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Slavery at your door

"Slavery at your door" Continued...

Issue: "'Into captivity they shall go'," Feb. 24, 2007

Evans, 60, offered homeless men seasonal jobs harvesting sweet potatoes and cabbage, with the promise of a decent wage and a place to live. But once Evans bused the men to his farms, he paid workers less than one dollar an hour and kept them in squalid living conditions miles from town. He also kept the workers in debt and addiction by selling crack cocaine on credit.

U.S. prosecutor John Sciortino told the judge in Evans' case that there are "other camps and other vans patrolling homeless shelters throughout the South" whose owners should take warning from Evans' conviction and sentencing.

Another group of U.S. citizens is particularly at risk for falling prey to trafficking: foster children living in shelters. Sex-trade operators promise teens an escape to a better life, Carol Nelson of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking told WORLD, only to imprison them in a life of prostitution.

The Florida coalition works with federal agencies to help trafficking victims escape and establish new lives. Nelson says the coalition has worked with victims from brothels, strip parlors, the hotel industry, restaurant workers, and day laborers: "We find them everywhere."

In the case of foreigners, the coalition works with HHS to help identify victims of human trafficking, and once HHS certifies trafficking victims, they are eligible for the same federal benefits and services available to refugees-as long as they cooperate with law enforcement. The U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement awards certified trafficking victims a "T Visa" that puts them on the path to U.S. citizenship.

Federal agencies depend on nongovernmental organizations to provide personal assistance to trafficking victims, and they award grants to groups like the coalition and World Relief. The groups use grant funds to assist trafficking victims with food, clothing, living accommodations, job placement, counseling, and medical care.

The work is often complicated, and World Relief must cultivate relationships with landlords and employers willing to take on foreigners with no Social Security number and no work history.

Such groups also have to depend on churches to help victims as well. Kadel says church volunteers assist trafficking victims and refugees as they settle into homes and adjust to American life by helping with English skills, driving skills, and job placement, all in the context of Christian ministry. "I'm all for foreign missions," says Kadel, who served refugees in Albania for nine years, "but here is an opportunity to practice missions right on your own front doorstep."

One of the biggest challenges to helping victims, according to Nelson, is making people aware that the problem of slavery still exists: "People think this stopped with the African-American slave trade, but it never stopped-they've just changed the commodity."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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