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'The Selling of Innocents'

A still "The Selling of Innocents" (1996) Film by Ruchira Gupta

A still "The Selling of Innocents" (1996) Film by Ruchira Gupta

Uncovering, investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases while protecting, assisting and repatriating victims is a complicated and resource-intensive task. Distinctions regarding trafficking in persons, alien smuggling and illegal migration are sometimes blurred. Whereas alien smuggling usually involves short-term monetary profit, trafficking in persons usually involves long-term exploitation for economic gain. Organized crime groups profit from both the trafficking fees and the trafficked person's labor. In some cases, the traffickers may profit even further by using the victims for other criminal purposes, such as selling drugs. Sometimes trafficking cases may be labeled as worker exploitation cases. And because traffickers can also re-sell debts to other traffickers or employers, victims are often caught in a cycle of perpetual debt bondage.

As I have indicated, Trafficking in persons is a global problem. Solving this problem and bringing relief to its many victims is only possible through cooperative efforts. This cooperation must occur between governments and non-governmental organizations at the federal, state, and local levels. Destination countries must work with transit and source countries to stem the flow of trafficking; and source countries must work not only to prevent trafficking, but also to help with the reintegration of trafficked victims back into their home society.

What can you do? You can organize an interagency working group including representatives from law enforcement, prosecutors, and NGOs to devise a plan or a working group on how to respond to trafficking in your community. Often when a trafficking ring is uncovered, there are numerous victims that are in need of shelter, medical attention, legal services, and language services. Community leaders should ask themselves - what would happen if tomorrow a sweatshop is raided and we find ourselves with 70 Thai victims? This happened in El Monte, California and could happen here.

You can also support poverty-alleviation programs abroad that are run by non-governmental and international organizations, or faith-based groups, and you can volunteer at community outreach centers for new immigrants. As Attorney General Ashcroft has said "trafficking is not only a serious violation of U.S. law but an affront to human dignity." It is the responsibility of all of us to stand together and unite in ending this modern form of slavery.

Thank you very much.

Now I welcome your questions.