The Super Bowl and Human Trafficking
Some call it the largest human trafficking venue in the world. Others simply see it as the Super Bowl. But, wherever this national sports event takes place, law enforcement agencies gear up to protect victims of human trafficking. Louisiana, Indiana and Texas took measures in the past to address this problem; and, New Jersey has done the same, preparing for the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.
During major sports events, fans in a holiday spirit, attend parties in restaurants, bars, exclusive clubs and private hotel rooms. In many instances, the easy flow of cash, liquor and drugs, coupled with a spirit of celebration, hype up the revelry to a modern day Bacchanalia. Sex traffickers seize the moment to engage in their lucrative trade. The average American remains happily unaware of this dark side of sports. But, sex trafficking is there and it is part of the much wider social scourge of human trafficking.
Our laws focus mainly on trafficking for prostitution. But, the human trafficking industry is much more pervasive. No business, no area of life, is exempt from it. Law enforcement authorities have uncovered victims of human trafficking in factories, construction work, lawn care, restaurants, hotels, nail salons, hospitality services, agriculture and even in private homes.
Human trafficking is one the largest and fastest growing criminal industries. It generates $32 billion worldwide. Unscrupulous and greedy individuals entice vulnerable men, women and children with the false promise of a better life. They offer them economic security, a job and even education. But, once they have these needy individuals in their employ, they rob them of their dignity, their wages and their freedom. The fees that the victims paid to secure a job are turned into loans that they are forced to pay off. Their employers abuse them emotionally, physically and sexually. They literally enslave them.
The statistics are staggering. The U.S. Justice Department estimates that 17,500 people are trafficked annually into our country. Given the fact that many come as undocumented, the actual number is most certainly higher. Some even estimate that, from the year 2000 until today, as many as 700,000 women and children have been trafficked into the United States. 70% of victims are trafficked for labor; 30% are trafficked for sexual exploitation. In addition, a large percentage of the people trafficked in the U.S. have been born in our country.
For over a decade, the Catholic Church in the United States has been a leader in the efforts to eliminate human trafficking. With much success and public praise, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops directed a $15 million anti-trafficking program. The bishops’ agencies worked with other groups, both secular and religious, including Jewish Family Services and the Salvation Army.
This much needed work of Catholics came to a sudden end in 2011. Since the present administration in Washington is actively pro-abortion, the Department of Health and Human Services, in awarding grants, has espoused a “strong preference” for groups that refer all victims to family-planning services. In a word, those who do not promote abortion, contraception and sterilization are now excluded from government funding. Despite an independent review praising the invaluable work of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, funding was withheld. Sadly, victims are being deprived of needed assistance; and, Catholics are being stripped of their religious freedom.
Nonetheless, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops refuses to stop its work to end human trafficking. It has launched a new educational campaign,
The Amistad Movement
. This program is being rolled out in communities where traffickers blend their victims into the population. It trains individuals on how to spot human trafficking in the community and how to respond effectively. It also establishes a permanent outreach within the community. How much more could be done if our freedom of religion were not being restricted by an administration so virulently pro-abortion?
In his December 12, 2013 audience with a group of non-resident Ambassadors to the Holy See, Pope Francis forcefully decried human trafficking as a crime against humanity. He said, “It constitutes a grave violation of the human rights of those victimized and is an offense against their dignity, as well as a defeat for the worldwide community. People of good will, whether or not they profess religious beliefs, must not allow these women, men and children to be treated as objects, to be deceived, raped, often sold and resold for various purposes, and in the end either killed or left devastated in mind and body, only to be finally thrown away or abandoned.”
On February 8, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita. As a child, she was kidnapped and sold in the markets of El Obeid and Khartoum. She suffered the physical and moral humiliations of slavery in Sudan. Later taken to Italy and freed, she dedicated herself to spreading the word about human slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. Her feast day has been designated a day of prayer to end human trafficking. Through her intercession, may we be granted the strength to work to restore the dignity and rights of all victims of human trafficking, especially those on our very doorsteps.