From the corner outside my office building in downtown Washington, D.C., you can see three important landmarks. The first is the White House. The second is one of the most luxurious hotels in the city, where presidential candidates often host fundraisers and foreign dignitaries stay when they visit. The third is one of the most notorious corners for prostitution in the city, where children and human trafficking victims are often pimped against their will. And all this wealth, political power, and slavery happens within five square blocks of one another, in what may become the human trafficking capital of America.
Human trafficking has become a booming business in and around Washington, D.C. In the last few months alone, several pimps have been arrested for selling human trafficking victims in the D.C. suburbs of Southern Maryland. One man in D.C. pled guilty to human trafficking charges, after police found him selling his 12-year-old foster daughter for sex. A local restaurant owner admitted to exploiting a dozen migrant workers by severely underpaying them. And just last week, Virginia resident and World Bank economist Anne Bakilana narrowly avoided human trafficking charges, even though she admitted to not paying her domestic servant prevailing wages and threatening the servant with deportation. So why is human trafficking so prevalent in the capitol city of a country which just gave itself props for fighting it?
Human trafficking happens in Washington D.C. for the same reasons it happens elsewhere: supply and demand. Children, immigrants, and other vulnerable persons often become the supply of modern-day slaves. People who want dirt cheap domestic or restaurant labor or commercial sex with very young girls, they become the demand. But in the D.C. area, there are additional challenges to fighting human trafficking. Three different legal jurisdictions — Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia — come together in an area small enough to walk across (I have). Maryland and Virginia have their own state laws, and D.C. follows a weird mix of “home-rule” local and federal regulations. These challenges make addressing human trafficking in the area extremely difficult.
That’s where the federal government (should) come in. If America is going to engage in self-congratulations on the great work it’s done combating human trafficking, it needs to focus on its own capitol city. Washington D.C., since it’s not a state, is at the mercy of the federal government for a number of resources. And those resources just aren’t there. Fighting the modern-day slavery which taking place just outside their place of business needs to be a top priority for the President and Congress. They need to declare that it is unacceptable for these abuses to be happening right in their own backyards (sometimes, quite literally).
Otherwise, Washington D.C. stands to become the human trafficking capitol of America, as well as the political one. - Amanda Kloer
I find it very hard to justify the United States touting the higher morality card to so many “developing” countries when we still problems dealing with our own moral ineptitudes