Old Habits Die Hard

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

Slavery is illegal in every country of the world. The last slave nation on earth, Mauritania, abolished the practice in 1981. But in 2014, scattered around the planet, and including in the United States, are twenty million slaves.

Twenty million.

That’s a big number. Every living soul in the state of New York. Every man, woman, and child in Australia. Every one, sold into sex, both children and adults, or forced to work through fraud, coercion or threat of violence.

It’s Twelve Years a Slave in our own time.

The Trafficking in Persons Report, published last month by this country’s Department of State, tells the stories of a few of these people:

• Of a twelve-year-old Cambodian girl whose mother took her to a local hospital to get a “certificate of virginity” so that she could be sold to pay a family debt.

• Of a U.S. runaway and the man who promised to help her and pimped her out instead, beating and threatening to kill the teenager when she refused any man forced upon her.

• Of an Indian Cinderella sold for her labor to an upscale Brahmin family who kept her locked up and rewarded her labors not with cash but with regular violent beatings.

• Of a boy inflamed by the stories of his cousin of a job to be had that would pay him in chunks of gold in the mining region of Peru, then forced to work eight months to pay off his cousin’s ”recruiting fee.”

• Of an unpaid Filipina housecleaner sold from house to house (eleven houses in all) in Saudi Arabia, beaten so severely at the last house she was deemed unsuitable for “work” and deported back home.

There are more, but the stories don’t tell the whole of it. Often these slaves are arrested by police for the things they are forced to do, then jailed, then prosecuted because police and prosecutors are trained to see the crime and not the “criminal,” then convicted, then jailed again. The State Department report acknowledges this is common practice in our own justice system.

Sometimes, police moonlight as security for the very businesses that engage in human trafficking, a kind of double protection for the traffickers because one cop tends to look away from the actions of a fellow officer.

And all this goes on with the full knowledge of the governments of the world, a fair number of which don’t care and some of which at least tolerate, if not encourage, the traffic. Hell, some congressmen, senators, and even presidents of our world nations — again including the United States — are beneficiaries of human trafficking.

The United States, where every year 100,000 children are trafficked for sex, says all these nations need to do more to curb the trade.

Some truths we hold to be self-evident.

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