HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
May 28, 2007, Herald Journal

‘Nothing out of the ordinary’


Last week, Minnesota’s metro area was identified as being one of the nation’s top centers for prostitution, according to US Attorney Rachel Paulose. This came after 25 people were arrested in connection with a network of brothels around the Twin Cities. Six of the 25 are women and 18 of them are illegal immigrants. Also, the majority of the victims were said to be from Mexico and Central America.

Although the Star Tribune, as of Tuesday, did not announce the number of women who were heinously sexually exploited in the nine brothels, they are among the 18,000 to 20,000 people smuggled into the US annually.

I praise the St. Paul law enforcement for helping crack the case, but I wonder why it took two years to do so? After all, business cards were handed out at Mystic Lake Casino and other venues advertising the brothels.

Another question is, why – when the majority of the brothels were in Minneapolis – did the Minneapolis police just sit back and do nothing? They say it was because it was an immigration case.

Legal or illegal citizens, this was a horrendous crime against women happening right in their neighborhoods, yet they did nothing.

Also, where were the neighbors? The Tribune spoke with a few of them, who said nothing out of the ordinary was going on. I disagree since in one evening 80 different men went in and out of one particular building. That isn’t out of the ordinary?

One neighbor told the Tribune “Every 10 minutes there’d be a car going in or out. It would start in the morning and go until all hours of the night. But it was very quiet and the yard was always clean.” Oh. Well as long as the yard was clean I guess there is nothing to worry about!

I first became interested in this issue after seeing a miniseries, “Human Trafficking.” The movie showed how young women and children are lured by such rings with false promises of exciting jobs and better lives only to realize they were going to be used in sexual exploitations.

After doing some research including the US Department of Justice, there is a large effort to combat this “modern-day slavery,” as it is commonly called. The focus is primarily a “victim-centered” approach, which works toward prosecuting and restoring the rights of the victims, according to the DOJ.

In 2005, the US alone had 116 prosecutions and 45 convictions, according to the US Department of State. Although they have advanced in an “aggressive anti-trafficking campaign to address trafficking crimes and victims,” including $25 million going towards law enforcement, identifying and protecting victims of trafficking, as well as raising awareness, little has been done regarding prevention.

It’s important to stop it before it starts. The damage has already been done to the victims of human trafficking. Very little can be done to help them get their lives back.

What I want to know is, what is the government doing to prevent trafficking, period? By this, I mean border patrol and control, as well as action by the US Coast Guard.

Twenty thousand foreign women and children don’t just appear in this country; many of them being illegal.

Many of these victims come from all over the world, and many from underprivileged countries including Cambodia, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Part of the problem with prevention, I’m sure, lies in the fact that many of these young women are coming by their own free will.

In 2005, the highest number of convictions was in East Asia and the Pacific, which include many of the countries listed above.

This is an international crime of human rights, and international prevention is key, but it is also up to the communities and local law enforcements to not look the other way.