“LAW IN YOUR LIFE”
With DR. DEB HUME, Assistant teaching professor in the Masters of Public Health program at the University of Missouri-Columbia----Co-Chair of the Central Missouri “Stop Human Trafficking” Coalition
Question 1...What is human trafficking?
Question 2...How would someone fall victim to Human Trafficking?
Question 3...Is it possible that the person who made your bed in a Missouri hotel is actually a slave?
Question 4...How many human trafficking victims are there in the U.S.
Question 5...What would happen to a victim of human trafficking if he or she reported their situation to the police?
Question 6...What should we be on the lookout for to identify possible victims of human trafficking?
Question 7...What should we do if we believe someone is in dire straits?
Text Transcript of Audio Interview
Shelly Tucker: Welcome to the law in your life. The Missouri Bar podcast for the public. I'm Shelly Tucker. Our guest is Dr. Deb Hume, assistant teaching professor in the master's of public health program at the University of Missouri Columbia. She is also the co‑chair of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition. Dr. Hume tell me about human trafficking, -- how do you describe that?
Dr. Hume: Human trafficking is basically modern-day slavery. It's profiting from the forced labor of other people, and there are two prominent types: sex trafficking, which is when someone is commercially profiting from the sex act of someone else. They're forcing that person to work in prostitution, pornography, strip clubs, dancing, whatever it happens to be, by the use of force, fraud or coercion. If that person is not an adult, if that person is under 18 years old and they're forced into the commercial sex industry they're considered a victim of human trafficking regardless, even if there was no force, fraud or coercion. If they're under 18 it is considered human trafficking. The second type, labor trafficking, is when someone is forced into working in a hotel, working in a restaurant, working domestically in a home as a servant or a housekeeper or nanny where again force, fraud or coercion was used. That person is working involuntarily. They've been forced to pass a debt; they've been forced because someone is threatening to harm their family; in some form their work is not freely chosen and they're not free to leave.
Shelly Tucker: How would someone fall victim of human trafficking?
Dr. Hume: Probably the most common situation is where someone is in a vulnerable situation. They're desperately needing work. They may be homeless. They may be a runaway child or in the case of international trafficking, it's a family that's impoverished and someone's promising to provide their child with an education and a good job. Almost always there's some sort of fraud involved. Someone's telling you that I've got a job for you; I can give you an education; I can do this for you; and it turns out to be something entirely different.
Shelly Tucker: Dr. Hume is it possible that the person who made your bed, for instance, at a Missouri hotel is actually a slave?
Dr. Hume: Unfortunately, it is possible. There's a recent case in Kansas City where a number of people that work for this job service were indicted as a labor trafficking organization in putting them to work in hotels, motels, factories and so on, and profiting from their labor. The people who thought they were coming to the United States legitimately for work were then enslaved by this labor organization.
Shelly Tucker: How many human trafficking victims are there in the U.S.?
Dr. Hume: That's actually kind of hard to say. The U.S. Department of State estimates that about 18,000 to 20,000 are trafficked into or through the United States every year.. The United States is one of the largest destination countries, having one of the highest demands for trafficking. Other countries are more likely to be countries of origin. We happen to be one that is bringing trafficked individuals in to work. There's also the problem not just of international trafficking but a problem of U.S. citizens being trafficked. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that as many as 100,000 children in the United States are at risk for sex trafficking -- runaway kids, throw away kids, children who happen to be at the mall and someone tells them all, you know, I'll teach you to sell makeup and you can make a lot of money, and then they're tricked into prostitution. So we have both international victims -- 18,000 to 20,000 perhaps per year -- and domestic victims as well. And of those 18,000 to 20,000 brought in, probably half of those are children as well. This is happening to children all over the world including children in our own country.
Shelley Tucker: If someone who is the victim of human trafficking tries to report their situation to the police what would happen to them?
Dr. Hume: It depends. If the police are trained and know what to look for, or if the police are familiar with human trafficking, there is protection both under federal law and under Missouri state law for victims of human trafficking. That person would be released from the situation and provided with a T‑visa, a visa that’s for trafficking victims in particular that would allow them then to access job services and remake their life in the United States if they wanted to or return to their own country if they wanted to. The key piece is getting law enforcement trained so that they recognize what might be happening because a lot of times the person who is coming out of such a situation is probably not going to say I’m a victim of human trafficking. They probably are going to look like they might even be involved in criminal activity if they are involved in prostitution, or if they don’t have their documents and if they’re a foreign born victim, they may be arrested and deported. But if the law enforcement is trained , they may start looking for those clues that are sort of beneath the surface and which indicate that it’s a human trafficking situation.
Shelley Tucker: What should we do to be on the lookout for and to help identify possible victims of human trafficking?
Dr. Hume: Things to look for are large van loads of people that seem to be under someone’s control, maybe stopping at a rest stop or stopping at a truck stop. The one thing that traffickers do is if they have a group of victims either in prostitution or in labor is that they may frequently move them from place to place to make detection more difficult and also to keep those victims isolated and confused. The victims may not even know where they are in the United States If an individual seems particularly submissive or if they’re very fearful if you try to speak to them and they seem afraid that they’ll be seen talking with someone or if someone else tries to speak for them, tries to control what is said or what they’re allowed to say, if there are signs of physical or emotional abuse, all of those things could indicate something else -- but they also can be signs of trafficking. So it’s a matter of keeping your eyes and ears open , and looking for additional information.
Shelley Tucker: What should someone do if he or she thinks someone is in dire straits?
Dr. Hume: In central Missouri what we’d ask you to do is call one of three numbers. The first one is the Columbia Police Department tips line, 573‑875‑8477, that’s 875‑TIPS. The Columbia Police Force is aware of the problem and would notify the correct authorities so that an investigation could proceed. The second one is the FBI office in Jefferson City. They also are, are aware and trained. That number is 573‑636‑8814. The final number is the national hotline, and at this hotline they have interpreters so if someone is not an English speaker they could call this number and an interpreter would be arranged. Tthat number is 1‑888‑373‑7888.
Shelley Tucker: Our guest has been Dr. Deb Hume, assistant teaching professor in the Masters of Public Health Program at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She’s also the co-chair of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition. The Law in Your Life provides general information about the law and the public. For your specific legal needs remember you can only get legal advice from your attorney. We hope you’ve enjoyed this segment. If you have any suggestions for future podcast topics let us know at mobar.org. I’m Shelley Tucker for the Missouri Bar and Law in Your Life.