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Zachary Dumont

Composition II
April 24, 2014
Slavery in the Land of the Free
Among the United States worst crimes dwells in the dark crevices of the country that no
one would think of. (A crime where humans are promised riches and given horrors, and told of
freedom and face bondage). This crime is not just a federal offense, but a form of slavery inside
the foundation of liberty. This act goes under the name labor trafficking and is apparent within
the United States today. Labor trafficking is not its own figure, but is a derivative from the major
epidemic human trafficking, which involves the enslavement of men, women, and children and
forcing them to engage in laborious or sexual activities for minimal to no pay. The United States
is hailed as the land of the free, but the country tolerates a corrupt form of recruitment whose
secrets have yet to be truly realized.
A victims story always gives more of an insight on the experience within labor
trafficking. One such story (involving a teen from Mexico) is probably one of the most gruesome
accounts Ive read of happening on American soil. Her name is Sandra Bearden, and according
to the account she seemed to be like any other homeowner in the neighborhood. She was a
mother of a four year old son, single, and in need of a maid to care for her son. She searched in
Mexico, where she was introduced to a twelve year old girl Maria and her parents. Bearden
spoke of a wonderful life back in the states where Maria could attend school and live a
comfortable life. She also told Marias parents that the work was synonymous with what she was
currently doing in their care. So, as a giving parent who wants the best for their child, they let her

go with the foreign woman. The drive was cordial, and upon arriving to her new home Maria
soon realized that it was the worst mistake shed ever made. Bearden began violently abusing
Maria with cycles of torture. Her labor would consist of working all day long through being
clubbed with broom sticks and bottles, sprayed in her eyes with pepper spray, and even sexual
assaults with disturbing objects. Her breaks from labor were the same if not worse. She was
sentenced to the backyard, chained to a pole, and left there day and night. She was given barely
any food and would often have to consume her own excrement or dirt to survive. Her rescue
came when a roofer next door spotted the poorly mangled girl and called the police. This
enslavement went on for about seven months. According to Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter,
authors to the book The Slave Next Door, Maria is a lucky one as some labor trafficking cases
progress for years (3-5).
Unlike Maria, these victims are not just trafficked from countries bordering the United
States, theyre trafficked from all over the world. Places of origin for these victims include
Brazil, Honduras, India, Mexico, Peru, and Thailand. These six are not the most common
because there really isnt a most-common country. They are sent from everywhere and race is no
barrier. Bales implies that slavery is no longer a racial entity, but that its now equal opportunity
slavery (6-7), which means that no matter your age, race, or sexual preference you are an equal
candidate for modern day slavery. Its truly sad to think of such events going on among supposed
civilized human beings. But some may even try to blame the victims for choosing to go with
the traffickers. Sometimes they have a choice, and sometimes not. With traffickers there is a
strategy to trafficking, and they also have different ways of enticing victims to come into their
ring of abuse.

When victims first come into contact with their traffickers it seems like a dream come
true. Its like those vacations you can tell are a scam but youre still interested in hearing what
the person says. They often speak of a great life beyond their country. The topic of money and
school are thrown into the mix of lies to sugar-coat the reality. But the harsh reality is that once
the victim crosses into the United States, they are now under the care of the trafficker and all
horrors included. Their freedom is even more restrained than compared to their country of origin.
They are usually withheld from going outside or having any human contact besides their
trafficker. An example that we stated before was the one of Maria being enslaved due to Sandra
Bearden. Well another example of this happening is with the disaster of hurricane Katrina. This
natural disaster not only destroyed New Orleans, but it also brought the threat of labor trafficking
deep into a damaged city. The authorities focus was more on searching for survivors than
keeping the laborers safe and fed. There were close to 4,000 victims that were affected by forced
labor in New Orleans and they came from places like Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic,
Honduras, India, Mexico, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, and Thailand. (Hepburn, Simon 17).
Their living conditions within New Orleans were barely even viable. Their job was to
come and demolish buildings that had been decimated by the storm. But none of them were
aware of what they would encounter during their service. Upon arrival, their passports were
confiscated leaving them vulnerable to deportation. They went through the job unpaid because
the workers were often threatened with deportation, heavily monitored by an armed guard and
had to sleep in the buildings they were planning to destroy. Their food supplies were scarce as
well, and when they were beginning to run out, they had to hunt and consume stray pigeons
around their site. It doesnt even sound real, nor has it ever been reported in the news, but these
slave-like conditions happen in the United States today (Hepburn, Simon 17-19).

