INHUMAN TRADE: Labor Trafficking Hidden in Massachusetts Communities

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third installment in a series of stories exploring human trafficking in Massachusetts. The series delves into the widespread commercial sex trade in our cities and suburbs, the online marketplaces where pimps and johns buy and sell sex, cases of modern-day slavery and victims’ tales of survival.

Three years ago, a couple from Brazil moved to Massachusetts with their young child and took jobs with a cleaning company in New Bedford.

Instead of building their piece of the American Dream, however, they soon found themselves in a nightmare, according to prosecutors. Their employer, according to a criminal indictment, forced them to work up to 100 hours a week, cleaning banks, car dealerships, stores and other businesses in Bridgewater, Fall River, Marshfield and Cape Cod.

DMS Cleaning Services owner Donny Sousa, prosecutors allege, had recruited the couple to move from Brazil, promising them $3,000 in monthly wages. Instead, they said, he failed to deliver the promised pay and intimidated them into working for the company, threatening them with a handgun when they asked for their wages. In the 15 months the couple worked for DMS before fleeing, prosecutors say they were paid just $3,600 and had only three days off.

A grand jury indicted Sousa last October on human trafficking, weapons, wage theft and forced labor charges. Sousa has pleaded not guilty and is due back in Bristol Superior Court for a Sept. 6 status hearing.

It’s one of the few examples of labor exploitation cases being prosecuted under the state’s 2011 human trafficking law, which has been most frequently applied to cases of sex trafficking.

While most human trafficking cases in Massachusetts involve the illicit sex trade, labor trafficking and commercial exploitation remain a problem, especially in the immigrant community, said Julie Dahlstrom, a clinical associate professor of law at Boston University and director of the school’s Immigrants Rights and Human Trafficking Program.

“We don’t have accurate statistics around this problem,” Dahlstrom said. “Anecdotally, what we’ve seen is largely non-citizens subject to labor trafficking, although it does sometimes impact citizens.”

To read the full story by Gerry Tuoti on The Milford Daily News: Click Here

Immigrants Are Among Most Vulnerable To Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a nearly $32 billion industry and more than 27 million people are victims of the illicit business on an international scale, according to the Polaris Project, which is tasked with fighting human trafficking in its various forms.

The Administration for Children and Families, which works with the Department of Health and Human Services, estimates that human trafficking is the second fastest growing black market activity.

In 2013, the state’s Human Trafficking Policy Task Force found that immigration plays a unique role in the underground world.

“Undocumented workers are often particularly vulnerable to abuse due to their lack of immigration status and fear of deportation,” a report by the task force stated.

Additionally, many who are the victims of trafficking for forced labor or sex slavery have trouble getting the services they need.

“Other realities inherent to victims of human trafficking, such as a survivor’s criminal history, lack of housing history, and/or immigration status, may make it difficult or impossible for survivors to qualify for government services,” the agency’s report said.

New tactics are recommended to law enforcement by the agency, which encourages authorities to explain to potential victims that questions about trafficking are not intended to determine somebody’s immigration status.

New legislation filed by Gov. Charlie Baker at the beginning of August is aiming to allow police in Massachusetts to hand over illegal immigrants suspected of crimes, including human trafficking, to federal authorities.

To read the full story by Bradford Randall: Click Here