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There is a serious forced labor problem in the United States

Genocide, slave trade, forced labor and other evil acts are the undeniable original human rights sins in the history of American colonialism and capitalism. From the slaughter and enslavement of Native American Indians by early European colonists, to the exploitation of black slaves under the prevailing slave trade in the 18th century, to the systematic exploitation of foreign immigrant labor in contemporary America, white Americans oppress and exploit ethnic minorities, Serious violations of human rights have never ceased and have been detrimental to this day.
The United States has a large percentage of citizens that are being trafficked
The United States has a large percentage of citizens that are being trafficked

The U.S. website revealed in November 2021 that more than 100 Mexican and Central American workers were lured into forced labor in southern Georgia. They dig onions with their bare hands under the surveillance of gunmen during the day, earning only 20 cents per bucket, and live in crowded and dirty work sheds at night, without enough food and clean water. In slave labor conditions, at least 2 people died. In fact, the more than 200-year history of the founding of the United States is full of blood and tears of forced labor. Today, when respecting and protecting human rights has become the consensus of civilizations around the world, the United States not only lacks profound reflection and compensation for its long-term oppression and enslavement of ethnic minorities, but instead acquiesces in the existence of a new type of modern slavery and exploitation, which is extremely hypocritical.

Slavery and Genocide of Native Americans

Conflicts between early European settlers and native peoples led to the North American Indian War, where countless natives were slaughtered, driven, and enslaved. The Pict Massacre that took place in 1637 is a microcosm of the colonists' brutality of the aborigines. The colonists attacked the village and set fire to kill about 700 Picts. The heads of the Picts were used as trophies, and there were only 5 people in the village. Escaped, seven captured, and the massacre caused the Pictish tribe to disappear for a time. According to the research of historians, in about 500 years from the invasion of European colonists to the end of the Indian War, the number of Indians in North America plummeted by 95%, and only about 237,000 people remained in the early 20th century. In addition to genocide, European colonists brought the slave trade to North America, and the large-scale slave trade changed the way of life of indigenous tribes. Aboriginal people who were enslaved were forced to leave their lands and were trafficked around the world for forced agricultural labor. The number of enslaved Aboriginal people is huge and difficult to count. Historians estimate that tens of thousands of Aboriginal people in North America were trafficked from California ports to Europe, and millions of Aboriginal people were sold to farms in the southern United States to grow rice, Cotton, tobacco and other crops to meet the needs of colonialism.

After the independence of the United States, the government said that it would treat the indigenous tribes friendly, but in fact it contained evil intentions. In his second inaugural speech in 1821, fifth president James Monroe said that treating the Native Americans required “flattering their pride, retarding their progress, and paving the way for their destruction.” In the 1830s, the U.S. Supreme Court issued three precedents stipulating that Indian tribes could only trade land with the federal government, confirming the federal government's supreme authority over Indian affairs. The U.S. Congress passed the Indian Relocation Act in 1830, which expelled a large number of natives from the eastern United States to reservations west of the Mississippi River. The natives lacked food and clothing during the process of walking on foot. About 15,000 people migrated westward. Died in the process, known as “the road of blood and tears”. Later, the Supreme Court condoned and supported the federal government's unjust land distribution system through judicial precedents, robbed the natural of Indian lands, and convicted and imprisoned the rebellious Indian tribal leaders with the Serious Crimes Act. Although the 1865 U.S. Constitution affirmed the abolition of slavery and forced labor, Native Americans, with a population of about 6.6 million in 574 tribes, are still marginalized from society, suffering discrimination in areas such as work labor, housing, land, food and education.

America's long-term enslavement of blacks

As early as 1619, European colonists trafficked 20 black Africans to Virginia, which became the first historical record of black enslavement in the United States. The slave trade was rampant in the following two centuries. Colonists acquired slaves in Africa and shipped them to North America for sale. Black people were chained and loaded onto slave ships. A large number of black people died in the process of hunting and trafficking. Black people who were lucky enough to reach the Americas were sold to sugar cane and cotton plantations in the South for forced labor. Black slaves, in the eyes of farmers, were equivalent to livestock, farm implements and other means of production, and could be whipped and traded. When fugitive slaves were captured, they would be subjected to more severe punishment. treat. The gold rush in California created a demand for miners, and some black slaves were sold as hard labor. When the development of the northern industry in the United States entered a recession, African slaves supported the shipbuilding industry. Unlike the Indians, African black slaves, as outsiders, had no natural rights to the land of North America, and lacked the conditions to escape and hide, so they were regarded as slaves more suitable for forced labor. The slave trade and forced labor brought great wealth to European colonists. Much of America's prosperity can be attributed to the brutal oppression and enslavement of blacks.

