1. Is the trafficking of human beings the same thing as smuggling people across borders?

No. A person who is smuggled into the United States consents to being illegally transported across international borders and is free to leave once he or she has paid the fee for being smuggled. A person who is trafficked into the United States can enter by legal or illegal means, but is not free to leave once he or she enters the United States and becomes enslaved. However, someone who willingly agrees to be smuggled can easily become trafficked once that person is compelled or coerced into rendering labor or services.

2. Does the crime of human trafficking require traffickers to move their victims across borders?

No. The crime of human trafficking does not require that victims be trafficked across state or national borders. The trafficking of persons within a country’s borders is called “domestic trafficking.” Although the majority of people trafficked into the United States are foreign nationals, many victims are also U.S. citizens who are trafficked within the United States or a single state like California.

3. What industries are people trafficked into?

The trafficking of human beings is alive in almost all industries, from restaurants and coffee shops to agriculture to massage parlors to private homes. Human trafficking can be divided into two categories, sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Labor trafficking can involve individuals in domestic servitude, agriculture, sweatshops, construction, and other types of labor.

4. How many people are trafficked in the United States?

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked against their will across international borders. Of those, 14,500 to 17,500 are trafficked into the United States. These estimates are likely on the low end because human trafficking is often an invisible crime and underreported. The International Labor Organization estimates that 2.45 million individuals were trafficked internally and internationally during 1995 to 2004.

5. Why can’t victims of human trafficking leave their situation and find help?

Traffickers use various techniques, including physical, psychological, and emotional, to instill fear in their victims and keep them enslaved. Some examples provided by the U.S. Department of Justice include:

  • Debt bondage–financial obligations, honor-bound to satisfy debt
  • Isolation from the public—limiting contact with outsiders and making sure that any contact is monitored or superficial in nature
  • Isolation from family members and members of their ethnic and religious communit
  • Confiscation of passports, visas, and/or identification documents
  • Use of threat of violence toward victims and/or families of victims
  • The threat of shaming victims by exposing circumstances to family
  • Telling victims they will be imprisoned or deported for immigration violations if they contact authorities
  • Control of the victim’s money, e.g., holding their money for “safe-keeping”

6. What causes people to be trafficked

Numerous socio-economic conditions make individuals vulnerable to traffickers. The socio-economic factors that contribute to the plight of human trafficking can be divided broadly into two groups known as the “push” and “pull” factors. “Push” factors are socio-economic and cultural conditions in a country which encourage individuals to migrate abroad. Some of these factors include: gender-based violence; lack of educational and employment opportunities; civil unrest or civil war; political corruption; unmonitored labor sectors; etc.

Alternatively, “pull” factors are conditions in a destination country that appeal to foreign nationals. These factors include: educational opportunities; opportunities for gainful employment; established immigrant communities in the destination country; demand for cheap and unskilled labor; etc.

7. How many nonimmigrant T visas have been filed?

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, only a total of 743 principal T visas have been issued as of September 2006, even though 5,000 have been allotted every year since 2000. Even more concerning is the fact that the U.S. State Department estimates that 14,000 to 17,500 individuals are trafficked yearly in to the United States.