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2/26/2005 - Study alleges slavery in (Calif.) state: UC Berkeley researchers say Thais and Mexicans are most frequent victims.

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  • Al Soto
    Sacramento Bee Study alleges slavery in state: UC Berkeley researchers say Thais and Mexicans are most frequent victims. ... have ... the ... centered in ...
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2005
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      Sacramento Bee
      Study alleges slavery in state: UC Berkeley researchers say Thais and Mexicans are most frequent victims.
      >
      >By Herbert A. Sample -- Bee San Francisco Bureau
      >
      >Published 2:15 am PST Saturday, February 26, 2005
      >
      >OAKLAND - With an eye toward strengthening state laws against human
      >trafficking, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley,
      have
      >identified nearly five dozen cases of forced labor in the state since
      the
      >late 1990s.
      >
      >A majority of the incidents involved Asian immigrants and were
      centered in
      >the San Francisco and Los Angeles regions, which are major points of
      entry
      >for immigration from Asia, according to a study by the university's
      Human
      >Rights Center.
      >
      >The report is a follow-up to a national study released in September by
      the
      >center and the Washington, D.C.-based organization Free the Slaves. It
      >estimated that at any given time, as many as 10,000 immigrants and
      citizens
      >in 90 cities are being forced to work for little or no pay.
      >
      >In California, there have been a handful of high-profile prosecutions
      in
      >recent years involving compulsory labor and sexually related abuse.
      >
      >One such case involved Lakireddy Bali Reddy, who was sentenced to more
      than
      >eight years in 2001 for trafficking young girls from India, abusing
      them
      >and forcing them to work in his Berkeley restaurant and other
      businesses.
      >Members of his family also were prosecuted.
      >
      >Trafficking, or the coerced movement of people across borders to work,
      is
      >distinguishable from smuggling, which involves the consent of the
      migrant.
      >
      >The study also zeroed in on three other accounts of forced labor,
      including
      >that of Victoria Island Farms, a San Joaquin County asparagus grower
      that
      >agreed in 2001 to pay nearly $543,000 in back wages to as many as 400
      >workers.
      >
      >But the center's review of news media accounts and government
      documents, as
      >well as interviews with community groups, found more than 50 other
      >incidents in the state between 1998 and 2003.
      >
      >The greatest number of victims were forced to work in prostitution,
      >according to the report. Others labored in garment sweatshops or as
      house
      >cleaners.
      >
      >The bulk of the abuses occurred in and around Los Angeles and San
      >Francisco, with a handful in San Jose. Of the 554 victims, 136 were
      >immigrants from Thailand and 104 from Mexico. People from China,
      Cambodia,
      >India, Russia, Vietnam, the Philippines and eight other nations also
      were
      >involved. A few victims were U.S. citizens.
      >
      >Laurel Fletcher, a law professor and director of the globalization
      project
      >at the Human Rights Center, said there are reasons to believe that
      human
      >trafficking and forced labor continue in the state.
      >
      >"We believe it is an underreported crime," she said. "Most of the
      cases
      >that are prosecuted or are reported have been discovered really by
      >accident."
      >
      >Ivy Lee, a staff attorney at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach in
      San
      >Francisco who works with trafficking victims, said her group's
      caseload has
      >doubled each year since 1999. It is now managing four dozen cases with
      20
      >more under investigation.
      >
      >"When there is a bust, when there is some kind of discovery of a
      >trafficking scheme," Lee added, "that's typically the tip of the
      iceberg."
      >
      >Most prosecutions for human trafficking and forced labor have been
      >conducted by the U.S. government. Federal authorities have established
      >interagency task forces in the
      Bay Area and in Los Angeles to combat
      such
      >crimes.
      >
      >The Los Angeles unit, for example, recently indicted an Irvine couple
      on
      >charges of forcing a 12-year-old Egyptian girl to work in their home
      for
      >two years. The couple denied the charges.
      >
      >A 2000 federal law strengthened prohibitions and penalties, and
      provided
      >benefits for victims. It also aimed to provide training to local and
      state
      >law enforcers to identify cases of forced labor.
      >
      >"The more attention (the problem of trafficking) receives, the more
      >referrals we get," said Heidi Rummel, an assistant U.S. attorney and a
      >member of the Los Angeles task force.
      >
      >However, it is more difficult for local and state prosecutors to
      pursue
      >such cases because state laws do not specifically prohibit trafficking
      and
      >forced labor.
      >
      >"If we are going to make eradication of forced
      labor a priority, you
      need
      >to train law enforcement and other first responders," Fletcher said.
      >
      >To that end, Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, has
      introduced
      >legislation to ban the trafficking of adults for the purpose of
      performing
      >forced labor and the trafficking of minors for sexual servitude.
      >
      >As much as new state laws are needed, though, Lee remains unconvinced
      that
      >the problem will be eliminated.
      >"When fiscal incentives are in play, I think it is really hard to
      prevent
      >the behavior, even if you have really, really strict laws," she said.
      >"There's a lot of anti-drug, criminal penalties ... but it still
      happens,
      >right, because it is so profitable."
      >
      >*****
      >READ the Report, click on:
      >
      color=#003399>http://www.hrcberkeley.org/download/hiddenslaves_report.pdf
      >
       
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      The government and the NEWS should reflect, not determine, the desires of the people.The news is to be reported not to sway opinion. Stop the melodrama and constant trivia on news time. The founding fathers knew that government is always corrupt, that is why they gave us civil liberties.  The people must lead to survive corrupt governments. Read the constitution. (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this includes information for research and educational purposes.)  Al Soto (c) 2005


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