A brief article appeared over the weekend in The Palm Beach Post with the headline: “Human trafficking becoming epidemic in Florida.” The piece was likely a response to the recent rash of modern day slavery arrests reported in the sunshine state. All but one of these news stories involve undocumented migrants, lured into the US with promises of work—but forced into slavery. Many of the victims were hidden in plain sight, afraid to get help for fear of deportation or retaliation from their captors.
Here are some of the recent reports of modern day slavery in Florida:
- Earlier this month, six men in Jacksonville were charged with sex trafficking of a 15-year old runaway girl. The minor was able to escape, and report the crime to the police.
- Three people were arrested in Alachua County for trafficking 34 Haitian workers into Florida. The laborers were forced into debt and made to work on farms, their passports confiscated upon arrival.
- A report in The St. Petersburg Times, opened with a story about a Guatemalan woman who was brought to Clearwater, Florida ostensibly to work as a maid. Instead, she was sex trafficked. Her captors warned her not to escape, because police “will show you no mercy.” Clearwater Police Chief said this case demonstrates how undocumented immigrants, trafficked into slavery, victims are unlikely “to report the crime. That’s how you breed these organized crimes.”
- Two sisters from Honduras were trafficked into a Palm Beach nightclub, where they were forced into sex slavery. Authorities investigated the club after an anonymous tipster called the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hot line.
To learn more about identifying domestic slavery, download our pamphlet, “Slavery Still Exists and it Could Be in Your Backyard: a community member’s guide to fighting human trafficking and slavery” here.
If you suspect a case of modern day slavery, please call the Human Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline, toll free: (888) 373-7888.