'Modern-day slavery': Human trafficking for labor and sex is local issue
It was a Chinese buffet restaurant in southeast Missouri, and from the outside, no one would know there was anything illegal or wrong about it.
But from the kitchen's view, things were very different, according to Erin Heil, a criminal justice professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. The restaurant's workers were kept against their will, forced to live together in a house monitored with video cameras, and were not allowed to leave except to work.
The workers' "rent" was taken out of their salary, but since rent was $50 a day, their salaries never paid off their supposed debt. Thus, they could never leave, and were forced to work for nothing.
It's human trafficking, which SIUE political science professor Denise DeGarmo called "the most common form of modern-day slavery." Three members of Congress organized a summit at SIUE earlier this week to share information about the problem of human trafficking for labor and sex, and its prevalence right here in the metro-east.
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, said there is a lot of shock, even in the halls of Congress, that it's happening in small towns and rural areas, not just large cities like Chicago or Las Vegas.
"It's a multimillion dollar industry. It can happen in your town, in your neighborhood, next door," said U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.
U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-St. Louis, said the average age of a girl drawn into sex trafficking is 14. Wagner has sponsored several bills including the SAVE Act, which adds advertising to the list of activities that can get one charged with engaging in human trafficking and/or child sex crimes.
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