Forced labor is a serious and pervasive problem in the United States. At any given time ten thousand or more people work as forced laborers in scores of cities and towns across the country. And it is likely that the actual number is much higher, possibly reaching into the tens of thousands. Because forced labor is hidden, inhumane, widespread, and criminal, sustained and coordinated efforts by U.S. law enforcement, social service providers, and the general public are needed to expose and eradicate this illicit trade.
This report documents the nature and scope of forced labor in the United States from January 1998 to December 2003. It is the first study to examine the numbers, demographic characteristics, and origins of victims and perpetrators of forced labor in the United States and the adequacy of the U.S. response to this growing problem since the enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (Trafficking Act) of 2000. Conducted by researchers from Free the Slaves and the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, the study is based on data obtained from a telephone survey of 49 service providers that have worked with or are expert in forced labor cases, a press survey of 131 incidents of forced labor, and eight cases studies of forced labor in different regions of the United States.