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May 3, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Modern-day slavery

State Legislature should strengthen law to fight human trafficking

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Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto last week held a meeting at UNLV about human trafficking, and it was well worth the time and coverage it received.

Human trafficking is a vile and all-too-real crime that has been under the public’s radar. It is often misunderstood as human smuggling, in which people willingly go across a border with the help of others. But there’s nothing voluntary about human trafficking; it is modern-day slavery. It occurs when people are pushed into labor or the sex trade through force, fraud or coercion, all for someone else’s financial gain.

Consider an immigrant who comes to the country legally but is threatened with deportation if he complains that the boss fails to pay him. Or the young woman who is threatened that she’ll be shot or left penniless if she runs out on a pimp.

This can — and does — happen anywhere. Las Vegas has become a focal point for the national discussion because of the vibrant sex trade here, as Jackie Valley reported in the Sun last week. Human trafficking has bloomed because of the demand.

The extent of the crime is difficult to determine because it is under-reported due to misunderstandings, the secret nature of it and victims’ shame. But there is no doubt it is happening at a distressing rate:

• Nearly 21 million people around the world are being trafficked, the International Labor Organization reported last year.

• As many as 17,500 people were being trafficked into the United States, according to a State Department study in 2005.

• As many as 100,000 minors have been forced into the sex trade in the United States, according to an estimate from the Human Trafficking Resource Center.

There are skeptics who downplay the numbers, noting that these are just estimates. But how many people does it take to suggest there’s a problem?

Here are two more numbers to consider:

• 107 — That’s how many juveniles, including three boys, that Metro’s vice section took out of the sex trade last year, said Lt. Karen Hughes. Sixty-one percent were from Nevada. And those are just the ones Metro found.

• 8,500 — That’s the number of calls a 24-hour national hotline for human trafficking took over the past five years from victims or people with tips about victims. The hotline — 888-373-7888 — isn’t well known, and Bradley Myles, executive director of the Polaris Project, which runs the hotline, figures “that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

In an editorial board meeting with the Sun last week, Myles said the studies that have been done on human trafficking suggest a “massive problem in the U.S.”

The United States hasn’t fully confronted this issue. In many states, including Nevada, the laws are out of date. As a result, the victims are often treated as criminals. For example, an 18-year-old girl who was forced into the sex trade as a minor may be considered a prostitute, not a victim. And if she escapes from her pimp, trying to get a job will be difficult with a criminal record.

Thankfully, Myles said there is a “very palpable groundswell” of support to fight human trafficking and change the laws.

That’s true in Nevada, where political leaders, activists and religious groups have come together on the issue. Cortez Masto’s summit was evidence of that.

This year, the Legislature will have a chance to take action. Cortez Masto has proposed Assembly Bill 67, which would overhaul the state’s laws to recognize human trafficking and take significant steps to fight it. Several other lawmakers, notably Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick, are offering bills that would complement Cortez Masto’s legislation. Together, the legislation should give the state a good foundation to fight human trafficking. It would provide tougher penalties for traffickers and also provide help to victims.

The bottom line is this: human trafficking must be addressed aggressively. Passing legislation like this would not only provide a strong statement against the crime, but also go a long way toward fighting it.

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  1. "...there's nothing voluntary about human trafficking; it is modern-day slavery. It occurs when people are pushed into labor or the sex trade through force, fraud or coercion, all for someone else's financial gain."

    SUN -- this isn't slavery at all. None of these people are owned and legally treated as property, which is what slavery actually is. Escape is as near as a phone call or running screaming in any public place. This is just a transparent ploy for more public funding.

