Over the past several years, we have found that a growing number of our clients have been victims of human trafficking for forced labor, and we have adjusted our programming to meet the needs of these newly-identified victims.
Labor trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers (“employers,” labor contractors, and others) use force, fraud, or coercion to exploit workers. Each year between 17,500 and 60,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. and hundreds of thousands are trafficked within our borders, the vast majority suffering undetected. Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, which defined labor trafficking as a federal crime and created a special T visa for victims who aid in the prosecution of their traffickers.
Who are the victims?
Friends of Farmworkers serves large local populations that are especially vulnerable to labor trafficking. Since the National Human Trafficking Resource Center began to track reports of abuse to their human trafficking hotline in 2007, Pennsylvania has accounted for the 9th largest volume of calls (2337). In 2014, the Department of Labor issued over 3,435 H2B visa certifications to Pennsylvania employers, making Pennsylvania home to the 5th largest H2B worker population in the country. According to the Pew Hispanic Center estimates, approximately 160,000 unauthorized immigrants were living in Pennsylvania in 2010, 110,000 of whom were in the labor force.
(Infographic from End Slavery Now)
All of these factors form a picture of need that, while not comprehensive and only just beginning to be addressed by the law, already constitutes a significant local human rights issue.
What do we do to help the victims directly?
1. We recover unpaid wages or damages owed to victims under state and federal statutes designed to protect victims of human trafficking.
2. We connect them with other service providers who provide help to victims of labor trafficking.
3. We assist eligible individuals and their families obtain permanent lawful immigration status based on the individual’s status as a victim of human trafficking.
Building Partnerships to Prevent Exploitation and Restore Victims
Our collaborative partnerships throughout Pennsylvania draw on existing relationships with migrant worker communities, local non-profits, state and federal agencies, and even foreign governments. Working with our partners, we provide community education that serves to inform the public about the relevance and prevalence of this crime in Pennsylvania. By sharing this information, we empower agencies throughout Pennsylvania to identify victims of labor trafficking. We also help workers themselves to better understand labor trafficking, allowing the workers to identify common patterns which might indicate a trafficking situation. We make it a priority to support workers who are brave enough to report these crimes, holding their traffickers accountable.