San Francisco News

USF students map human trafficking areas

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Some professors at the University of San Francisco have devised a way for you to find out if there is human trafficking being investigated anywhere in the world, including your own neighborhood. The State Department estimates nearly 20,000 people are trafficked in this country every year and 27 million around the world. Human trafficking is where people are basically forced into slavery as sex workers or forced labor. The Web site SlaveryMap.org and its creators are encouraging students to become investigators.

USF professor David Batsone helped create SlaveryMap.org. He and professor Mike Duffy teach a social justice class at USF in which students live together and learn to work as a team to research issues such as human trafficking. Their information on the cases already investigated will be entered onto SlaveryMap.org.

The students described some of the cases they researched.

"Sixty-two deaf mute Mexicans were being held in a house owned by an organized crime family," said student Rachel Stanton.

"If patients refused to go to these sessions or refused to do tasks and chores that were assigned to them, they would be stripped of their clothing," said student Arlene Kaufman.

"Along with their debt bondage, Lee used force and the threat of force to keep these men working for him against their will," said student Anabel Cassady.

"They weren't put out of business and they continue hiring Mexican workers... and no one went to jail," said student Joyce Gehr.

The students involved in this year's class on social justice were surprised to find out how invisible the crime of human trafficking is to most people.

The class recently went undercover to a garment factory in San Francisco to look at working conditions.

"It was dirty and dusty and I knew that this just wasn't the right environment for these women to be in, so it was an eye opener for me," said student Sandro Broydo.

"The sewing machines weren't safe. They didn't have eye protection or anything like that," said student Jennifer Williams.

You can easily search SlaveryMap.org to see the cases in your neighborhood.

"They are all over the Bay Area -- in San Jose, in Walnut Creek, in Berkeley, here in our own San Francisco, of course. The State Department says that San Francisco is one of the 12 major ports of trafficking into the United States each year," said Batstone.

Some in the class are investigating the nationwide child sex trafficking sting in October in which 400 people were arrested and 21 children rescued from prostitution, some of them in the Bay Area.

"It's horrible. It's something that we don't think about, but it really exists," said student Lizzie Guerra.

"With the invention and acceleration of the use of the Internet we're seeing a shift toward operations occurring in residences to young girls being trafficked into homes and having them exploited out of people's homes," said student Madeline Scarp.

"The cases that they're working on and the situations that they're reading about and investigating are many times of kids their own age. Young women who are being trafficked or young men that are being trafficked," said Duffy.

"Imagine if we have 30 universities doing what this class does," said Batstone.

"It actually makes me very grateful about my standings and where I am, but also makes me want to educate people to know that modern slavery is going on and that we can stop it," said Kristina David.

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