being sexually abused previously and knowledge that 60% of foster care and group home are runaways, pimps portray protectors, making these juveniles easy prey. ... During Operation Cross Country, NCMEC analysts worked with the FBI to compare information about children being trafficked with children reported missing.
 KGO TV (ABC)/ San Francisco reported the Bay Area cities in the sting were Concord, Daly City, Hayward, Oakiland, Petaluma, Richmond, Rohnert Park, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Rosa, and South San Francisco. 
Three child rescues were made in Santa Rosa and Hayward; in Concord and San Jose, according to the San Jose Mercury, minors found with pimps in Concord and San Jose were taken into protective custody ...Because the children are victims of human trafficking -- forcing someone to do something against their will -- authorities plan to connect them with social services. The goal is to keep the girls from returning to prostitution, FBI spokeswoman Julianne Sohn said. ... Authorities linked the girl up with advocates from South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking, San Jose police Sgt. Jason Dwyer said.

Madera cops bust human trafficking operation
Thursday, March 21, 2013
FRESNO, Calif. -- Madera police had the house at 1000 Tulare St. under surveillance for a month, tipped to suspicious activity they determined women were being held here against their will, forced into prostitution.
Police Commander Dino Lawson said the women were kept under the control of several handlers. "Individuals from Honduras, Mexico, and El Salvador involved in this ring they actually held the females against their will they were guarded 24 hours a day."
Five suspects were taken into custody at the home in Madera and at an apartment in Fresno. The suspects, two men and three women are charged with human trafficking and prostitution.
Both local and federal agents were involved in the bust. The eight women freed in the raids have been placed in protective custody.
Lawson said in addition to being watched, the women were coerced into working because of threats to their families. "They were told their families in El Salvador or Mexico would be harmed or killed if they didn't cooperate."
Lawson says the women were transported up and down the state, staying in different rented houses or apartments for a week at a time. Their handlers got their customers, by picking a specific clientele. "To solicit business they would go to local swap meets and hand out business cards."
Authorities are still looking for the alleged ringleader of this operation. He's identified as Antonio Moza. He fled his Fresno home just before law enforcement officers arrived.
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Child Sex Trafficking in Our Fair City? Say It Ain't So
Disturbing trends among teenagers reflect a growing national problem.
Posted by Lisen Stromberg
You might have seen that disturbing film from the mid-'80s called Blue Velvet, in which a young man discovers a sinister underworld lying just beneath his idyllic suburban home town. It came to mind recently when I went to a luncheon held in honor ofSharmin Bock, prosecuting attorney for Alameda County and candidate for San Francisco District Attorney.
As she discussed the need for greater collaboration between local cities and towns, Sharmin shared one unsettling story after the next, detailing how criminals prey on our young by coercing, forcing and trafficking them into sex slavery. Yeah, I know, not exactly something you want to hear about when you are eating cobb salad and drinking a cooling glass of ice tea. But there it is.
Sharmin told us of one Volvo-driving mother in a well-to-do town in Contra Costa County who dropped her two 13-year-old daughters off at the mall one afternoon. She didn’t see them again for weeks. They had met a seemingly nice young man who invited them over to his house to meet his friends. The girls were held hostage and repeatedly sold as sex slaves until the FBI were able to rescue them. This isn’t Thailand, people, or a made-for-TV movie; this is here.
UNICEF’s website states that as many as 1.2 million children worldwide are trafficked every year for cheap labor or sexual exploitation. According to Shared Hope International and confirmed by the U.S. Congress, more than 100,000 American children are exploited in domestic sex trafficking. The average entry age: 12-14 years old.
, founder of Fremont-based California Against Sex Slavery, explains, “Gangs are moving beyond drugs to the more lucrative sex trafficking. You can sell a person over and over again, but you can only sell a drug once.”
Sharmin says, “Human trafficking is not a Third World or international phenomenon—it is a well-documented domestic problem occurring in our own backyard.”
Oakland and Sacramento are considered national hotbeds for sex slavery. Sadly, San Mateo County is not far behind. According to Sharmin, traffickers keep their victims enslaved at the hotels that ring the San Francisco airport to service businessmen and other travelers. 
But surely, this couldn’t happen here in Our Fair City?
I reached out to Liz Schoeben, founder and executive director ofCounseling and Support Services for Youth. Her organization joins with elementary, middle, and high schools up and down the Peninsula to help troubled youth. In fact, this fall they will work at six of our elementary schools here in Palo Alto.
When we spoke, Liz assured me she had not heard of any cases of the nature Sharmin had shared. And then she hesitated. “Well, there is a new, deeply disturbing trend we are seeing in the high schools. Upperclasswomen, typically seniors, are luring freshman girls to parties and pimping them out to the senior and junior boys.” 
“Oh yes, senior girls getting paid by senior boys for sex with the younger girls,” Liz clarified. “We have seen incidences of this in a number of high schools in our area.”
Beyond all of the unsettling moral issues, I wonder if those upperclasswomen realize they can be prosecuted as child sex traffickers? The laws have finally caught up with the reality of this kind of torture. State law AB 22, passed in 2005, established human trafficking as a federal crime, but the sentencing is weak. Sharmin says there is more to do.
She and others, such as Daphne Phong, are working to toughen the trafficking laws in our state.  They are lobbying to establish an initiative on the November ballot that will lengthen jail time from the maximum of eight years to life in prison, force convicted child sex traffickers to register as sex offenders, provide services for victims, and require mandatory training for law enforcement. You can learn more on their website.
I asked Liz what parents and the community could do? She said, “The best way to protect our children is to stay connected, to be in their life and to know what is going on.”  
So, I put down my laptop and went on a walk with my daughter. Just like in the movie, the yellow sun was shining, the blue and black birds were singing, and I knew there was so much more than meets the eye in our idyllic suburban town.