Human Trafficking

Quite a sensational topic, not to be treated lightly.

Today I went to the offices of the New York Immigration Coalition in Chelsea and spoke to a nice Chinese man, named Norman Eng, who is their press coordinator. Norman spoke at length, very generously, about the activities and concerns of the Immigration Coalition. Most of this work is of a mundane character, though very important to those concerned of course. The NYIC  is an umbrella organization representing various immigrant rights groups in the City and does things like encourage public schools to offer translation services for immigrant students and their parents. They also offer assistance with housing, job training, and English skills for immigrants.

From an outside perspective, the most exciting thing that this group has been involved in in a while is its support for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill that failed to pass through the Senate this summer.  In the aftermath of the Bill’s collapse, the movement towards substantive immigration reform is at a standstill.

So what does any of this have to do with Human Trafficking? Absolutely nothing, but Norman had some ideas about who to speak to.

First and foremost is the Anti-Trafficking Coalition, an umbrella organization of 40 or so activist groups that are at least in part concerned with slavery and sexual abuse. After several hours (totaled over a few days) of internet research, I still don’t fully understand how trafficking happens. I have read that, in some poor countries, young women will be lured into slavery with the promise of jobs and education in a rich country. When they arrive, they are sometimes kept under lock and key and terrorized into prostituting for their owner/pimp.  I have also read that an estimated 18,000 or so people are brought to America each year, many of them to New York City, to be used for sexual slavery and forced labour.

WHERE DOES THIS HAPPEN??? You think you know a place after a few years, but Jesus! – this has really shocked me.

New York State just passed (in May of this year) a long-overdue (according to some) law that increases the penalty for human trafficking and allows victims to seek recompense from traffickers and others who have profited from or engaged in this trade.

In the months that have passed, there must have been some interesting developments, but I cannot find them documented anywhere.

I hope to find some of these stories along with more detailed information about these activities in New York City.  I’ve spoken to the press coordinator at Safe Horizon, a group that provides services to trafficking victims, and am supposed to go in for a meeting whenever they can pencil me in this week. I haven’t spoken to anyone yet at the Anti-Trafficking Coalition. This is a project for tomorrow.


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