Slavery in California

A task force of the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery found that California has become a top destination for slavery and human trafficking.

“The state’s extensive international border, its major harbors and airports, its powerful economy and accelerating population, its large immigrant population and its industries make it a prime target for traffickers,” the report says.

California made trafficking a felony in 2006, but state officials say it’s been difficult to measure its effect because most trafficking cases are prosecuted under federal law.

Nevertheless, a proposal was recently introduced by Senator Darrel Steinberg (D-Sacramento) asking businesses to implement policies that efficiently comply with established federal laws against slavery.

“Human trafficking and slavery are growing international businesses for the monsters who practice it,” said Jim Evans, a spokesman for Steinberg. “In [Senate bill] 1649, Senator Steinberg will raise awareness among businesses and consumers that forced labor–whether in America or abroad–should have no place in our economy.”

Equally important, Assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View), who wrote the 2005 legislation (which became law in 2006, mentioned earlier in the entry), is next tackling debt bondage–the practice of forcing people to work in virtual slavery to pay off debts they have incurred coming into the country or getting a specific job. The bill she has co-written, if passed, would define this activity as a crime. I touch on the issue of debt bondage in my book. It’s one of the most common ways people become enslaved and an important issue to address.

“We’re seeing debt bondage emerging in all kinds of industries in California,” Lieber said. “It shouldn’t be the case that people are bringing the undocumented here and holding them in forced labor for a profit.”

Read the article in the LA Times or the final report of the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery task force.

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