Last week the HTC hosted a panel discussion about immigration and migrants’ heightened vulnerability to human trafficking. Numerous experiences with migrant exploitation were shared by the three panelists (in photo, from left to right):
All three panelists delivered perceptive views into the challenges and the threats of exploitation that migrants may face. Megan Hope observed that RMIAN sees many more labor exploitation cases than sex trafficking ones, while Gonsalez noted that Servicios de la Raza works with many migrant children – a great deal of whom are seeking to be reunited with family in the U.S. and are at risk of being kidnapped while attempting to do so.
Professor Krӧgel shared her expertise on the exploitation Quechua sheepherders from Peru face in Western Colorado and Wyoming. These herders come to the U.S. under H2-A immigrant work visas, and Krӧgel noted certain exemptions within this visa lead to wage exploitation and poor living conditions for the herders. She called for reform of this law in Colorado, which would, at the very least, raise the pay standards.
This raised a discussion of the legality of certain forms of exploitation that are reminiscent of conditions of human trafficking. The panel also noted that Americans who hire and pay immigrants – documented or not – should be scrutinized more by state governments. Additionally, the panelists discussed the need for more funding. Gonsalez found fault with the fact that the City of Denver has found it difficult to fund assistance for refugee children while it is putting millions of dollars into its correctional facilities.
Americans often think human trafficking is primarily a problem in developing countries, but the panelists delivered anecdotes of situations that happen in Denver and the surrounding regions. Often, the exploitation that occurs – while it is a clear violation of human rights – is not actually illegal. This points toward the need for more comprehensive legislation protecting migrants and other populations vulnerable to human trafficking.
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