Climate Change and Human Trafficking

As we listen to the nightly news, tune in on political debates, and read various publications, we can’t help but notice that climate change is a “hot” topic. Those studying climate change and its effects on the earth and its inhabitants are clearly sounding an alarm to all of us and urging each of us to do our part to stop and reverse this crisis.

It has been scientifically proven that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal and, since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen,” (thetrafficedhuman.org).

Many people have been displaced due to the effects that climate change has had on their country of origin. Droughts, floods, and severe weather of all kinds have caused death and destruction, often forcing people to migrate to find a new home that can sustain them.

Of course, those already living in poverty are most affected–lack of adequate food, water, shelter, etc. are a few consequences of climate change. But have you ever considered that, because of this crisis, people are much more vulnerable to being trafficked? Dr. Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of the University of Arizona states, “Peer-review research continues to show that climate change underlies poverty and that poverty drives human trafficking. The better we can understand the complex forces that give rise to poverty, the better we’ll be able to truly cut at the roots of all forms of slavery.”

What is the reason for this connection? Climate change causes an increase in migration which makes people more vulnerable to exploitation due to their desperate circumstances. They are more apt to fall prey to traffickers offering false promises for a better life. Desperate for work to help their situation, migrants accept poor working conditions, long hours, and abusive situations thinking that they will have the freedom to move on when they make enough money. This is rarely, if ever, the case.

In a recent article in the UN News, the UN Chief is quoted saying, “Conflict and climate change are among factors that increase desperation that enables human trafficking to flourish.” In his message on the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, he said, “many of those falling prey to traffickers are migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers who have left their country of origin for various reasons.” Climate change is one of those reasons.

Those migrating are not the only ones impacted by climate change. Those who stay behind often face other challenges, including the lack of eligible women to take as wives. For example, in drought-ridden Bundelkhand, many have moved away due to lack of water. Parents of daughters won’t give them into marriage with someone who cannot provide a suitable life for them. This also provides an opportunity for traffickers to lure women from other areas of the village with the promise of a better life. Again, this is not the case and, once the woman arrives, they are trapped into unhappy marriages and a life of hardship.

Climate change is a huge issue that cannot be ignored. It affects all of us, but the most vulnerable in the world suffer the most. Will you do your part to reverse the damage already done to our earth and prevent further damage?

Read more here.

Massage Parlor Trafficking

In recent weeks, the media has focused a lot on the case of the New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, and the charged brought against him for soliciting sex from a prostitute. The charges were part of an investigation by several law enforcement agencies that ended in raids and multiple arrests connected to nearly a dozen businesses in the area.

According to Polaris, “Human trafficking in massage parlors is the second most common type of trafficking reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.” A study done by Polaris in 2018 showed that “there are more than 9,000 illicit massage businesses (IBMs) – fronts for selling commercial sex – spread across every state in the United States. For a sense of scale, consider that Starbucks now has approximately 8,222 company-operated stores in the United States.”

In order to recognize these businesses, one must know the signs that differentiate them from a legitimate massage therapy establishment. The following signs will help one to recognize an illegal massage business.

  • Advertised prices are significantly lower than below market level (for instance, $40 for a one-hour massage in a city where $80 is the norm).
  • There will often be a back or side entrance to the establishment where clients need to be buzzed in.
  • Often covered windows (or no windows at all) and excessive security cameras are present.
  • One may notice a steady flow of primarily male clientele at all hours of the day and night.
  • One rarely (or never) sees the workers leave the location.
  • One can Google the name and location of the business to check if it’s posting sexually-suggestive advertisements online.

The best way to end this form of human trafficking is to pass strong laws across the country that standardize regulations for the massage therapy industry. Presently, 46 states have some regulations for massage therapists, but often the business operation and ownership do not have to follow of set of regulations.

Click here to read more about massage parlor trafficking.

Click here to read an account of a victim of massage parlor trafficking.

Back to School, Back to Safety

“Pornography has become increasingly acceptable, accessible, and freely available, and it is one of the biggest threats to our children’s online safety” (Pornography 101).

“Internet safety is now the 4th top ranked issue in the list of health concerns for U.S. children” (C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, 2015).

As summer ends and families prepare to send their children back to school, many of them are unaware of the potential threats lurking on school and library computers. While technology has expanded the educational possibilities in the classroom, it has also introduced a harmful enemy: online pornography.

The internet is both a source of potential for our children and a source of concern. The potential being that the internet offers such an enormous range of positive and educational experiences and materials to our children. Yet, children online may be vulnerable to harm through exposure to sexually explicit materials and adult predators.

More children are becoming victims of brutal online sex abuse and developing an addition to it without even knowing. (Learn more here.)