    "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." -- H.L. Mencken

  2. Solution: legalize prostitution. Regulate it. Tax it.

  3. "In many states, including Nevada, the laws are out of date." Yes, the current prohibitionist laws CAUSE the very problems that Cortez-Masto claims concern for: violence, teen sex, disease, tax evasion, trafficking. pimps, police costs, jails, bad schools, victims, trafficking, etc. Will her proposed Assembly Bill 67 solve these problems by taxing and then expanding legal brothels--where none of these problems persist--to Las Vegas and Reno--where, not coincidentally, she is finding these problems? Or will it aggravate them and cause more money to be taken from school budgets to pursue this artificial and victimless crime. Better yet, maybe our State's leading legal authority can initiate Assembly Laws X and Y to protect and expand--for the first time in the State of Nevada--the Common Law, upon which our nation was founded and that gave expression to our "unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness". Not only is this the only legitimate job of all governments, but it solves all the problems she points out. At the same time she can avoid pandering to the precise Special Interest Groups who, by their actions and deeds, despise the Declaration of Independence and which make her appear to be unwilling to do her real job. Ed Uehling

  4. The FOCUS here is "Modern Day Slavery," which, by definition, in NONvoluntary, involves some form of intimidation, coersion, deceit,fraud, force, many times violence, to compel another to perform "all for someone else's financial gain" and benefit. This is most often in the form of human trafficking, sex trade, and outright slavery. It is a CRIME and those subjugated are VICTIMS.

    Legalized prostitution, which is regulated, is in other counties here in Nevada, which have a population less than 400,000 and agreed on it. Nevada's LEGAL brothel industry, has no problem with it being regulated, nor being TAXED. They, at each Nevada State Legislative Session ASK Lawmakers to TAX them! But our Lawmakers don't want to do this, they don't even want to be associated with dealing with the legal brothels. Shame on those Lawmakers ignoring this longterm request!

    For KillerB, let me say that young children who are victims of being forced into human trafficking and forced to be a sex worker are treated as "property" by the perpetraitor (I've dealt with such exploited children while teaching here in Nevada, at the elementary school level, and in California at all school levels). These affected children, and even vulnerable adults, are fearful for their and their family's lives, and although there are avenues to report, they are too fearful, and have been threaten in such a way that they aren't too likely to make the decision to get help by reporting.

    It is an extremely painful process either way, which often requires them to move and alter their identities. It both outrages me, and breaks my heart every time I learn or discover a child is so abused. Although I am no fan of capital punishment, there should be a death sentence for those who exploit innocent children and those who are vulnerable and fragile in such a way. Those kind of criminals never change their behaviors, they just get better at exploiting and hiding it.

    This is a positive move towards getting a handle on human trafficking and enslaving others. Count on my support!

    Blessings and Peace,

  5. "For KillerB, let me say that young children who are victims of being forced into human trafficking and forced to be a sex worker are treated as "property" by the perpetraitor [sic]....."

    star -- but they're not slaves. My point above is it's a buzzword used to provoke an intended emotional response. It cheapens whatever the real victims have to endure. Better to deal with reality than trot out flimsy exaggerations.

    "The more you can increase fear of drugs and crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all the people." -- Noam Chomsky

  6. We should have adequate legislation already on the books--we should NOT have to pass dozens of laws every two years. I haven't heard of a new crime--these things have been going on for time immemorial and we need more laws? So where is the enforcement against the Johns? We can't be focusing on immigrants so that we meet them at the borders and nurture them into happiness, nurture and escort them to hi-paying safe jobs while Americans are unemployed. We have an economy to rebuild and a K-12 system so broken we need to start over, completely over. Immigrants and people relocating within the country are responsible for a little research--I've heard from several people just moving here who think they're going to find good jobs--high school drop outs with young kids looking for free furniture...

  7. I hate when armchair whiny quarterbacks, use the words "I heard" when trying to defend their age old argument. Thats how we got into this problem.

    Electing left wing tree huggers to powerful positions because they said nice things you liked to hear. No experience, just flowery promises of future happiness.

    Its the people who say "I work with" or "I saw this" that makes the difference. People who see the problem everyday. And THIS is a major problem.

    Liberals like what their Messiah says and follow his words. Next thing you know, the unemployment rate shoots up and young people are homeless.

    Good people now have to do bad things just to survive and keep food on the table.

    I know several in this situation. They fell on hard times. Did what they should not have at a young age to keep fed and housed. Now they can not come back to the right side of the law because their record says otherwise.

    The laws need to be updated.