Legal loopholes and lax enforcement help traffickers trap laborers in agriculture, domestic work, hotels, restaurants, and construction, according to a new study by the non-profit Urban Institute.
The study tracks labor trafficking victims from recruitment through victimization and attempts to escape and get help, as well as through civil or criminal cases seeking justice for “crimes resembling slavery.”
Researchers analyzed a sample of 122 closed labor trafficking victim service records from service providers in four US cities, and interviewed labor trafficking survivors, local and federal law enforcement officials, legal advocates, and service providers.
“The majority of victims (71 percent) entered the United States on a lawful visa, but most victims were unauthorized (69 percent) by the time they escaped labor trafficking and sought services,” according to the study.
Victims most commonly entered the country for work in agriculture, hospitality, construction or the restaurant industry, but the study also identified female workers who entered the country on diplomatic visas to work as servants for foreign government officials.
Victims were often recruited for work in the United States by agencies that “engaged in high levels of fraud and coercion and charged workers, on average, $6,150 for jobs in the United States,” according to the study.
Researchers recommend that policymakers craft legislation that closes loopholes in labor and immigration laws; increased local and federal enforcement of traffickers; increased services for victims; and enhanced “outreach to a public largely unaware” of the trafficking crimes.
Read the full study HERE.