Sandra Snyder reports for Citizen USA-Ohio that Ohio's location near the Canadian border and weak human trafficking laws make Ohio a mecca for slavery. Because the issue is so shocking, I am quoting the article at length here:
More than one thousand American-born youths in Ohio are forced into the sex trade each year, according to a new study released [June 9]. About 800 immigrants are sexually exploited and pushed, against their will, to work in fields, restaurants, sweatshops, or constructions sites.
Because the price for labor and prostitution is high in the U.S., traffickers make higher profits. In Ohio, there have been many documented cases of traffickers bringing immigrants here, finding them work, and confiscating their wages to satisfy an inflated debt for their ticket to America.
Ohio’s weak laws on human trafficking, its growing demand for cheap labor, and its proximity to the Canadian border are key contributors to the illegal activity, according to the report by the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission. The commission found that one in three Ohio runaways gone for two weeks or longer is at risk of being trafficked for sex.
Toledo ... ranks fourth in the United States in terms of arrests, investigations, and rescue of domestic child-sex victims. Only Miami, Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas had more. The practice is a growing, vastly underreported problem that affects inner cities and affluent suburbs.
The report was compiled by the Commission’s Research and Analysis Subcommittee. The subcommittee presented four observations for consideration by the larger commission:
- Ohio’s response to child sex trafficking is weak.
- Ohio’s first responders to human trafficking remain unaware and unprepared and services are insufficient.
- Those who purchase youth remain protected, receive minimal charges and are rarely prosecuted in a significant way, while traffickers also suffer minimal consequences.
- Ohio’s young people are highly vulnerable to trafficking.
“These are disturbing facts,” said Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, chairman of the commission. “According to the report, it is estimated that in Ohio more than a thousand young people between the ages 12 and 17 have been trafficked into the sex trade over the course of a year. This is clear evidence that we need to do more, much more, to protect our youth in Ohio."
“Ohio is not only a destination place for foreign-born trafficking victims, but it’s also a recruitment place,’’ said Celia Williamson, an associate professor at the University of Toledo who led the research.
“From 1990 to 2000, Ohio’s foreign-born population increased 30 percent, and the state has a growing pool of legal and illegal immigrants who draw victims or hide victims,” Williamson said.
“These networks are highly organized, with brothels fronting as legitimate businesses.” In addition to Ohio’s weak state laws, law enforcement agencies often don’t recognize human trafficking when responding to reports of illegal activity. “For example, Ohio is quick to label child prostitutes as delinquents and to incarcerate them, rarely looking further at the adults involved,” Williamson said.
The commission’s conclusion is that 52 specially trained case managers, with annual salaries and benefits of $77,000 each are needed to combat the problem. At a price tag of $4 million, potential funding includes: federal money from a variety of sources; private foundation support; and the general public.
Since Ohio does not have a stand-alone human trafficking law, Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Senator Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland) jointly introduced Senate Bill 235. Ohio is one of seven states without trafficking legislation in line with the federal definition. Senate Bill 235 would make labor or sex trafficking in Ohio a second-degree felony. The bi-partisan bill is co-sponsored by twenty-six senators [more than ¾ of the Senate].
It is a good sign that the bill enjoys bipartisan sponsorship. It needs to be passed as soon as possible. Many churches are reluctant to take on human trafficking as a social concern or outreach, because it can affect the reputations of its members. However, this is one place where well-coordinated efforts could achieve a lot of good, both for the individuals and for the community. Those who are equipped to do so should take on the challenge.
This is the first time I have heard of the site Citizen USA-Ohio. I have added its State News page to the Ohio sites on the Links page, and will continue to monitor its content.
Virtual buckeye to Mike Tuggle.