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Commentary: U.S. must reduce human trafficking

December 26, 2013|By Elizabeth Moreno

Human trafficking in America has dramatically increased over the past decades. More American girls and young women are being trafficked within the U.S. now than ever.

The U.S. State Department has indicated that up to 17,000 people annually are trafficked into the U.S. from overseas and enslaved. The victims come from Africa, Asia, India, China, Latin America and the former Soviet republics.

American citizens are also becoming victims of human trafficking, and many, particularly American adolescents, are kidnapped from their home states or picked up after running away from home. Young American girls who run away from home are often emotionally and physically coerced by their pimps into participating in sexual activities for money.

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The Obama administration views the fight against human trafficking as an important priority. Therefore, Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, directed by President Obama, oversees the State Department's efforts to monitor and fight human trafficking. While the U.S. spends billions of dollars in combating drug trafficking, the number of human-trafficking victims continues to increase virtually unchecked.

The U.S. spends around $191 million annually to combat human trafficking, whereas the the country spends more than $700 million annually on combating drug trafficking. Some people might surmise that this is enough funding to combat human trafficking, but the U.S.'s current failure to win the fight illustrates clearly that additional measures have become necessary.

Human-trafficking victims within the United States work as commercial sex slaves, fruit packers, construction workers, gardeners and domestic laborers. They also work in restaurants, factories and sweatshops. Human trafficking and slavery in America generates millions of dollars a year for criminals who use people who are vulnerable, desperate and living in poverty.

Human traffickers often brutalize and terrorize their victims to gain control. Individuals who survive trafficking are faced with confusion, stigma and shame as they struggle to gain control of their lives.

This type of slavery is often cheaper to operate than others because the victims are provided with minimal food, clothing, medicines and shelter.

Victims of domestic slavery are often sold once or twice through a "mom and pop" operation, while others voluntarily arrive in the U.S. with their work permits, not knowing what lies ahead.

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