Foreign Policy Blogs

'slavery in America'


Photo by Polaris Project

“Hiding in Plain Sight: How can we find and protect child victims of trafficking!”- Sheila Neville, Staff Attorney of The Legal Assistance to Trafficking Victims Project

One never thinks horrid things happen in their home town, nor does one want to believe that right next door unthinkable abuses are being committed, yet the truth is they are. Very often I am faced with people who are in utter dismay that human trafficking exists right here in the United States. While victims of trafficking are often from foreign countries, it is not necessary for a victim of trafficking to be taken out of their home country, nor their home state or city. According to C.I.A. estimates, approximately 900,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, 20,000 of which make their way to the United States. There are hundreds of thousands more people who are victims of domestic trafficking, most of which are children, who are most often forced into the sex trade. Anti-Slavery International estimates that the numbers of slaves in the United States are much greater at around 27 million. These are shocking numbers, for slavery is at an all time high, we currently have more slaves today than during legalized slavery.

The most frightening aspect of modern slavery is that very few Americans, realize the enormity of the situation, let alone are they aware of the presence of slaves in their own communities. I hail from the Great Plains, the Midwest, Middle America, and we have slaves! I have recently been drawn back to my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, where a trafficking ring has recently been exposed, the ring that was exposed luckily did not involve the use of children. However, this event opened the eyes of many in the community to the fact that human trafficking is not only in the United States, but it's in every town, not just the metropolis's like New York and Los Angeles. With the discovery of the human trafficking ring, my own family truly realized for the first time the reality of what I had been trying to preach to them all this time. Needless to say their shock and dismay where short lived, as they quickly retreated back to their every day lives. Unfortunately this is not the first case of human trafficking or slavery in my home town, a year ago a ring was busted for forcing students from Russia to work in Ice Cream Trucks, unfortunately there have been many other cases and there will be many more.

“Maria Suarez, came from Mexico to Los Angeles legally…, hoping to find work. She was offered a housecleaning job at the home of a 68-year-old man who instead converted her into a virtual slave – threatening her and her family if she told anyone of the rapes and beatings that ensued over the next five years.” (‘Human trafficking goes on in U.S., too’)

Victims of human trafficking and modern day slavery, endure physical, sexual and mental abuse by their captors. Their value is regarded as nothing much more than a cheap form of labor, a money making opportunity or are seen as less than human. Victims of modern slavery are hidden in the dark corners of every city, every country, but they are also right there in the open. You may pass a slave today as you leave work, you may have a victim living down the street, or you may even know one, but for many they cannot speak for they have been silenced by fear and abuse.

Tonight I highly urge you to watch, ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson, as the series,'slavery in America’ begins. Take this opportunity to become aware of slavery in your backyard, and begin the fight to end this atrocity in the United States, and begin to end human suffering from the brutal chains of slavery.

Links and Related Articles:

Story from May 8 on trafficking in the Greater Kansas City Area
‘Ice cream sellers face forced-labor charges’
Hope House – A Kansas City based shelter for victims of domestic violence, and a new trafficking program
Polaris Project – A DC based anti-trafficking organization and shelter
Free the Slaves
'slavery in America Today’
The American Slavery Awareness Project – A video documentary
American Anti-Slavery Group
“Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States” – 2004 report
Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery – Contains links to articles about trafficking all across the United States
Captive Daughters
Body & Sold – National Campaign to Raise Awareness about Sex Trafficking of American Children and Teens
Boat People S.O.S
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – Human Trafficking Program
Human Trafficking – US Resources
Vital Voices
UNICEF – US Legislative Update



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict