A newly released report from the University of Texas in Austin revealed that there are more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking in the Lone Star State. Nearly 79,000 of those are minors.
The report released on Tuesday by the university’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA), a department of the School of Social Work, also revealed that 234,000 adult are victims of “labor trafficking”. Researchers explain that human trafficking is a crime that is difficult to measure in scope because of the reluctance of many victims to come forward.
“This is our first glimpse into the scope and impact of human trafficking in Texas. Few states have this kind of insight into the number of people being exploited,” study leader, IDVSA Director Noël Busch-Armendariz said while announcing the group’s findings. “And more importantly, each count reflects a human being living among us in slavery-like conditions. Our findings certainly give us all a call to action.”
A wide variety of research techniques went into building the data for the study. Some of those include: complex data mining, interviews, focus groups, online surveys with social service providers and other groups that provide outreach and relief service to trafficking victims and survivors.
The findings of these investigations revealed:
- There are an estimated 313,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas.
- Approximately 79,000 minors and youths are victims of sex trafficking in Texas.
- Approximately 234,000 workers in Texas are victims of labor trafficking.
The research also looked at the financial impact that human traffickers gain from their exploitation of their victims, as well as the cost for providing care to survivors.
Human traffickers benefit to the tune of about $600 million per year from the forced labor of trafficking victims. As could be predicted, much of this comes in industries that tend to exploit the labor of illegal immigrants. Some of those industries include migrant farming, construction, kitchen workers at restaurants, cleaning services, and landscaping companies, the report states.
Researchers concluded taxpayers will spend about $6.5 billion on victims of human trafficking victims. Costs borne by taxpayers includes:
- Providing care to victims and survivors of minor and youth sex trafficking in Texas,
- law enforcement and investigation,
- prosecution of traffickers,
- and other social services
“The economic and social costs of human trafficking in Texas emphasize the importance of preventative solutions and help inform how to prioritize resources to support those who have experienced exploitation,” UT’s Bureau of Business Research Director Bruce Kellison explained.
“This is a watershed study for our state,” said John Nehme, the president and CEO of Allies Against Slavery. “This research helps bring human trafficking out of the shadows: the men, women and children who are victims of trafficking in Texas are no longer invisible. The report will be a significant resource for policymakers, professionals, survivor leaders and community members as we continue to work together to end human trafficking.”
The survey reveals that nearly $600 million in wages are stolen from labor trafficking victims every year.
Minors tend to be more at risk in the areas of sex trafficking. Researchers said the minors include children in the state’s troubled foster care system, those who have experienced abuse, and homeless children. Researchers estimate that over 6,000 victims of sex trafficking come from at-risk youth being served by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The vast majority of the youth victims, 72,618 are children who are victims of some form of abuse or maltreatment. Homeless youth account for 354 victims identified, the report states.
While media tends to focus on headline grabbing sex-trafficking stories, forced labor represents a massive segment of the human trafficking industry. The construction and cleaning services industries have the highest victimization rates with 35 percent and 36 percent respectively. The largest number of forced laborers are in the cleaning services industry (84,100) and kitchen workers in restaurants.
The group also focused on criminal cases arising from human trafficking. Between January 1, 2007, and August 31, 2014, researchers cataloged:
- 737 human trafficking-related incidents
- 628 reported victims
- 320 reported child victims
- 210 suspects arrested
- 85 suspects convicted
The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports:
- 1,876 calls during 2015 from Texas alone
- 452 human trafficking cases
The report stresses this is the first phase of research on this project and the intent of the researchers is to expand research to other areas of human trafficking and other industry segments in the forced labor market.