Human trafficking in California

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Human trafficking in California is the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of reproductive slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced labor as it occurs in the state of California, and it is widely recognized as a modern-day form of slavery. It includes “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power, or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”[1]

California is particularly vulnerable because of "proximity to international borders, number of ports and airports, significant immigrant population, and large economy that includes industries that attract forced labor."[2] It serves both as an entry point for slaves imported from outside the US as well as a destination for slaves. Slavery is found throughout California, but major hubs are centered around Los Angeles, Sacramento,[3] San Diego, and San Francisco.[4] According to the 2011 Department of State report, California, together with New York, Texas, and Oklahoma, has the largest concentrations of survivors of human trafficking.[5]


In 2005, California passed Assembly Bill 22, California’s first law setting higher criminal penalties for human trafficking.[6]

In 2011, California enacted a new law called the “Transparency in Supply Chains Act.”[7] The law requires certain retailers to disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their supply chains. The law went into effect January 1, 2012, and it applies to any company that is in the "retail trade" that has annual worldwide gross receipts in excess of $100 million and annual California sales exceeding $500,000.[8]

California criminal code specifies that the Attorney General should give priority to human trafficking matters. Law enforcement agencies are required to use due diligence in identifying victims. Additional fines are levied against people convicted of trafficking, which is to be used for child sexual abuse prevention and counseling and to serve minor victims of human trafficking.[9]


  • Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) is a Los Angeles-based anti-human trafficking organization. Through legal, social, and advocacy services, CAST helps rehabilitate survivors of human trafficking, raises awareness, and affects legislation and public policy surrounding human trafficking.
  • California Against Slavery is an organization that focused on passing the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act.
  • Slavery Footprint is an Oakland-based organization that seeks to raise the awareness of slavery. They investigated the supply lines of 400 consumer products to determine the likely number of slaves it takes to make each of those products.[10] They put the information into an online survey where you can determine the number of slaves that are needed to maintain your personal lifestyle.[11]
  • H.E.A.T Watch is an Alameda county-based effort to combat under the leadership of the county's district attorney. It sponsors H.E.A.T. Watch Radio which has news stories and interviews about the commercial sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking.[12]
  • The Standing Against Global Exploitation Project (SAGE Project) is a project based in San Francisco that focuses on raising awareness about and providing support for victims of sexual exploitation.[13]
  • Orange County Human Trafficking task force focuses on ending human trafficking in the county of Orange.
  • South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking is based in the area south of the San Francisco bay. It has a hotline and offers training courses for professionals and interested individuals.[14]
  • Sacramento Against Sex Slavery in Massage Parlors is a Sacramento-based organizations that focuses on ending sex slavery in massage parlors.[15]


Lakireddy Bali Reddy was one of Berkeley's richest real estate tycoons and restaurateurs, who operated a sex trafficking ring in Berkeley California. His victims were continually raped and forced to work in his restaurants and rental properties. He was discovered when one of his slaves died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He was convicted and served a little less than an eight-year sentence in Lompoc federal prison. His light sentence prompted a public conversation which led to reform to California law regarding human trafficking.[6][16]

Victoria Islands, an internationally known asparagus grower, hired hundreds of workers through JB Farm Labor contractor to work on a farm in San Joaquin County. Once hired, they were held hostage and threatened with physical harm if they complained to authorities. After the California Rural Legal Assistance sued the farm, they were ordered to pay the workers backpay.[16][17]

A sweatshop in El Monte imprisoned 72 workers. The prisoners were not allowed outside and were told their families would be harmed and their homes burned if they tried to escape. A raid on the sweatshop lead to the arrest of 8 traffickers. The victims were freed and won a $4 million settlement with the help of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. The case lead to reform in legislation which offered visas to victims of human trafficking. The incident later became the subject of an exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution.[18]

Supawan Veerapool was sentenced to 8 years of prison for imprisoning her domestic worker for 9 years. The worker's passport was confiscated and was forced to work twenty-hour days, six days a week.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ United Nations (2000). "U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children". Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  2. ^ "A Serious Problem – Around the Globe and in the USA". CAST LA: Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking. Retrieved 3 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "Human Trafficking Services". WEAVE Inc. Retrieved 3 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Human Rights Center. Freedom Denied: Forced Labor in California. Berkeley, CA: University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 3 September 2014. 
  5. ^ HIDDEN SLAVES: Forced Labor in the United States (PDF), Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley, September 2004, ISBN 0-9760677-0-6, archived from the original on 2007-08-30, retrieved 4-5-10  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help) (archived from the original on 2007-08-30)
  6. ^ a b "How an infamous Berkeley human trafficking case fueled reform". San Francisco Public Press. February 16, 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act". The National Law Review. 2011-07-21.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  9. ^ California legal code
  10. ^ If Brands Want Trust, They Can't Have Slaves
  11. ^ Slavery Footprint: How Many Forced Laborers Work For You?
  12. ^
  13. ^ Standing Against Global Exploitation Project
  14. ^ South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking
  15. ^ Sacramento Against Sex Slavery in Massage Parlors
  16. ^ a b c Free the Slaves
  17. ^ "Grower Will Pay to Settle Worker Lawsuit". Los Angeles Times. September 9, 2001. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  18. ^ "Home of the freed: Former Thai slave laborers, liberated from an El Monte sweatshop in 1995, become U.S. citizens.". Los Angeles Times. August 14, 2008. Retrieved 29 November 2012.