I have a secret identity, but lets just say I look up to individuals like Harriet Tubman. I am starting my journey to help the enslaved break free from the walls of an interconnected global tunnel. I am in search of restoring the lives of the victims of this sex trade—whether they can hear me underground in that black market or not.  I’m here, and I’m trying to call for the help of the U.S. government to strengthen anti-trafficking laws here within our borders. Please, give these victims a voice within a protected environment, so that traffickers can be punished instead of given a reason to further threaten victims’ families and lives.

The poor—native born to the U.S. and from all over the world—do not deserve to be exploited within the U.S. under such unprotected terms. They are too scared to tell you on their own, their pimps are listening around the corner. A courtroom is not the place to gather these testimonies—this endangers their lives and the well being of their families. Sex trafficked victims should not have to testify against their perpetrators in order to gain a four year temporary visa that leads to permanent legal status.

Human trafficking—modern day slavery—is a threat to the national security of our nation as well as the international community. I fear that if the U.S. does not enforce better laws to punish traffickers, billions of dollars in profit that international organized crime members generate from this market could be used to fund terrorist activity.  Fluid movement within global trafficking routes allows for a person who is trafficked in Eastern Europe to quickly find themselves as sex slaves here at home.

It is assumed that approximately 17,500 victims are yearly trafficked to the United States and the United Nations estimates that 27 million people are trafficked around the world each year. The truth is, whether we like to accept this or not, these numbers are actually much higher. This is because most anti-trafficking laws within each country are all similarly problematic—causing the lack of international data.

Due to the widespread discrepancies found with defining what a crime of “human trafficking” consists of, many traffickers are prosecuted under other terms such as kidnapping, immigration violations, or drug trafficking.

Similarly, victims of sex trafficking are sometimes prosecuted for prostitution instead of offered protection—digging the underground tunnel deeper while also painting the walls slightly darker each time.  The lives of these women, and children are being thrown back into a cycle of fear and coercive activity that they have no say in. So I am asking on behalf of their protection, that the method of gathering their testimony be reevaluated.

The interconnectivity of criminal enterprises seem to be extending their arms further into our borders, outsmarting both immigration laws and poorly enforced anti-trafficking laws. I fear that if the U.S. does not change the basis for which traffickers are prosecuted and are more strictly convicted of the crimes they commit that contribute to the modern slave trade, then we will find ourselves watching slavery creep back into our society.

I also fear that if the basis for which victims are offered protection by the U.S. government does not change, then we will watch this underground black market transform into an above ground reality. This will become truer the more power international organized crime members gain within our border.  Instead, anti-trafficking laws should empower those who are silenced underground and give them the opportunity to speak. They have been down there waiting for a long time now, and I have been given the incentive to speak in their name. So I am calling on the U.S. government to help those who are modernly exploited down below.