March 26, 2019

Modern Slavery In LA Today


Taken from your home and separated from family; forcibly moved to a new land without speaking the language; made to work long hours with no compensation; little hope of gaining freedom — this isn’t a description of slavery in 1619. This is a description of slavery in 2019.


There are an estimated 40.3 million people in the world today who are caught in the web of modern slavery. In the US alone, The Global Slavery Index reports that there may be up to 40,000 people trapped in modern bondage.

Slavery does not look like it did in 1619 — it is much more insidious. In 2019, modern slavery can occur when workers are abused by their bosses and forced to work; when vulnerable women are forced into prostitution; when young girls are married off to older men. The characteristic shared by both 2019 and 1619 slavery, is exploitation.  People caught in slavery have their lives exploited and controlled by someone more powerful than them.

Human and sex trafficking are the two types of modern slavery seen most often in in the United States.


Foreigners are often caught up in human trafficking when they are lured by the promise of a green card, smuggled into the US, and then forced to work for little to no compensation. Workers endure terrible conditions, long hours, and little to no wages. They are isolated by the language barrier and illegal immigration status.

Sex trafficking is another form of modern slavery. According to Polaris Project, sex trafficking occurs when men and women, boys and girls, are forced, coerced, or bribed into commercial sex acts against their will. This can occur when romantic partners force prostitution or when women are lured by false job prospects like modeling or dancing. Vulnerable populations like runaway and homeless youth are often targeted by sex traffickers.

Our Community Partner CAST LA — the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking LA — educates the public about human trafficking and modern slavery. There are some common venues and industries were people are trafficked, either for labor or for sex. The victims of labor trafficking are often found in these industries/places:

  • Domestic Work (e.g. cleaning homes, childcare, elderly care, etc.)
  • Hotel & Restaurant Service
  • Manufacturing
  • Agriculture
  • Health & Beauty Services
  • Forced Selling and/or Cultivation of Drugs

The victims of sex trafficking are often found in these industries/places:

  • Spas & Massage Parlors
  • Brothels
  • Escort Companies
  • Exotic Dancing
  • Truck Stops
  • Pornography

According to CAST LA, Los Angeles is a top point of entry for trafficking victims into the US because of its proximity to an international border and the sprawling, diverse communities that make it difficult for law enforcement to track and locate victims.

You can take action today to help prevent or end modern slavery and human trafficking in LA.


First, educate yourself, your family, and your friends about the signs of modern slavery. Not every person who is trafficked is in the same situation, so not all of these signs will apply to every case. Here is a list of signs CAST LA have put together that can indicate someone is a victim of human trafficking.

  • Injuries or signs of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse
  • Physical threats, threats of deportation and/or threats of harm to family members
  • Having to work excessive hours or when sick
  • Little pay, no pay, or working to pay off debt
  • Isolation
  • Restricted or scripted communication
  • Inhumane living conditions
  • No ID documentation

NEVER approach a suspected trafficker or victim! If you suspect human trafficking in LA, contact the CAST LA hotline (888-539-2373) and let the professionals handle this sensitive and potentially dangerous situation.


Second, get involved supporting CASTA LA by volunteering, donating, or advocating on behalf of victims. CAST LA has served 1,136 survivors and their families in the last year alone, donating $2.5 million worth of pro-bono legal services and answering a 15% increase in hotline calls.

You can donate either monetary assistance or items on their “wish list” that provide survivors and the CAST Shelter with needed supplies. There is also a great need for volunteers to help the CAST LA office run. Use your specialized skills as a volunteer attorney, law clerk, graphic designer, or receptionist.


Modern slavery is an affront to every understanding of “human dignity.” Join OneLife LA and CAST LA in fighting for the rights and respect of all trafficked people. To learn more about modern slavery in the US visit these resources: The United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime Global Report on on Trafficking in Persons and the US Department of State 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report.

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