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Human trafficking, modern-day slavery

UM Law School's Human Trafficking Clinic.

Human trafficking is a growing crime in Michigan, and the U.S.

At its most basic level, even identifying victims of this crime can be difficult.

In the first of our three part series we’ll look at the challenge of providing assistance to victims.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke with Elizabeth Campbell, Staff Attorney at the University of Michigan Law School’s Human Trafficking Clinic.

Campbell says there are mostly two categories of human trafficking.

“It’s individuals who are forced to work either in the sex trade or work in a variety of other labor trades: restaurants, the service industry, farms. Basically anything where people can be employed, you can become a victim of human trafficking,” she says.

Being a border state Michigan is vulnerable to human trafficking, but not alone.

“Human trafficking is about people taking advantage of other peoples’ vulnerability, and you can do that anywhere.”

Campbell and her students at the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan's Law School work to provide legal representation to victims of human trafficking. Her students assist victims by providing them with immigration relief, or expunging their records of convictions that may have occurred as a result of their trafficking situation.

About 80 percent of the clinic’s clients are victims of labor trafficking. Often they're foreign nationals who are offered an opportunity to work in the U.S., to have a better life, and to be able to send money back to their families. However, upon arrival they’re somehow put into a sort of debt bondage, Campbell says. They’re told that they owe a large sum of money to the trafficker who brought them into the U.S. And they’re told where to work and where to live.

Victims can also be U.S. citizens. Campbell says these victims often don't have much of a sense of home or community, and that their vulnerability is taking advantage of by traffickers, particularly in the sex trade.

Identifying a person in trouble can be difficult because of isolation, but it doesn't stop there. Campbell and her students at the Human Trafficking Clinic are working to raise awareness about this crime.

“We often think of that rescue moment as being the key. Unfortunately it’s so not that simple and the needs of these victims after the fact are so great,” Campbell says.

Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of Stateside.
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