In Our Own Backyard: What You Need to Know About Human And Sex Trafficking in the U.S.

Map of inter-regional human trafficking flows, worldwide. (Photo Credit: United Nations Office of Drug and Crime)
Map of inter-regional human trafficking flows, worldwide. (Photo Credit: United Nations Office of Drug and Crime)

By Guest Contributor: Brian Kent

Most readers are likely aware that human and sex trafficking is a serious problem in countries such as Thailand and India. In fact, Asian women are the most trafficked group worldwide. But, readers may not know that human and sex trafficking of Asian women is a large problem here in the United States, as well. While abuse lawyers like those at AbuseGuardian.com can help victims of human and sex trafficking take legal action against their captors, trafficking is an issue that has sadly gone widely unnoticed in America.

70% of human trafficking victims worldwide are girls or adult women. Asians and Pacific Islanders (API) are disproportionately trafficked into sex work in America. Although APIs represent roughly 6% of Americans, nearly half of trafficked people into America are API, making APIs the second largest group of human trafficking victims in the Americas, and the largest group of people trafficked into the region. According to a 2004 U.S. Department of Justice report, 7,800 Asians and Pacific Islanders were trafficked into America out of an estimated 14,500-17,500 trafficked people. More recent reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime show that more than 1 in 3 human trafficking victims in Northern and Central America originated from East Asia, South Asia or the Pacific Islands, and most of them are trafficked to the United States or Canada.

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ISIS Threatens Two Japanese Hostages & Demands $200M Ransom in Latest Video

PMC CEO Haruna Yukawa in a photo from Syria dated two years ago.
PMC CEO Haruna Yukawa in a photo from Syria dated two years ago.

The latest video posted this morning by ISIS militants shows members of the extremist organization threatening the lives of two Japanese hostages, Private Military Company CEO Haruna Yukawa (above) and freelance journalist Kenji Goto; both Japanese citizens were captured by the extremist group last year. The macabre setting of this morning’s video is heartbreakingly familiar: the orange jumpsuit-clad hostages knelt in front of a rocky dune next to the same hooded spokesman who has been featured in earlier beheading videos.

In this morning’s video, ISIS demands that the Japanese government pay the group $200 million dollars for Goto and Yukawa’s safe return. This was apparently in reference to the recent decision by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to commit $200 million in non-military aid to countries fighting ISIS; that decision was announced Saturday and was intended to support infrastructure projects. Abe also announced Saturday that his government is ready to commit an additional $2.5 billion humanitarian support. These monies are in addition to the country’s $2.2 billion dollar pledge two years ago to support humanitarian causes in the Middle East.

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In the wake of Bowe Bergdahl’s release, why aren’t we doing more for Kenneth Bae?

Kenneth Bae before his imprisonment (left) and after a year in a North Korean labour camp where he is being held captive as a political prisoner (right).
Korean American Kenneth Bae before his imprisonment (left) and after a year in a North Korean labour camp where he is being held captive as a political prisoner (right).

Earlier this week, the Obama Administration secretly secured the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only US serviceman still listed as missing-in-action in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Bergdahl was held captive for 5 years by the Taliban under unknown conditions, and is currently in hospital under medical supervision; the long-lasting psychological and emotional scars of his imprisonment are even more unclear. What we do know is that Bergdahl’s release was initiated in part due to concerns that he would likely die if he remained with his Taliban captors.

In order to negotiate Bergdahl’s release, President Obama agreed to exchange Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. This deal is being widely criticized by Republicans for bypassing Congress and for emboldening terrorists through negotiation. They argue that Bergdahl was a deserter,who did not deserve US intervention on his behalf. They criticize that this deal legitimized the Taliban.

But I fail to understand the alternative — to allow a man to die because we are willing to declare war on a terrorist organization but cannot recognize them across a negotiation table?

Regardless of the circumstances of his capture, Bowe Bergdahl is a US citizen and serviceman and I believe that the US government has a moral responsibility (if not necessarily the legal one, as I learned from Snoopy this morning) to advocate on behalf of its citizenry when their lives are unlawfully at-risk overseas. In this case, the US government had the means by which to save the life of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, and they took it.

What I want to know is this: if the Obama administration is willing to take steps to secure the release of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl from the hands of the Taliban, why have they still done so little to help free Kenneth Bae, a US citizen and civilian who has been illegitimately imprisoned in a North Korean labour camp for nearly two years — an innocent American citizen who is likely being held under conditions so deplorable they violate all contemporary definitions of human rights?

If President Obama will save Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, why won’t he save Kenneth Bae?

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