Trafficking and Exploitation of Latinos in the US
By: Karina Roma
In 2010, there were almost 30,000 Latino immigrants in Durham, ninety percent of which were undocumented immigrants (Johnson). Initially, most Latino immigrants arrived in the southwest, but since the turn of the century, more have settled in new destinations, such as Durham, and other parts of the Southeast, due to opportunities to work in low-skilled jobs.
Pushing forces that lead people to migrate include better life opportunities, poverty as a result of war, political unrest and injustice, and environmental disasters. Businesses provide pulling factors for Latino migration by attracting immigrants in order to attain cheap labor. The sustained demand for cheap labor in the US gives undocumented immigrants an opportunity to work and stay in a country where they face unwelcoming attitudes.
Two different situations can be identified when looking at illegal migration: people immigrating because of human trafficking, and people being smuggled unlawfully in order to find a better life. Labor trafficking is often entangled with illegal immigration and smuggling (Barrick). Trafficking occurs when a migrant is illicitly recruited and/or moved by means of deception or coercion to economically exploit the migrant in ways that violate their fundamental human rights (Johnson). Smuggling, on the other hand, includes two willing parties engaged in payment for transportation with the relationship ending upon reaching destination.
People planning to migrate in order to attain a better life are very susceptible to being victims of trafficking. Many are lured into accepting an opportunity to migrate when promised a decent paying job, but that are in reality exploitative and fraudulent.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of awareness about trafficking of Latino immigrants, especially farm workers. This worsens the problem. Working without pay occurs regularly and getting paid less than promised is also common for undocumented migrants. Owners often “disappear” at the end of the working season and do not pay their workers. Farmers themselves often pay money out of their own earnings to “pay for safety materials and tools” needed to do the job. They are not provided with adequate protection and if they want it, they have to provide for themselves. (Barrick)
Often victims pay to be smuggled into the US and are told that they would have legitimate jobs. Once they arrive, however, they are forced into prostitution such as what occurred in April when people were arrested (30 of which were from Winston Salem) for sex trafficking (Hinton). Law enforcement officers discovered a brothel that formed part of an organized prostitution ring that moved women and girls in and out of the state. Many of the victims were from Guatemala, Honduras and other parts of Central America.
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