Tag Archives: modern day slavery

There Is A List of Goods That Use Slave Labor–But Where Is It?

Cassandra Clifford with the World Affairs Blog Network has an important call to action for people who are looking to take a stand against modern-day slavery and trafficking in their every day lives. Everything that we consume comes from somewhere, and opting for products that are fair-trade and slavery-free goes a long way in relaying the message to companies that we don’t want to support slavery.

This can be daunting–how can you, going about your own life, take time to ask and research where everything comes from? Imagine there was a list that let you know the products that were made using slave labor, wouldn’t that be easier? It would. The funny thing is: there is a list. It just hasn’t been released.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) was revised by Congress in 2005, at which time it was mandated that the Department of Labor (DOL) establish a list of products which where made by various forms of human trafficking/modern slavery, including child labor.

However when the TVPRA was reauthorized again in 2008, the list has still to find its way into any consumers hands, despite increasing consumer and political awareness and activism. The need to release this crucial list was brought back into the public spotlight with the efforts of Ambassador Mark P. Lagon, who is the Executive Director of Polaris Project, and previous Ambassador-at-Large and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP), and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State.Ambassador Lagon recently published an article for Change.org, Where’s the List of Slave-Made Goods the Department of Labor Promised?

The Department of Labor, under the leadership of Secretary Elaine Chao until last January, said the requirement was an unfunded mandate – as they didn’t have enough people to put on the task absent any extra funding from Congress.

Congress unwisely put no deadline on the mandate in the 2005 legislation, then gave the Department a luxurious one year to produce it with the enactment of the latest December 2008 revision of the landmark 2000 anti-slavery act.

But the list exists. While I was still the anti-trafficking ambassador, a public hearing had been held for information and a draft list was fashioned.

So what can be done to see that this list finally makes it’s way into our hands as consumers, and concerned citizens? E-mail the new Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis to release the list and correct the errors of the past four years, demand that the American consumer is both educated and empowered, that we have a right and choice to be purchase goods which are no longer contaminated by child and slave labor, that we want a true “free” marketplace.

You can sign the petition here.

249 Mile Run in Chains for For Human Trafficking Awareness

Today in British Columbia, singer Eric Proffitt began his 249 mile run from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to the Statue of Liberty in New York City to bring awareness to human trafficking. Proffitt is doing this in chains to illustrate the bonds of silence under which many suffer in our world today.

He is joined by Rev. Marcia L. Dyson, Georgetown University Center for Social Justice, who recently ended a 22-day fast for Darfur, Haiti and for awareness of the gun violence in her home town of Chicago; Theresa Flores, who as a teenager was forced into a relationship of sexual prostitution by an older boy at her school and who now works to help rescue others victimized by human trafficking.

Proffitt is also joined by Ken Morris, the great, grandson of slave abolitionist, Frederick Douglass and educator, Booker T. Washington. Ken gave up his marketing business in Las Vegas to partner the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation on this global human crisis that is human trafficking.

Members of the organizations, Innocents at Risk, which spear-headed Trafficking of Persons (TIP) awareness among flight attendants and The Sanctuary of Moses, which houses, feeds, and educates child victims of trafficking in Benin, as well as several United States congressmen, are in attendance at the Lincoln Memorial kick-off.

This run, called “Run 4 The Rescue” will help raise money and to bring attention to human trafficking and slavery.

This grassroots campaign is spreading like wild-fire across the nation and will reach an apex on September 27, 2009, with the flagship Stop Child Trafficking Wake-Rescue a Child with Your Sole in New York City and simultaneous events in 40 cities nationwide. Individuals and teams across the country will walk to raise money for this cause.

The Run 4 The Rescue will continue with Eric Proffitt tracking an additional 250 miles in the United Kingdom, where slavery was first abolished by colonists.

Learn more or get involved at Run4TheRescue.com

Waiting for Crist to Speak Up

The denial expressed by the Florida Department of Agriculture of the persistence and severity of slavery in the fields and the silence of Florida Governor Charlie Crist are disappointing.

The Navarrete case could not be a more a clear-cut example of modern slavery: the victims were literally locked up at night, abused and refused release. Usually, we see different forms of debt peonage and psychological coercion employed to keep workers under a bosses’ illicit control, but here, the mechanisms are laid almost laughably bare.

From a bulletin on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers website:

Since the late 1990’s, Florida’s fields have produced a steady stream of slavery prosecutions, and 2008 was no exception. But what made the slavery operation that came to light in the past year — resulting in the conviction of a family of farm bosses for holding workers against their will right here in Immokalee — stand out were the disturbing details of unmitigated brutality suffered by the workers, including being chained and locked inside U-Haul trucks at night, and beaten by their bosses during the day.

Even more disturbing, perhaps, was the dismissive reaction by a spokesperson for Florida’s Governor Crist when asked for comment on the case by a reporter from Ft. Myers. The spokesperson — Mr. Terence McElroy of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services — appeared to downplay the significance of forced labor in the state’s fields, not once, but twice. His statements provoked an immediate outcry by human rights, religious, labor, student, and community organizations and leaders across the country.

Among those troubled by Mr. McElroy’s statements — and the governor’s own silence and inaction — was the honorable Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who wrote in a public statement:

“… Slavery persists when government leaders fail to take the necessary action to prevent it. Taking preventive action is a human rights obligation of local, state and national governments… I support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and others in urging Governor Crist to take immediate steps to combat modern-day slavery in Florida agriculture.”

As 2009 begins, Governor Crist has yet to speak on the subject of slavery in his state’s fields.

