Human Trafficking

Legendary Activist Dolores Huerta

Thursday, March 24, 2011
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Kevin Bales: Free The Slaves

Thursday, February 17, 2011
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Human Trafficking: The Route Through Queens

Monday, January 14, 2013
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'Trafficking' or Slavery?

By WGBH News & The Takeaway   |   Wednesday, June 20, 2012
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June 20, 2012
BOSTON — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on June 19 that currently there are "nearly 21 million people who have been sold for labor or the sex trade." And though the State Department's report is titled "Trafficking in Persons," Clinton changed the language, saying, "Labeling this for what it is, 'slavery,' has brought it to another dimension."
Is trafficking slavery?
"You find dozens of activists here in Vietnam and in Thailand, where I was just a couple days ago, who absolutely agree with that," said WGBH News' Phillip Martin, who is reporting on the issue in Southeast Asia. "They believe that what's happening is indeed slavery."
They believe the term "modern-day" slavery is inaccurate because "it's never stopped — it's simply that we are shocked by its existence."
Martin went to Southeast Asia because in the U.S., "many foreign victims are in fact of Thai origin," he said. A smaller number are from Vietnam and other countries in the region. Because Thailand is relatively prosperous, "you have large numbers of people who cross the borders" into that country, where they are then "dragooned into various occupations." He noted that being sold for labor is far more common than being sold into prostitution.
Trafficking, or slavery, means "treating a kid like a good, to be traded or to be sold," a French intelligence agent in the region told Martin.
As an example, take one 13-year-old victim, who now lives in a Thai-run shelter. "They asked me to go with them," he said through a translator. "They never tell me where they're from."
And while anti-slavery advocates haven't given up, the internet has made their work much harder, Martin said. "For the traffickers, it's more expedient — they're able to obfuscate or hide their acts a lot easier and they're able to carry out these transaction acts fairly easily … where money changes hands."
The reporting project is part of a fellowship from the International Center for Journalists. Martin's 2010 series on trafficking in New England won an Edward R. Murrow Award.
> > From NPR: A man forced to work on a Thai fishing boat makes a daring escape.

Martin talks with our partners at The Takeaway.

Human Trafficking And The Super Bowl

By Phillip Martin   |   Monday, February 6, 2012
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Feb. 7, 2012

BOSTON — As sports fans watched the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl in record numbers Sunday, Indianapolis police, taxi drivers and private security were keeping a close eye on venues where trafficking might take place, mainly hotels.   

human trafficking
A scene from Oakland, Calif. (Youth Radio News via NPR)

Police and the FBI say that a public event such as the Super Bowl, which brings in millions upon millions of dollars, also attracts organized sex trafficking rings. Anti-trafficking activists believe that an undetermined number of victims may have been transported to Indianapolis in advance of the Super Bowl. Some say the reports of underage trafficking is nothing more than urban myth. Still, police say it is important to be diligent given the general increase in human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad.

Days before the Super Bowl, Indiana's governor signed a bill making it easier to prosecute anyone who forces kids into the commercial sex trade. This weekend, Boston hosted a Human Trafficking Film Festival. The keynote speaker was Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., cochair of the Congressional human trafficking caucus. "I think it's an excellent idea. I look forward to reading the Indiana law and seeing if we can strengthen it to a federal law," she said.
Maloney praised Massachusetts for passing an anti-trafficking law last year, but said federal laws must be strengthened too. One bill she has in would empower the IRS to go after kingpins in the trafficking business. "We could never convict Al Capone," she said, "The way they finally got him was on the tax code. And I gotta believe that these pimps and traffickers aren't paying their taxes, and I think that would be a good way that we could raise the money for these victims and to try to help rehab them and give more resources to our prosecutors and police to combat this."
Two women who were arrested right before the Super Bowl on charges of prostitution told police that they had been coerced to work by a pimp. The report was directed to the FBI. Boston and national activists attending the trafficking film festival this year planned to announce a major public service campaign to make more Americans aware of the problem of sex trafficking that is often right in their midst.    

Human Trafficking Bill Becomes Law In Mass.

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Monday, November 21, 2011
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Nov. 21, 2011

human trafficking

A scene from Oakland, Ca. The new Mass. bill treats women who are trafficked for sex as the victims, not the criminals. (Youth Radio News via NPR)

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill on Nov. 21  to crack down on human trafficking in the Bay State. 

People who traffic others for sex or forced labor may now be punished “by a mandatory-minimum term of five years, with a potential maximum sentence of up to 20 years, and a fine of up to $25,000,” with businesses fined up to $1 million, according to a statement from the Governor’s office. If the person being trafficked is under 18, the sentence may increase to life in prison. The bill also includes stricter penalties against customers who seek out prostitutes. 

At the signing, Gov. Patrick said the law creates new tools to deal with a devastating problem: “one that disrupts families, that turns lives upside down, that affects communities and has ripple effects throughout a whole host of corners of our Commonwealth and our character as a commonwealth.”

Read the governor’s press release with additional information about the bill.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, who was also at the signing, said law enforcement is rethinking how it approaches prostitution. The new law treats young women and women forced into prostitution as victims instead of offenders, she said, and “change[s] the lens.”

“In a criminal justice system that under-punishes johns, that has left unpunished those who would make money off of trafficking, we have focused on the very people who have been victimized the most,” she said.

The law also provides education, shelter and other services to victims.

About the Authors
Phillip Martin Phillip Martin
Phillip W. D. Martin is the senior investigative reporter for WGBH Radio News and executive producer for Lifted Veils Productions. In the past, he was a supervising senior editor for NPR, an NPR race relations correspondent and one of the senior producers responsible for creating The World radio program in 1995. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1998. Learn more at
Sarah Birnbaum
Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH News' State House reporter. Send her a news tip.


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