Human trafficking is a worldwide problem, but many Americans may not be aware of the kind of human trafficking that occurs within our own borders.
One of the latest headline-grabbing cases involved a former Indian diplomat accused of confiscating her maid's passport and forcing her to work 100-hour, seven-day weeks at the diplomat's home in New York, according to a federal grand jury indictment. On Thursday, the ex-diplomat was "effectively expelled from the United States ... as part of a deal in which she was granted diplomatic immunity from the charges," Reuters reports.
As Human Trafficking Awareness Day falls on January 11, here are five revealing examples of human trafficking on American soil:
1. Servant Kept Locked in Closet.
Some employers worry about their employees leaving the office too early. For five years, wealthy New Yorker Annie George solved that problem by forcing her house servant -- an Indian national -- to sleep in a walk-in closet in her mansion.
George not only forced her captive employee to work for essentially 85 cents an hour, but she also kept her in the country even after her legal visa had expired.
2. Cheerleader Accused of Sex Trafficking.
Human trafficking takes many forms, and it can even be perpetrated by barely legal cheerleaders. A cheerleader in Minnesota, a high-school senior, was accused in 2013 of "pimping out" her 16-year-old peer online.
Under Minnesota's sex trafficking laws, even an 18-year-old "mean girl" can be a sex trafficker and felon.
3. Human Trafficking at Convenience Stores.
Raids on 7-Eleven convenience stores occurred along the East Coast in 2013, when investigators uncovered immigrant workers allegedly working for marginal pay and living in plantation-style housing. This alleged human trafficking ring was also linked to an identity theft scheme which provided the trafficked workers with fraudulent identities.
Though the 7-Eleven workers had been provided homes and a relatively better wage ($3 an hour), the federal human trafficking law recognized that the employees were illegally coerced into staying.
4. FBI Raids Rescue Sex-Trafficking Victims.
In another effort by law enforcement to stop human trafficking, a nationwide FBI sex-trafficking sting rescued more than 100 teens in 2013. As part of "Operation Cross-Country," the raids took place in 70 U.S. cities, focusing on the exploitation of children ages 13 to 17.
This successful sweep by the FBI reminds us that domestic human trafficking is all too real.
5. Super Bowl Draws Child Sex Slaves.
With the Super Bowl just weeks away, it would be remiss to forget the role the Super Bowl plays in the illegal sex trade.
Local law enforcement in past Super Bowl locations have seen an increase in child prostitution around the time of the national football championship. Authorities in New Jersey, which is hosting the 2014 Super Bowl, are working to stop this from happening this year, The Associated Press reports.
So take a moment this January 11 to consider the damage done by human trafficking worldwide, and how America is far from free of responsibility.