One might think, Oh my god, how could someone want to do this to somebody? Well
according to Lori J. Johnson, an attorney for legal aid, Devastation from a natural disaster
creates a sudden high demand for low-wage and largely unskilled labor. (Hepburn, Simon 19).
Though the jobs dont always involve construction, there are many forms of labor trafficking in
different industries. The main three that are found in the United States are agriculture,
involuntary domestic servitude, and work inside factories/sweatshops. Agriculture plays a huge
role in our world and so do the people who are employed within the labor force. But though we
value them so much, why wouldnt they be treated with more civil working conditions? When it
comes to agriculture, the labor contractors offer the labor of the employees to the grower and do
not make sure that the grower is aware of the standards of employment. What this does is leave
room for the grower to take advantage of the employees labor. The next job that is often struck
with labor trafficking is involuntary domestic servitude. This usually falls along the lines of
maids and house servants. The problem with involuntary domestic servitude is that their abuse
can never be noticed because public interaction is eliminated with the victims being kept in
private homes. The other downside, is that they arent considered employees by the United States
national labor relations. They also dont receive any of the benefits or legal protections that
registered employees receive. Being in an underground labor force stops them from calling for
better wages and conditions by federal means. The labor involved in factories are investigated for
labor trafficking as well. The establishments that produce our favorite products, are referred to as
sweatshops by its employees. Their conditions inside fall along the lines of long strenuous hours
with minimal breaks, limited food and water, and abuse within its walls (Cullen 44-48).
Throughout the duration from labor trafficking first becoming a problem to the present,
the United States has been trying to take a stand against the labor trafficking threat. Theyve

passed acts and laws that are in favor of the victims, and also the punishments for the traffickers.
In the beginning, Bush was the president to face the beast head on. He started a new population
measure called the United States Measure to Abolish Trafficking. It was the first act that needed
an annual Trafficking in Persons report. After this one, he created groups to try to attack
trafficking. Bush made the SPOG (Senior Policy Operating Group), and the PITF (Presidents
Interagency Task Force). New guidelines were introduced to be able to convict traffickers easier,
and a new penalty that if someone was convicted it would result in an automatic punishment.
Besides Bush, other corporations aided to the cause. One organization called the HHS Office of
Refugee Resettlement created over 24 coalitions inside of the United States to help with
trafficking victims. The coalitions were made of law enforcement and social service providers
and they spread awareness and information about labor trafficking in the country. There were
also many hotlines made for victims to call. The only downside to this aid is that trafficking
victims are usually isolated and almost never have access to a phone (Hepburn, Simon 35-37).
In my opinion the acts that have been passed have made much more advancements than
the groups and early laws that were made. One act called TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection
Act) is probably one of the most effective laws towards the Anti-Trafficking movement. This act
improves domestic criminal laws against human trafficking and forced labor, and as a law, makes
regulations that protect victims and prosecute offenders. The TVPA grants funding to support
protection programs for survivors in the United States as well as the victims living abroad in the
United States. A common mistake for these acts is distinguishing between two different workers
for the benefits gained from being a victim: trafficking victims, and unauthorized immigrants,
and this act solves this problem. It even adds onto it, since not only does it separate victim from