Join the CIW in asking the Governor to stand against slavery.

Hidden in Plain Sight

At U.S. Catholic.org, Kevin Clarke recounts the story of Lucy, a young Kenyan woman trapped in a quiet upper-class New York hamlet, where she was forced to work as a house-servant. Clarke writes:

There are thousands of people like Lucy, held against their will, in the United States today. You may have passed them on the street, begging for small change, watched one working in a neighbor’s yard or behind a kitchen door, or passed one cleaning a room in a four-star hotel. Some have helped put food on your table or sewn the clothes you wear. A large number of them are trapped deeply underground but still, like their brothers and sisters, in plain sight behind the black-filtered facades of massage parlors and strip joints.

They are the community of America’s enslaved people, trafficked sometimes legally, most often clandestinely across the U.S. border. They are held by force and violence or by the cruelest forms of psychological coercion and persuasion by individuals or by organized crime networks that reach all the way back to the homelands of the trafficked in Africa, Mexico, Central America, Central Europe, and Southeast Asia.

… “We’ve had domestic laborers, sex workers, restaurant workers, victims who have worked in construction,” says Sehla Ashai, an Illinois-based legal advocate for trafficking victims. “We’ve had people in just about every low-paying service industry job.”

“Trafficking victims can be found in all walks of life. They’re not going to be found in some dark alley,” says Nyssa Mestas, associate director of anti-trafficking services at the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Department of Migration and Refugee Services. “You’ll find them working in nice homes or even for legitimate businesses.”

… Some trafficked laborers end up working for big agricultural processors well known to consumers, but their abuse is distanced from respectable food companies by a kind of bureaucratic plausible deniability.

“We had [traffickers] harvesting for two big citrus processors that put the orange juice on your table,” says Brigitte Gynther, a member of Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida working with the Coalition for Immokalee Workers (CIW).

“You often wonder how [growers] never seem to realize this is going on,” says Gynther, “but the citrus and tomato growers all use contractors. The workers never see the owners; there is a whole system in place of non-responsibility. . . . These guys are kept on isolated labor camps; nobody knows where they are.”

Read the entire piece here.

Three Charged in Nail Salon Trafficking Case in PA

The Evening Sun investigates allegations of modern slavery at two nail salons in Pennsylvania.

Lynda Dieu Phan, 38, and Duc Cao Nguyen, 40, and Justin Phan were charged with criminal conspiracy to commit forced labor trafficking, forced labor and marriage fraud, according to Martin C. Carlson, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Starting in 2000, Lynda Dieu Phan traveled to Vietnam to recruit citizens, and once she brought them to the U.S., forced them to work in her York area nail salons, Carlson said. Fraudulent marriages were arranged so the victims could live in the country.

The women lived with Phan and were helpless, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They had no money, did not speak English and did not have identification or transportation.

If convicted, the three face up to 20 years in prison. As part of the indictment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is seeking the forfeiture of a home in New Cumberland, a 2008 Toyota Highlander, contents of two bank accounts and more than $130,000 in cash seized at the New Cumberland home.

Pope Asks Immigrant Welfare Be Made A Priority

The Catholic News Service reported Pope Benedict XVI that asked Christians to put their faith into deeds and give priority attention to refugees and immigrants.

In his annual message for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated January 18, the Pope mentioned St. Paul, considered by Catholics as a “missionary to migrants” and said he should inspire Christians to show solidarity immigrants, specifically the victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.

“How can we fail to meet the needs of those who are de facto the weakest and most defenseless, marked by precariousness and insecurity, marginalized and often excluded by society?” the Pope asked.

He said the church’s celebration of the annual migrant day should help its members “live brotherly love to the full without making any kind of distinction and without discrimination,” remembering that “anyone who needs us and whom we can help is our neighbor.”

Human trafficking’s Terrible Toll

In an op-ed piece at The Washington Times, Mark P. Lagon, director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, makes a powerful case for the US to continue fighting slavery within our borders:

Across the span of his presidency, at home and abroad, George W. Bush has led U. S. government efforts to eradicate modern-day slavery.

It is a fight that has received consistent support from the White House and bipartisan backing from Congress. It is a legacy of achievement that should make Americans proud. Taking aggressive action at home is essential if the United States is to be credible and urge other nations to do more.

… Since 2001, the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorneys’ offices prosecuted 156 trafficking in persons cases, securing 342 convictions and guilty pleas. More than three times as many human- trafficking cases were filed and more than three times as many defendants were convicted in 2007 compared to 2001.

Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations have led to over 300 convictions for human trafficking and related offenses. The Department of Health and Human Services has made over 1,370 foreign adult and minor trafficking victims in the United States eligible to receive federally funded services and benefits to the same extent as refugees.

As a leader in the global effort, the United States has committed over $528 million to fund international anti-trafficking programs since fiscal 2001, including a special $50 million presidential initiative.

… The United States is always striving to improve its efforts to vigorously identify, protect, and assist U.S. citizen victims of trafficking, improve collaboration across all spectrums of the U.S. government to aid victims, and increase efforts to combat labor trafficking on par with sex trafficking. The U.S. anti-trafficking strategy has included sustained, successful prosecutorial and humanitarian efforts-endeavoring to practice at home what we preach internationally.

With the international community watching, President Bush stood up before the U.N. General Assembly and said in 2003: “We must show new energy in fighting back an old evil. The trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time.” These words have been taken to heart and turned into dignity reclaimed from Islip to India, and so many places in between. Future administrations will build on this strong foundation and continue putting victims first.