What is Human Trafficking?

What is Human Trafficking?

Human Trafficking – A Hidden Crime That Occurs Everywhere

(STL.News) Human trafficking is a worldwide crime that operates mainly underground.  Anyone is vulnerable, yet those most at risk include those without stable housing or income, children in foster care or the juvenile justice system, runaway and homeless youth, ethnic minorities, those suffering from substance abuse issues, and LGBTQ individuals.

Human Trafficking within the Restaurant Industry

Although popular myths about trafficking persist, restaurant patrons rarely witness victims directly.  Most trafficked victims work behind the scenes as cooks or dishwashers; however, their coworkers, suppliers, or code inspectors can often detect any sign of exploitation by these workers.

Immigrant workers can be particularly at risk.  Unaware of the language, laws, and customs in the U.S., as well as limited ability to negotiate work conditions with employers, these immigrants can be especially susceptible to traffickers who exploit these weaknesses to control them and make profits off them.

Polaris, a national human rights group, conducted an analysis of reports of labor exploitation received through its hotline between 2007 and 2016.  Of the 25 categories examined by Polaris during this period, three related to restaurant work.  Victims in these instances reported being promised hourly rates but instead being paid a piece rate, denied access to health care or safety gear, forced into living in poor conditions without accessing healthcare or gear for safety, and even threatened with deportation in some instances; many victims included children.


Human trafficking involves forcing individuals into work, commercial sexual exploitation, or oppressive living conditions through force, fraud, and coercion.  Victims may be made to believe they consented to these situations or were unable to escape them (for instance, through false promises of jobs, money, love/marriage/healthcare/education, or an improved life).

Traffickers may be strangers, acquaintances, or family members; they form mafia-style syndicates, small “family outfits,” and labor brokering companies to operate.  Individual traffickers or organized groups of traffickers can operate as pimps, gang members, diplomats, labor brokers, business owners, construction company owners, or agriculture workers.

Governments can also act as human traffickers, forcing citizens into sexual slavery or forced labor schemes via public works projects and military operations.  Furthermore, governments may coerce individuals by withholding public benefits, imposing debt bondage obligations, withholding salaries, or restricting access to services or freedom of movement – so it is crucial that everyone becomes familiar with indicators of human trafficking and reports suspicious activity immediately.

Human Trafficking Prevention

Human traffickers target individuals without access to resources or social support, including children in care; young adults living in volatile circumstances without parental care; homeless and unaccompanied youth; people with disabilities using mental health services; people of color (American Indians, Alaska Natives, and other indigenous North American groups); as well as LGBTQI+ people are particularly at risk from human trafficking.

Community members and businesses can help by learning to recognize trafficking indicators and acting upon them.  Businesses can play their part by working with victim service providers to address trafficking in their supply chains, hosting anti-trafficking events or training for employees, encouraging their staff to volunteer at local anti-trafficking organizations, joining Enhanced Collaborative Model Human Trafficking Task Force Initiative and joining OVC funded victim service provider offices as well as local law enforcement agencies that implement this initiative.

Human Trafficking Laws

Human trafficking should have no place in our society.  As a criminal act that compromises national and international security, violates human rights, and undermines the rule of law, human trafficking is something no society should tolerate.  Today, an estimated 27.6 million people live under modern slavery worldwide at any given moment, with perpetrators of this crime lurking across borders.

Traffickers span racial, ethnic, and gender demographics.  They can range from pimps, gang members, parents or family members of victims, intimate partners, and business owners (restaurants, hair braiding salons, farms, or factories).  Some use their status or wealth to abuse employees, while others exploit them for financial gain.

An anti-trafficking program can provide businesses with an efficient method for identifying and reporting instances of human trafficking.  Businesses could potentially face significant liability exposure if it can be proven that exploitation was taking place within their supply chains; that is why it is imperative for organizations to implement anti-trafficking compliance programs.

Other crimes that accompany human trafficking:
  1. Tax Fraud occurs because it is typically a cash business.  If wages are paid, they are paid in cash, and no tax withholding or reporting is followed as required by the law.
  2. US Department of Labor Violations occur because employees are paid an hourly or daily rate, avoiding overtime pay as required by law.  At a minimum, misclassifying the employees is common.  Additionally, since employees are being paid in cash, payroll records are not retained, which several government agencies and laws require.
  3. Marriage Fraud – marriages for the sole purpose of obtaining citizenship or getting a green card, and money is exchanged for the marriage.  Everybody involved is guilty of the fraud.

WARNING: The consequences can be severe when everything is considered.  These are serious crimes against humanity in every country around the world.

A typical example of Forced Labor:

Illegal immigrants hiding need money.  Therefore, business owners seek those on the run who need housing and money.  They hire them, pay them, feed them, and provide housing.  While they might pay them, they are paying in cash and will more than likely charge the illegal immigrant significant rent for a small room, typically in the business owner’s house or a house owned solely to provide the illegal immigrants housing to profit from their exhausting hours that will not receive overtime pay.

The business owners are predators that use illegal immigrants to profit from them by violating many laws and moral obligations.  The business owners make promises of a better life, and some even arrange fake marriages to help them become legal.  The sophisticated business owners will pay a single U.S. citizen a significant amount of money, and the illegal immigrant becomes indebted to the owner for several years and has money withheld to reimburse the owner for the upfront payments for the fake marriage.

This happens commonly within the restaurant industry, landscaping companies, massage shops, nail shops, etc.

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