immigrant, but it allows the victims to stay in America instead of being deported like illegal
immigrants (Buckley 118).
Even though the United States houses labor trafficking, legislatures and leaders try their
hardest to exterminate it. They have tried programs and acts, but they have also tried other tactics
in the country as well. One is the increase of regulations. This means the constant keep up of
standards that should be kept in any work environment no matter the field. The standards fall
under the category of health code and safety within the work place. The other move America had
was stricter migration patrol. This would involve border patrol being more investigative instead
of allowing mostly everyone reenter with foreign cargo (Barbara 268).
America has labor trafficking, it has attacked it and it has supported it. This country
doesnt support the enslavement of persons directly, but in some of its actions it has taken and
how they have actually hurt the cause, one might reconsider. To clarify, the country has
responded to some trafficking events pretty poorly. An example would be how the government
acts as soon as the victim is freed. Usually what happens is as soon as the victim is rescued, they
are extensively interrogated by law enforcement to find as much information about the trafficker
as possible. This isnt an efficient way to find information from an already scarred individual.
This makes the victim often give false information due to the factors that come with being
enslaved like PTSD and much more. Also, their applications for work visas within the United
States call for the compliance with law enforcement. This brings the next mistake that the
country does when it comes to migrant workers, their failing visas. The work visas in the United
States are in three different types. The first is the H-2B visa program, and is the most common
among immigrants. There are no real benefits and it is the weakest visa available. The guidelines
of the H-2B visa is that the employer offer full-time employment that at minimum paid the

prevailing wage rate (Hepburn, Simon 20). But because the government cannot legally force the
guidelines, employers ignore them. The next visa is the H-2A program, which is a better visa and
has gained more legal support than the H-2B visa. The guidelines of this visa are to grant
workers free housing, access to legal services, employment for at least three-fourths of the hours
promised, and compensation for medical costs or permanent injury (Hepburn, Simon 20). This
visa is much more of an umbrella in protecting employees. The last visa is given only to victims
of labor trafficking. The U and T visas are complementary to each other, and offer close to the
same things. The U visa allows the victim to become a lawful-permanent resident, and is given if
the application shows the victim suffered abuse from the trafficking crimes. The T visas are used
for immigration protection to victims of severe trafficking circumstances. These visas may sound
great, and they are, but the bad part is that the government gives an embarrassing amount of
these. Out of the 13,000 applications for these visas (mainly the U and T), only 65 have been
given to immigrants. So if we can barely award a victim of their hardship with citizenship, or
force them to comply with law enforcement, then how can a country run a successful campaign
against labor trafficking if its dragging its feet in the fight?
An athlete needs to improve and build upon themselves to be successful. Well the same
applies to the United States and its position against labor trafficking. There are many ways that
the country can improve and hinder the growth of labor trafficking within its borders. But the
three main ways is by increased legal protection of workers, the increase and usage of visas, and
the regulation of migration. By the looks of the previous examples, the protection of the workers
in either case was pretty poor. In Marias circumstances her trafficker held all of the power and
she was unable to call for any help. I believe that even in the sense of involuntary domestic
servitude, they should still be aware of their rights and should be offered the same legal

protections as regular employees. As for agriculture and factories, they should improve their
working conditions and the employers need to be made sure they are abiding by the guidelines
set by the Department of Labor. The next area of improvement is in the area of visa usage. The
problem with the work visas that are normally given to employees is they have no real benefits to
them. The H-2B visa is an example of this because the employee can work as much as he can, be
faced with optional pay, and the fear that the employer wont follow protocol. In this situation
the employee is stuck because if they do not work, they can be deported. The government could
also practice the usage of H-2A visas and U/T visas. These are the most powerful but the resort
to is the H-2B for immigrant workers. The improvement that needs to be considered is the
regulation of migration. There needs to be a better way of accounting for foreign citizens
entering the country, because if not everyone is accounted for, this leads to stragglers and
eventual trafficking. Not just on the employee side, but the employer needs to be regulated as
well. They should be monitored normally, and be investigated on their reasoning behind
importing the foreign aid.
Labor trafficking is a problem that needs to be solved. Not only is it growing in the
United States, but its becoming easier for traffickers to be able to pull off the crime legally. Its
become human nature to think of labor as a predominantly ethnic idea. So no one is truly going
to see if there is any labor trafficking in the country, because the main focus is on the other half,
sex trafficking. Both reside in America but one is investigated more than others. So in a quote
from Suzanne B. Seltzer, the head of the New York office for immigration petitions, No one is
raiding a factory looking for trafficking victims; they are looking for illegal immigrants
(Hepburn, Simon 35). The threat of labor trafficking is unheard of with most citizens, but even

though slavery was abolished in the 1800s, its still a reoccurring nightmare in the democratic
powerhouse of America today.