US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Domestic traffick report

By Kevin Clarke | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Not all persons trafficked in the United States are coming in from distant points in Asia, Europe, or Central America. Some U.S. victims of trafficking and involuntary servitude are "made in the U.S.A." In at least one incident in Florida, American citizens were approached at homeless shelters across the Southeast, including New Orleans, Tampa, and Miami, with promises of good jobs and housing. Instead they were transported to agricultural camps, detained incommunicado, plied with alcohol and drugs, and trapped in the same debt and intimidation scheme used to enslave foreign born trafficking victims.

At labor camps in Florida and North Carolina, these domestic trafficking victims were "perpetually indebted" to their labor recruiters who deducted payments for rent, food, crack cocaine and alcohol from workers' pay in what Justice Department called "a form of servitude morally and legally reprehensible."

And American-born girls escaping pockets of poverty or abusive family situations all across the country are just as vulnerable to trafficking agents as fodder for the domestic sex industry. In Middletown, Connecticut, Dennis Paris was sentenced in October to more than 30 years in federal prison for his role in running a prostitution ring. Paris was convicted on multiple counts of commercial sex trafficking through force, fraud, or coercion.

"As this case illustrates, human trafficking can victimize any vulnerable person, including U.S. citizens, and girls as young as 14-years-old," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. According to the Department of Justice, all of the victims in this case were U.S. citizens, many of whom were young and vulnerable females, some addicted to drugs, and easily exploited.

In a similar case a former professional wrestler, Harrison "Hardbody" Norris, Jr. earned a life sentence for committing multiple violations of federal sex trafficking and forced labor statutes in connection with a scheme to force women into prostitution in Atlanta.

"These vulnerable American victims were lured by false promises to train as professional wrestlers," said Becker, "and suffered horrific physical, sexual, and psychological abuse."