October 10, 2015 01:49 UTC


Human Trafficking a Problem in Major Cities Across US

Click Arrow to Hear This Program:

Play Audio File

Or download MP3 (Right-click or option-click and save link)

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Each year since two thousand one, the American State Department has published a Trafficking in Persons Report. It measures efforts by countries to fight human trafficking. This year's report, out Monday, adds the United States for the first time.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation says people are being trafficked into major cities nationwide. Tim Whittman at the F.B.I. is an expert on the problem. He says about twenty percent of the cases involve victims from Mexico -- the largest number of any foreign country.

Bradley Myles is with the Polaris Project, an organization that fights trafficking. He calls it "a very serious problem in the United States." He says some of the victims are forced to work in homes of the wealthy and at restaurants. Activists say some cases of modern slavery involve forced labor in agriculture.

Human Trafficking a Problem in Major Cities Across US
Human Trafficking a Problem in Major Cities Across US

But more than eighty percent of suspected incidents involve the sex trade. That was the finding of a study by the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center, established by Congress.

The Polaris Project operates a telephone hotline that receives calls from around the country -- from states such as Texas, California, New York and Florida. Bradley Myles says one of the top five cities where calls come from is Washington. Victims in the nation's capital include women from South Korea, China and Latin America. Some victims are American citizens.

Tim Whittman from the F.B.I. says illegal sex businesses often limit their customers to avoid being caught.

TIM WHITTMAN: "If a person, for example, from Korea is brought in to the United States under false pretenses and then forced into prostitution, very much that place where the prostitution occurs is within, then, the Korean community in the United States."

Deborah Sigmund started a group called Innocents at Risk. She says most of the victims of human trafficking come from economically troubled countries.

DEBORAH SIGMUND: "They want to think that they can come to America and have a great job, so it's very easy to fool them."

Tim Whittman says the smugglers often threaten their victims and make it difficult for them to pay their debts. The threat may be against their family back in their home country. But there are other ways to pressure victims to stay.

TIM WHITTMAN: "A common threat is 'If you leave, I'm going to report you to immigration and you'll be arrested. You'll be kept in prison for a long time.'"

But in reality, there is help.  Victims of human trafficking can sometimes get a special visa. It permits them to stay in the United States for up to four years. During that time, they can request to stay permanently. But with threats, a language barrier and fear of the legal system, victims are often unwilling or unable to seek help.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, with reporting by Elizabeth Lee. I'm Doug Johnson.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • Video A Taste of Japan at the ‘Grand Sake Tasting’

    Jasmine Taylor pours sake at the Grand Sake Tasting in Washington, D.C. Japanese music played while people drank rice wine and ate traditional food. This celebration raised money for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. More

  • Audio China Warns About ‘Provocative’ Moves in South China Sea

    Recent reports said that the U.S. was planning sea patrols close to man-made islands in the South China Sea. When asked about these reports, China’s Foreign Ministry warned against “provocative behavior” in the area where many countries have conflicting territorial claims. More

  • Audio US Arrests Former UN Official

    John Ashe was arrested on Tuesday at his home outside New York City. The 61-year-old served as United Nations General Assembly president. US officials say he charged with taking bribes and violating US tax law. Five other people also are charged in connection with the case. More

  • A child injured in a bombing in Syria is rushed to medical help.

    Audio Syrian Bombings Have a Human Cost

    The Syrian Network for Human Rights says the Syrian government has dropped more than 1,700 barrel bombs from helicopters. The group says at least 103 people have died as a result. More

  • Audio Tunisian Group Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

    National Dialogue Quartet supported democracy during the “Jasmine Revolution” of 2011, when the country was close to civil war. | As It Is More

Featured Stories

  • Video Who Goes to a Rock Concert With Their Mother? Millennials!

    When musicians over the age of 50 are the star performers, you expect to see many Baby Boomers cheering them on. Aging rock music stars usually have Baby Boomer fans. Younger rock stars are more likely to appeal to Millennials. But at the Lockn' Music festival, two generations came together. More

  • Audio Tunisian Group Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

    National Dialogue Quartet supported democracy during the “Jasmine Revolution” of 2011, when the country was close to civil war. | As It Is More

  • Video The Lady, or the Tiger?

    Long ago, in very olden times, there lived a powerful king. Some of his ideas were progressive. But others caused people to suffer. This story is a classic tale of a tough decision. Which door has the tiger behind it, and which door has the lady? We'll let you decide! More

  • #aidrefugees

    Audio Top 5 Crowdfunding Projects Ever

    Crowdfunding sites can help start profitable businesses or help people in need. More

  • Video Fabric Fights Dust Mites in Your Bed

    Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies. People with allergies have trouble breathing or suffer from tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. Now, scientists in Poland say they have successfully tested cloth that the microscopic creatures cannot pass through. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs