Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery. It involves recruiting, harboring, moving or obtaining a person, by force, fraud or coercion, for the purposes of involuntary servitude, debt bondage or sexual exploitation.
Illinois is particularly vulnerable to human trafficking because Chicago has the highest volume of arriving immigrants in the Midwest. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is a main point of entry for trafficking victims.
The experienced criminal law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., recognize that human trafficking is a serious crime, and we represent and advise clients who may be caught up in this vicious web.
EXAMINING HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Human trafficking has become a global epidemic and is one of the world’s fastest-growing crimes. The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking estimates that 2.5 million people are forced into labor, including sexual exploitation, at any given time. However, victims of human trafficking don’t have to be transported internationally. They can also be forced or lured from one neighborhood or city to another.
These are the major forms of human trafficking:
- Sex trafficking – This occurs when adults are forced into prostitution or other sex acts for money. In metropolitan Chicago, 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls are involved in the commercial sex trade annually, with one third of them first getting involved in prostitution by the age of 15 years and 62% by the age of 18 years.
- Child sex trafficking – This occurs when children under 18 are recruited and forced into sex acts in exchange for money, and it also usually involves food, clothing, shelter, drugs, and alcohol. Common sex acts include child prostitution, child sex tourism, child pornography, and forced marriage. Many victims are runaway girls who have already suffered sexual abuse as children. The pimp or abuser may start by befriending the child, who looks up to them as someone who will take care of them. The pimp uses psychological and physical controls, including threats, violence or drugs, to make victims feel trapped and powerless.
- Forced labor – Sometimes victims are made to work through coercion, threats or deception. Forced labor networks thrive in highly populated states like Illinois that have large immigrant communities. Victims are forced into begging, domestic servitude, and forced labor in restaurants. Forced child labor occurs when children under 18 are the victims.
- Bonded labor or debt bondage – This happens when humans are forced into labor to pay off a debt that they or their ancestors incurred. Victims often must work under conditions which make it impossible to pay off the debts.
- Domestic servitude – Some people are forced to work in a private residence and are forbidden to leave their jobs. Often, women and children agree to come to the United States to do domestic work, but when they arrive they find themselves physically abused, exploited, and virtually enslaved. They have no way to leave and exist on their own, so they are held in domestic servitude as maids or nannies, often in homes in Illinois suburbs.
- Trafficking in human organs – As hard as it is to imagine, this type of human trafficking involves the harvesting and sale of organs from unwilling donors or donors who sell their organs illegally. An estimated $50 billion is collected annually by organ traffickers around the world.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING?
In 2006, Illinois took steps to address human trafficking problems through the Illinois Trafficking of Persons and Involuntary Servitude Act. The goal is to prosecute human trafficking offenders and assist victims of sex crimes. The act empowers the attorney general to crack down on human trafficking crimes and makes it easier for the Department of Human Services to assist victims and provide social services
In 2011, Illinois allowed courts to clear and expunge convictions of prostitution from trafficked victims’ records.
In 2013, Illinois became one of only a few states where prostitution is no longer a felony and where a minor cannot be charged with prostitution, even as a misdemeanor. The law requires that victims under 18 be presumed abused or neglected, and they can be placed in temporary protective custody. Law enforcement officers now have to report an incident of trafficking to the Department of Children and Family Services, and an investigation must be conducted within 24 hours of the incident. In addition, Illinois has enacted laws to help child victims clear their names.
There are several organizations in Illinois working to address the problem of human trafficking. Advocacy groups such as End Demand Illinois, Illinois Rescue and Restore Coalition, CAASE and the Dreamcatcher Foundation have programs and offer services to former victims.
Anyone involved with human trafficking should seek legal counsel. For a free initial consultation with an experienced and compassionate DuPage County criminal lawyer, contact us online or call 630-305-0222.