Pornography gives an image of sexuality completely dehumanized, robotic, and with no connection to feelings. It conveys a degrading image of the woman. It is a violent sexuality where women are in positions of submission, alienation, and compliance to the desire of the man. Today, children aren’t protected when they navigate alone on the internet. They can, at any time, fall prey to explicit pornographic images that can be the beginning of an addiction in the future.

Porn is a new drug, an online epidemic. Pornography is, in and of itself, a form of sex trafficking. The demand for porn leads to the trafficking of others.

Click here for ideas on how to keep our children safe.

Traffickers Target Children

“It’s not surprising that young children and adolescents are the primary targets of traffickers/pimps, given their operational methods. Youth have less life experience, fewer coping mechanisms, and smaller social support mechanisms. This can work to the trafficker’s favor as he implements different recruitment and control tactics.” – Shared Hope International

“Among the diverse populations affected by human trafficking, children are at a particular risk to sex trafficking and labor trafficking.” – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Traffickers Exploit Vulnerability

In the U.S., the average age a child is recruited or forced into prostitution is 11-14 years old.

Shared Hope International (SHI) has identified a startling trend: American children are victims of the sex trade and they are being trafficked within the United States. SHI research reveals that Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) is a critical problem in many locations across the U.S.

Your children are growing up in a different world than you did–a world where a predatory porn industry is seeking to hook your vulnerable children as early as possible. You have the power to prepare your kids to reject pornography!

Multiple Problems at the Border

These past weeks, you may have seen or heard horrifying stories: children missing and feared to be in the hands of traffickers, families separated at the border, and death of 19-year-old Guatemalan woman at the hands of border patrol. All are depressing situations and I have been shocked by each of these cruel realities.

However, it seems that there has been some confusion about these situations, especially of the disappearance of children. These situations are not connected. Rather, the missing children mostly came to the U.S. alone in 2017. They were put into custody of the Office of Refugees and Resettlement (ORR) and were then released to sponsors. Until recently, ORR has been unable to contact a significant number of these children by way of their sponsors.

Another compelling but separate issue is that of the separations of children from their families at the border. These parents often are unable to find their child again and may be deported by the time the child’s advocate locates the parents.

While migration and trafficking are inherently related topics, claiming that immigration restrictions are a necessary means to end trafficking is a false pretense and connection. In reality, limiting immigration policies can actually fuel the exploitation and marginalization at the basis of the global trafficking problem, creating a culture that is harmful to identifying and protecting victims of human trafficking. Ending trafficking requires and approach that prioritizes the human rights of migrants facing exploitation rather than simply “cracking down on illegal migration.”

Avoiding Trafficking in Lent

The Lenten season brings about an increase in seafood consumption as many Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays. This increases not only the demand for seafood, but also the demand for human trafficking.

The seafood industry always ranks high on lists of industries where modern day slavery takes place. The fishermen and women who catch the fish and other seafood are often forced into that “job.” But if you thought the inhumane treatment of persons ended there, you’d be wrong. Rather, throughout the entire process–catching, processing, and shipping–human trafficking is present.

This stigma around slavery in the seafood industry has forced companies, such as Red Lobster, to launch “sustainable seafood campaigns” in which they reveal the origin of each catch.

What can you do? Know where your seafood is coming from! If the restaurant, wholesaler, or retailer does not have the information readily available to you, there’s a chance their process could involve trafficking. You can find more tips on how to stop human trafficking in the seafood industry here.

So, next time, before you buy your seafood of choice, ask yourself if you know where it came from. You can help put an end to modern day slavery!

Modern Day Story of the Good Samaritan

“When the man walked in with fang marks on his leg, the volunteers knew the protocol: In the case of a rattlesnake bite, you call 911. But like all of the patients who end up here, his very presence in this desert clinic meant he had broken American law.”

This is an excerpt of an article written about a clinic in Arizona. Many of the clinic’s patients have entered America illegally. These medical professionals try to save lives without breaking the law.

In reading this article, the story of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 10:25-37) came to me. I was moved to tears and, at the same time, full of gratitude for the Good Samaritans serving in the desert at the American border.

I was also reminded of my recent visit to one of the shelters run by Daughters of Charity from Mexico at the Mexican-American border. There, I witnessed the hardships each migrant fleeing the Northern Triangle faces before reaching the United States border. During my time there, numerous adult men arrived after being deported and taken away from their families. It was just a heartbreaking experience!

Indeed, the lessons of the Good Samaritan are still of value today.

Instead of building a new wall–a larger wall to keep people out at the expense of billions of dollars–instead of allowing people to die of thirst and hunger in the desert; instead of letting people be exploited by those who charge them such high amounts to try to bring them across our border; instead of pushing them away…if we listen to the law of God in our hearts, would we not give up that indifference? Sometimes it’s even more than indifference. It’s xenophobia. We begin to hate these people and push them back when we should be accepting them.