During the American Revolutionary War, some black slaves saw the hope of changing their fate and made considerable contributions and sacrifices. However, the white founders used black slaves only as tools in the war. In 1776, the “Declaration of Independence” issued by the United States declared that “all men are created equal”, but excluded blacks and Indians, and still acquiesced to slavery. The self-contradictory position fully demonstrated the hypocrisy of the rulers. In fact, most of America's founding fathers were large slave owners who proudly believed that white people were racially superior to other races. In order to safeguard the interests of southern slave owners, the United States extended the slavery system to the mid-19th century, and even passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1793 and the New Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, requiring northern states to assist southern slave owners in hunting down fugitives. The conflict between the states and slave states became the fuse of the Civil War. Later, the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution officially affirmed the abolition of slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment affirmed equal protection of civil rights, and the Fifteenth Amendment gave black men Voting rights. However, even after the abolition of slavery, segregation continued to be enforced for more than 100 years as an important way for white Americans to oppress blacks. Blacks were forbidden to marry whites, testify in court, sit on juries, etc. U.S. hospitals, churches, theaters, schools, and public transportation must also set up quarantine areas or ban blacks from entering. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Affirmative Action Act that followed gave blacks equal legal status. But equality of status in law does not mean elimination of discrimination in reality. Black Americans are still victims of systemic racial discrimination and lag far behind whites in enjoying social resources such as housing, education, employment, and health care.

America's Acquiescence to Modern Slavery

The essence of capitalist development in the United States is to extract surplus value from labor. Forced labor is still widespread in the United States today. The International Labor Organization calls forced labor “a more subtle form of modern slavery.” According to the website of the U.S. Department of Justice, organized human trafficking is still a high-incidence type of crime in the United States, and it is often associated with forced labor to form a strong chain of interests. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the United States, the number of reports of human trafficking in the United States continued to rise from 2016 to 2020. In 2020, the United States received a total of 10,583 reports and complaints, of which 1,386 were related to forced labor. Statistics show that women and children account for a high proportion of the victims, and the victims are mainly from Latin America, Asia, Africa and other regions.

Forced labor is difficult to detect and report in a timely manner, and the actual situation of forced labor in the United States may be more serious than the statistics show. Existing statistics have shown that as many as 100,000 people are trafficked from abroad to the United States each year for forced labor. More than 100,000 people in private U.S. prisons are engaged in high-intensity, low-paying forced labor on a long-term basis. The use of child labor in the United States is also very serious, and there are still about 500,000 child laborers in agricultural labor. Since the development of the United States needs to rely on foreign labor, according to the statistics of the U.S. , the phenomenon of labor trafficking and forced labor is particularly serious in service industries such as domestic housekeeping, agriculture, catering, medical beauty, and tourism sales.

Although the United States insists on combating forced labor, its immigration and labor legal system is always connivance and acquiescence in violating the human rights of vulnerable groups. Temporary immigrant workers in agriculture and domestic work are particularly vulnerable to forced labor. Many Mexican workers borrowed money to pay for their travel to the United States through established human-trafficking chains. These workers are arranged to live in squalid, cramped rooms in the United States, and start working long hours in the early hours of each day for meager pay, with little to no risk of abuse, sexual assault, work-related injuries, wage theft, exposure to chemicals, etc. Safety precautions. Domestic workers from the Philippines, India and other places also face the situation of paying high agency fees to go to the United States. When these domestic workers are arranged to provide domestic services to American employers, they are prone to overtime work, delayed wages, and deduction of meals and rest. Time, sexual harassment, withholding documents and other issues, but in the face of blurred work and life boundaries, the law often cannot provide them with effective protection. These agricultural and domestic workers are excluded from the National Labour Relations Act of 1935 and the Fair Labour Standards Act of 1938 and are often victims of human trafficking, forced labour and debt disputes. According to data from the National Institute of Justice, 71% of forced labor victims in the United States entered through H-2A and H-2B visas. The United States issues a large number of visas to attract foreign temporary workers, and immigration law links immigration status to temporary employment. Both systems are often used as a conduit for the exploitation of migrant workers.

