Falling in a Gray Area: Human Trafficking Victims
and When to Treat Them as Human Beings
Though slavery has continuously existed in some form throughout history, it has only been in the past century and a half or so that humanity has legally acknowledged that the idea of owning another person is unjust. This relatively new legal conscience has become apparent in the various laws banning the validity that a person can be property, an object. However, these laws have not eradicated slavery, as is seen by the scores of young men and women rescued from this particular brand of evil each year. In 2000, Congress attempted to address a modernized version of slavery, human trafficking, by creating a new act, called the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, also known as the TVPA. “Unfortunately, there is almost universal consensus that the Trafficking Act, while well-intentioned, has thus far failed to make sufficient strides in addressing the problem of human trafficking, either internationally or domestically” (Chacon: 2006, 2978). Though catching the perpetrators responsible for creating completely broken trafficking victims is of the highest importance, that justice should not come at the cost of further punishing those victims, as happens sometimes as a result of the TVPA. This paper examines the TVPA, highlighting which groups are left unacknowledged, how victims are left unprotected, and offers possible solutions for changes so these young men and women have a chance to make a better life than that which has been given them. In this realm of international organized crime, perception is everything, and that is emphasized throughout these explanations.
Before delving into laws dealing with human trafficking, effective or ineffective, and the issues surrounding it, one must first get an overview of sex trafficking, and how this is related to immigration. Human trafficking is the “recruitment and transportation of a person for the purpose of exploitation” (Raffaelli), any kind of movement of people where there is a victim who feels helpless and is manipulated, and an offender profits from the victim feeling this way, to a degree that the victim feels going to authorities will not solve anything. A subset of human trafficking is sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is human trafficking, with the added component that the victim is “trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation,” (Raffaelli) overwhelmingly against the victim’s will. Another subset of human trafficking is slave labor, where the victim is used as a slave to makes goods or to provide services not of a sexual nature. “In each case [of human trafficking] the victim perceives himself or herself as defenseless, perceives a lack of support from U.S. authorities and, thus, never attempts to report the abuse to law enforcement” (McCabe 2). Perception is already important because the victim perceives that law enforcement will not help them, and that resistance is useless.
The TVPA of 2000 focuses mainly on sex trafficking rather than human trafficking as a whole, due to the fact that this form of trafficking leaves a victim completely broken because of the tactics used by traffickers. Traffickers promise their victims, usually young women, a good life in America. Once in America, all forms, papers, and visas to show a legal presence are taken away from the victims, and the traffickers begin the slow process of breaking the victims down by a vicious cycle of rape, threats, and physical and verbal abuse.
Before the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, most US Legislation dealing with human and sex trafficking focused on curtailing immigration, and punishing trafficking victims as prostitutes. Trafficking victims had no protection, only fear, persecution, dislocation, and the high chance of criminal charges and deportation. Because traffickers take away all forms of identification, papers, and visas, victims would be viewed as illegal immigrants, and treated...
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