What makes San Francisco a bustling international hub—a top tourist destination, a busy seaport and airport, ethnic diversity, a large and growing immigrant population and a liberal, open aura—also makes San Francisco a headquarters for human trafficking.
What District Attorney Kamala D. Harris calls “modern-day slavery” entails coercing people into prostitution or exploitative jobs for low or no pay. Typically they are detained, isolated and threatened, and their passports and money often confiscated. State Department estimates are that about 16,000 people are brought into the U.S. each year for involuntary servitude or labor.
According to anti-trafficking activists, more than 40 per percent of the human trafficking in California happens in the Bay Area. They say increasing numbers of people are being duped into sex and labor trafficking as the global recession has persisted and poverty and the demand for cheap products have escalated.
This shady industry is getting some new exposure. District attorney Harris and Mayor Gavin Newsom, who said his administration in the past few years has closed three dozen illegal massage parlors that were fronts for traffickers and prostitution, recently announced the formation of the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking.
San Francisco’s first major government and private partnership focused on fighting human trafficking, the collaborative includes the mayor’s office, Human Rights Commission, Jewish Children and Family Services, San Francisco Women’s Political Coalition, Asian Women’s Shelter and other entities. The association aims to raise public awareness about trafficking, propose effective anti-trafficking policies and help victims.
Newsom also declared Jan. 11-Feb. 12, 2010 to be International Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The month’s special events include the screening of a documentary about human trafficking, a fundraising dinner, and panel discussions about recognizing and combating trafficking.