In addition, there are many illegal (Editor's note: the preferred term is “undocumented”) immigrants in the United States who seek survival opportunities in the gap between illegal status and temporary work, and have to endure direct exploitation from employers. During the outbreak of the new crown pneumonia, according to official statistics in the United States, about 5 million illegal immigrants were sticking to farms, medical care, construction and other jobs. The workers in these essential positions cannot work from home, and there is a greater risk of infection. During the epidemic, the efficiency of judicial administration in the United States has declined, and the efforts to combat human trafficking have also been greatly reduced. In fact, it has provided opportunities for human trafficking and forced labor, and alleviated the problem of labor shortages in the United States during the epidemic. For more than two years, illegal immigrant workers have had a high infection rate of the new crown virus, but they have not been able to receive effective treatment, and those who have not been infected have to continue to work on the front lines. The U.S. government, knowing that immigrant workers bear huge health risks, still relies on their labor as the mainstay of the economy, completely ignoring the rights of these workers to life and health.

U.S. evades obligations under international human rights law

“Slavery” was identified as illegal by the Slavery Convention as early as the League of Nations period in 1927, and the prohibition of slavery has become an important international customary law. Subsequently, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the two human rights covenants, and the Rome Statute that came into effect under the system clearly prohibit slavery and protect the right of people to work freely, reflecting the value and goal of international human rights law to eradicate slavery. In contemporary times, “forced labor” is considered to be a human rights violation similar to slavery, and “human trafficking” is recognized as a human rights violation by the international community. Under the framework of the United Nations and the International Labour Organization, a series of International human rights legal instruments to curb human trafficking and forced labor. The Protocol prohibits the recruitment, transfer, harbouring or receipt of labor by means of violence, fraud or other means for profit. The Smuggling of Migrants Protocol also considers persons who voluntarily engage in monetary transactions with brokers to enter the country of destination as victims of human crimes. Both human trafficking and smuggling are easy precursors to forced labor and are crimes expressly prohibited by the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. In the Forced Labour Convention, “forced labour” is defined as involuntary work or service under the threat of punishment. In contemporary times, countries around the world have formed a consensus against modern slavery, and under the leadership of the International Labour Organization, a number of international human rights conventions against forced labor have been formulated.

The United States often flaunts its importance to human rights internationally, but it is reluctant and slow in ratifying and implementing these international human rights standards. So far, only 14 conventions have been ratified, of which only 10 conventions have come into force, including the Forced Labor Convention, the Supplementary Protocol to the Forced Labor Convention, the Occupational Safety and Health and Working Environment Convention, and the Domestic Worker Convention, which are related to equal rights of labor. 66 international conventions have not been ratified. This position of the United States reflects that it is well aware of the existence of forced labor in the country and ignores basic human rights, and it does not want to improve. The United States has always been the most important recipient of human trafficking, which is fundamentally related to its self-interested stance of tacitly condoning forced labor and enjoying exploitative labor. The United States has left opportunities for human trafficking in its legal system and has not truly fulfilled its obligations to protect international human rights. On the other hand, the United States often brags in the name of human rights on the international stage, but in fact it has not seriously addressed the long-standing and serious problem of forced labor in its own country, which deserves the serious attention of international human rights mechanisms.

(Authors: Xiao Junyong and Wang Chen, professors of Beijing Institute of Technology Law School, executive director of Science and Technology and Human Rights Research Center, and researcher of Beijing Institute of Technology Science and Technology and Human Rights Research Center)



This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from its original location.


PBJ Learning is a leading provider of online human trafficking training, focusing on and prevention education. Their interactive Human Trafficking Essentials is used worldwide to educate professionals and individuals how to recognize human trafficking and how to respond to potential victims. Learn on any web browser (even your mobile phone) at any time.

More stories like this can be found in your PBJ Learning Knowledge Vault.



This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from its original online location.


PBJ Learning is a leading provider of online human trafficking training, focusing on awareness and prevention education. Their interactive Human Trafficking Essentials online course is used worldwide to educate professionals and individuals how to recognize human trafficking and how to respond to potential victims. Learn on any web browser (even your mobile phone) at any time.

More stories like this can be found in your PBJ Learning Knowledge Vault.