Orange County actually stands pretty high nationally on visibility about human trafficking when you compare it to others because we actually started the fledgingly pieces of a task force back in 2004. This year is the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. So we were pretty early adopters: we’ve served more than a thousand victims. we have more than 300 convictions of traffickers. And right now in the Covid-19 crisis, providing for our survivors and continuing outreach to do prevention is a big challenge.
Specifically, as part of the Private-Public Partnership–which was a bipartisan legislation–one of the things that is super important for me as a community member is for people to leave their politics at the door. This is a human rights issue. When someone, because of someone else’s greed, is used for the purpose of forced labor, coerced labor, fraudulent labor, people come to America with a dream, and then they find out that they are actually trapped: they are not getting paid, they owe a debt that will never go away. Or, someone is recruited thinking they are going to be in a normal job and then they are sold for commercial sex. So it’s about greed and making money.
72% of our victims in the last years report were American citizens. And so when I’m connecting this to the Covid-19 crisis, if you think about the vulnerability that makes someone take a risk of going someplace else, meeting someone they met online so that they can get a job, now how desperate are they going to be. It’s going to amplify their vulnerability.
Right now I’ve been watching trending news articles, and there is a real concern that family violence is going to escalate during to the enforced shelter-in-place. So you can imagine that a young person who is experiencing that kind of abuse at home has the sense that there is no hope. Their only chance is to leave and then they don’t have any resources, and somebody says “Hey, you can stay at my apartment,” and then they find out that to pay for that they have to be sold for sex. The real key about human trafficking is that it is for a commercial sex act, somebody has designed a business plan so that they can a make a profit. It is based on greed.