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February 3, 2006

FBI continues to fight human-trafficking in N. Carolina

As a follow up to my earlier post regarding the sexual-trafficking of Latinas in North Carolina comes this story: FBI wants to end human trafficking.
Updated: 1/25/2006 10:23:27 PM
By: Shawn Flynn, News 14 Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The FBI is reaching out to the Latino community in North Carolina, trying to put a stop to human trafficking.

"We have heard of problems where individuals are brought into the country to work as a domestic and they're pretty much held hostage or held like a slave," said Angeles Ortega-Moore, the executive director of the Charlotte-based Latin American Coalition.

That's what happened to "Alex," a federally protected witness in California.

"The woman who brought me here told me I would work in a restaurant and I would pay her off with my labor," Alex said.

When it comes to human trafficking, Hispanics make up the biggest population -- an estimated 61 percent. Many work on migrant farms.

That labor, Alex said, became her body as she was sold into prostitution with two other 14-year-old girls.

"I believe we were slaves," she said. "They wouldn't let us leave. We were working 24 hours. It didn't matter if we were sleeping; they would get us up. If we were hungry, there was no time to eat. All that mattered was their money."

Similar stories are becoming more common in the Tar Heel State, which has the fifth-largest population of illegal immigrants.

"Given the size of the illegal immigrant population here in North Carolina, we believe that it's a huge problem here that's going largely unaddressed," said Kevin Kendrick, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Charlotte Division.

Kevin Kendrick, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Charlotte Division, hopes to raise awareness about human trafficking.

The State Department says 18,000 people are trafficked into the country each year. FBI analysts in Charlotte estimated that 23 percent of them are in the Southeast.

Hispanics make up the biggest population, at an estimated 61 percent, so the FBI is reaching out to them and hoping that victims will come forward.

"It could range anywhere from hundreds to thousands," Kendrick said Wednesday. "We just don't know, and that’s one of the reasons why we're doing this."

It is estimated that about 34 percent of Hispanic victims work on migrant farms, while about 29 percent work in prostitution.

Of all trafficking victims, about 80 percent are female, according to the FBI.

Web Journalist: Kyle Almond
Copyright 2006 TWEAN d.b.a. News 14 Carolina
[HT], [SS]

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