Friday, July 11, 2008

Modern Slavery

Government ads seek tips about human traffickers
By Amy Taxin (AP) 07/11/2008
LOS ANGELES -- A new government ad campaign that encourages people to report human trafficking crimes is causing some immigrants to do a double take.

Slavery is often imagined as self-evident as in the settling of the U.S.
In a Mexican immigrant enclave here dotted with ads in Spanish, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed an English-language ad asking people to report traffickers who keep immigrants hostage or force them to work against their will. But the fearful eyes peering out from the ad at a bus shelter hasn't convinced Jessica Dominguez to help the same agency that carries out raids that have riled her neighborhood.

"Many of the people who take the bus are Hispanic people," Dominguez, the 20-year-old daughter of Mexican immigrants, said. "They might think Immigration is going to go here." ICE started the campaign to shed light on trafficking cases where people are forced to work to pay back their smugglers and to encourage immigrants, and their neighbors, to report abuses. About 500 ads are posted at bus shelters and subway stations in 10 cities, including San Diego, San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago, New York, Houston, and Miami.

Trafficking is often forced prostitution or uncompensated labor.
The government estimates that as many as 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. "The law enforcement community believes there's more [American] trafficking going on than we're aware of," ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. "We are trying to underscore that we're there to help victims, but they need to let us know who they are."
ICE netted 621 human trafficking arrests from 2004 through 2006. Amid a national push to curtail illegal immigration, ICE has also ramped up workplace raids and efforts to deport immigrants with criminal records. For immigrant advocates, the ads rings hollow from a federal agency that has deported more than 180,000 illegal immigrants during the last fiscal year. "For better or for worse, what people know for sure about ICE is that they split families," said Oscar Chacon, executive director of the National Alliance of Latin American & Caribbean Communities.

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