America, a world power for a century.
America, a "Christian" nation.
America, land of the free?
One of the most disheartening facts about human trafficking is that America is a big contributor to the problem. Trafficking here in America covers trafficking for cheap labor to trafficking sex.
When a service is sought for little to nothing, human traffickers are not to far away. Domestic help and the agriculture sector are areas in which we commonly find people who have been trafficked in one way or another. Labor trafficking has also been reported in door-to-door sales crews, carnivals, and health and beauty services.
We typically assume that some people are secretive, quiet, unassuming and even submissive because they are undocumented workers who came here to work illegally. That may be true in some cases, but far more than we would like to admit the people we often ostracize and build political platforms around have been victims of human trafficking. They have been promised a better life and promised that the correct documents will be procurred. They later find they are at the mercy of their employer because the documents were never filed and they are deported before the gravity of the situation is fully understood.
As I did research on labor trafficking, a young lady I encountered at a dry cleaners came to mind. I took some clothing there to be altered. For the dress I wanted adjusted, I had to have some measurements taken. I was taken into a side room with a bed and a dorm room sized refrigerator. The worker that took me in there quickly explained that sometimes their children are there and use the room. I was told that someone would be in to take the necessary measurements. Soon after that a young lady, in her early 20's, at most, came in to take my measurements. I tried to make small talk. She never spoke-not even to say she didn't speak english. She only nodded her head every now and then. She never made eye contact. She never smiled. When she was done she walked out of the room. When I walked out to get my ticket for the clothing, the young woman was sitting at the sewing machine with a pile of clothes in a basket at her feet.
There was something about her that bothered me. I didn't know why and it certainly did not make sense to me. After I received my ticket, I smiled at her and said thank you. No emotion. I kept thinking about her after I left. When I returned about a week later I had to go back into the small room and try on the dress that had major modifications. It fit like a glove and the work was seamless. It looked as if it was originally made just the way it was. I was beaming. I went on and on about how I've never seen work like that before. I went out to pay and the young lady was at the machine. I told her how great I thought her work was.
As I was leaving I thanked her again.
She smiled again.
As I walked out of the door, her employer said something to her in another language. The tone was harsh and she was no longer smiling.
A day or so later I felt a nudge to go back and give her a generous tip (more than the cost of the dress alteration). I procrastinated. I reasoned that I could do it when I had something to be cleaned or altered. When that day came, she was not there. I've been back a few times and she has not been there. Now, there is someone else sitting at that sewing machine.
I now wonder, what were her circumstances?
How did she come to working there?
Why was her employer harsh with her when she basked, for a fleeting moment, in high praise?
Why haven't I seen her since that day I picked up my alterations?
Was she living in that side room and unable to leave?
Why did I feel prompted to give her a generous tip?
From what I have gathered, she exhibited classic signs of someone who has been trafficked. Was the money I should have given her supposed to help her out of the situation she was in? Was it supposed to give her hope that people saw her and didn't think of her as unworthy? Would she have reached out to me for help?
I may never know and I am haunted by that.
I may be making a mountain out of a mole hill ... or I could right in my assumptions.
It is my belief that at one time or another we have all encountered someone that has been trafficked and we just didn't realize it. Most of us don't think of America as a breeding ground for trafficking. I never considered it until one night at a bible study the guest informed us that our city was the number one hub in America for human trafficking ...
The fact is, there is a great demand in America for trafficked individuals. This coming Sunday the trafficked accompanied by their traffickers will descend upon Glendale, Arizona. It's the Superbowl and the only time in America when a vast amount those who have been victims of the sex trade will be in one place. Some go to the Superbowl for the sport, others for sex. Women and under aged males and females will make their traffickers unprecedented amounts of money for the "services" they will provide.
There will be advocates there disseminating information and looking for signs of trafficking.
There will be law enforcement to uphold the law and some victims will be rescued.
Far too many will not be.
Those that aren't will then be forced to go back to the parlor room, masseuse establishments, strip clubs, motels and hotels and of course the streets to "work" for the remainder of the year. All year long they will be subject to emotional, mental, physical and sexual abuse until next year when the Superbowl happens again.
Unless we write our legislators and demand for better legislation that ensures that the victims do not get punished alongside the perpetrators.
Unless we get active and at the very least share with family, friends, co-workers, school mates, fellow church members and others that there is a "secret" problem in America and we collectively need to ban together to do something about it.
Unless we decide to join the movement ourselves and actively fight eradicating human trafficking in America and across the globe.
Unless we fall to our knees and pray for the 30 million that are enslaved around the world today - that they never loose hope, that they get rescued and ultimately that they encounter the love of Jesus in a very real way.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3 NASB)
Just Around the Corner,