In 71 percent of cases studied, the victims were brought into the country legally.
But many traffickers didn’t just rely on fraudulent promises to recruit; they also employed a bevy of high-pressure sales tactics to coerce victims into signing contracts and paying expensive recruitment fees. Approximately 54 percent of the cases showed that coercion was used to recruit victims, and 48 percent showed that fees were paid.
These fees are often cripplingly high — $6,150 on average. Victims often borrowed money, used their homes or those of family members as collateral, or sold family property outright to pay these fees.
What’s more, these debts and familial obligations give traffickers leverage to control victims once forced labor begins in earnest.
After contracts were signed, most victims interviewed had to go to the US embassy or consulate to obtain guest worker visas. The overwhelming majority interviewed — 71 percent — entered the United States legally; 29 percent came into the country without legal documents.
Embassy visits provide a chance for US officials to look for and identify signs of labor trafficking and stop it before it starts. But in the cases studied, these opportunities were often missed.
One reason is the majority of victims interviewed said their traffickers coached them for visa interviews. And embassy and consulate staffers are generally not trained to identify signs of labor trafficking.
At best, embassies and consulates might offer applicants a pamphlet to inform them of their rights in the United States. Unfortunately for most victims, the unconscious march toward exploitation and trafficking continues.