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Report shows human trafficking a major problem in US




Men and women walk in the red light district in Pattaya on April 10, 2009. The US State Department last month put Thailand on its human trafficking watchlist, accusing it of not doing enough to combat trafficking.
Men and women walk in the red light district in Pattaya on April 10, 2009. The US State Department last month put Thailand on its human trafficking watchlist, accusing it of not doing enough to combat trafficking.
NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

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A recent report from the U.S. State Department on forced labor and human trafficking across the globe singled out countries like Malaysia and Thailand.

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In those countries, some immigrants who arrive looking for work are instead forced into slavery and prostitution. But the issue isn't unique to that region of the world, it's happening here in the U.S. and even in Los Angeles.

Why? It has to do with the fact that the city has a major port, is a major travel destination and has a large migrant economy, says Kay Buck with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST). 

What's common, says Buck, is for people to get stuck in industries that have little to no regulation. Workers show up here and have their passports taken away, so that they end up stuck. A recent example of this occurring in L.A. was in Hancock Park, a wealthy neighborhood near Hollywood.

Three Indonesian women filed a lawsuit against a family, alleging that they were lured to the U.S. to work for the family as caretakers, only to have to work in inhumane conditions, working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. They also had their passports taken and were told by the family that if they spoke to strangers or the police, they could be thrown in jail.

The government has come up short in support of survivors. Buck says they have survivors waiting for beds, and that at one point there were 39 victims on their waiting list, hoping to get help.

Buck hopes that they'll move on that, "The government needs to do more so that we can provide the immediate shelter and emergency services for survivors."