A foreign-born woman who came to New Orleans for what she thought was a legitimate job may be a victim of sex trafficking, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The report came from Catholic Charities, which investigating the case. It was discussed yesterday at a program on providing services to victims of human trafficking that was held at Tulane University. The event is part of a series being held aroundt he nation by the Protection Project of Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
The New Orleans case is one of many, said Derek Ellerman of Polaris Project, a nonprofit group in Washington that works with victims of human trafficking. “New Orleans probably has a very severe problem centered on sex trafficking, because of its commercial sex industry, including prostitution and stripping,” Ellerman said. One problem in various cities is networks of Korean-run massage parlors that actually are brothels, he said.
Polaris visits such establishments in and around Washington, D.C., talking to 15 or 20 Korean women workers each week. The staffers pose as customers, but once a woman comes out to meet with them, they disclose their agenda, hand out brochures, and offer to help if they are victims of trafficking. The women often don’t react positively on the scene but may call later. Sometimes they are reluctant to reach out for assistance because they have been told that if they talk about what happened to them, their relatives back in their homelands will be harmed or even killed, he said.
In January, attorney B. Kent Felty filed suit in New Orleans on behalf of about 220 workers from Asia, mostly men of Indian heritage, which claims they are victims of human trafficking and were lured into virtual slavery in Louisiana by empty promises of well-paying jobs.