Child Labor Trafficking In The U.S.: Political And Ethical Implications

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In the U.S., the prevalence of child labor trafficking is increasing at a substantial rate every year, with little being done about it. According to the International Labor Organization, between the years of 2005 and 2012, the amount of reported human trafficking victims increased from 21.0 million to 40.3 million victims worldwide. Of those 40.3 million, 24.9 million were victims of labor, and approximately ⅓ of those labor workers were children (Sweileh). Child labor trafficking can be defined as a person under 18 years old being recruited and exploited for the purpose of performing laborious tasks (Greenbaum, Yun, Todres). The child labor trafficking industry has been documented in generating billions of dollars in the U.S. alone (Author of Committee of Homeland Security). These cruel and inhumane ways of generating money should not be supported. Unlike adults who are labor trafficked, children have a more dependent nature on adults, they do not have as much courage to speak out or escape their current situation, and they are not as aware of their surroundings, thus, further complicating any efforts to thwart child labor trafficking initiatives (Freedom Network USA). In addition to this, a lack of enforced labor regulations such as job safety, health standards, eligibility for job, and identity requirements make child labor trafficking a relatively feasible scandal to perform (Allen, Straight). Considering all of these issues, child labor trafficking is a detrimental issue to be solved in order to keep the children in the U.S. safe.

Political Implications

The most prevalent law implemented in the U.S. to combat child trafficking is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. This act was implemented in 2000 in order to prosecute traffickers, prevent further trafficking, and protect victims of trafficking (Elzbieta, Micah). The information provided in this research appears to be valid as the research was conducted at Georgetown University which was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, which indicates that the federal government endorses their cause. Despite its implementation, TVPA has only identified a few victims compared to the large, estimated amount in the U.S.. This can be due to U.S. policies still being lenient on labor regulations such as recipient’s eligibility for a job and identity requirements. Lack of border control and regulation is a significant enforcer of child labor trafficking (Allen, Straight). With more border control, traffickers can be caught before any labor operations can be carried out and any harm on the child can be done. The Unaccompanied Refugee Minor is a government program following federal guidelines in helping trafficked victims get proper care and education (Elzbieta, Micah). Despite the attempt, a government program to help victims is not helpful unless victims can actually be identified. In its attempts to fight this epidemic, the U.S. is attempting to work with other countries to catch perpetrators. This, however, proves to be difficult due to the varying standards in different countries about what is considered acceptable and what is not. In the U.S., what would be considered an underaged trafficking victim would be considered a labor worker in another country (Greenbaum, Yun, Todres). The research of these three authors appears to be justified in the sense that their sources are derived from the United Nations and various U.S. federal programs. From the perspective of the U.S. government, officials hope to implement policies to train healthcare providers more specifically in dealing with human trafficking survivors in order to help healthcare providers sympathize with their trauma and make treatment easier (Burke, McCauley, Rackow, Orsini, Simunovic). This research from the Texas Medical Center appears reliable because the citations consist of sources from medical centers, the United Nations, and government reports, which all conducted their own research and are government funded. In addition to training health professionals, training law enforcement to catch and approach child laboring facilities is detrimental to the stopping the further continuation of this issue (Walts). The author, Katherine Walts, who works for the Center for the Human Rights of Children appears to have credibility. Her citations show all of her information was retrieved from government program reports and recently administered federal laws. The government aspires to stop all occurences of human trafficking as it is their duty to ensure the safety of the American people and everyone within its borders. They want to implement laws and policies in hopes of making it more difficult for human trafficking operations to be carried out. Traffickers may view these policies as a nuisance to their operations and may try to find ways to overcome their new obstacles, however, victims will most likely be grateful for the government’s work and their release from bondage.

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Ethical Implications

Children partaking in forced labor trafficking are often subjugated to working in difficult conditions such as an unclean environment, a space with dangerous machinery (inexperience in handling equipment often leads to death), abusive employers, and a lack of basic necessities. Victims are often exposed to heavy amounts of mercury, dust, and pesticides which can lead to severe consequences on their health, leading to instances such as poor growth and acquiring diseases. Children also experience trauma due to severe mistreatment by traffickers. Due to factors including but not limited to lack of family, physical abuse, and health deprivation, victims could also acquire mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Such mistreatment leads these victims to have stunted development of their cognitive ability and limit their abilities to perform in school and in all aspects of life (Elzbieta, Micah). The U.S. has recognized the immoral nature of specifically child labor trafficking as taking advantage of vulnerable kids who cannot defend themselves. Cultural barriers such as language and coming from poverty prevent children from having the capacity to speak up against their situation. From the viewpoint of traffickers, they believe their main purpose for trafficking is to receive money by any means possible, no matter how cruel or inhumane the deed. Actions by the traffickers may be driven by their nature of greed or the strict pressures from a boss to get a certain job done in as little time as possible for as small of a cost as possible. Children in poverty want to look for work in hopes of earning money for their families to obtain more prosperous lives. They are ignorant, vulnerable, and desperate, and do not believe the “labor employers” they speak to would cause them any harm- making them the perfect target for traffickers to take advantage of. Rather than using threats and force, traffickers rely on using coercion and deception to get the children to agree to work for them (Sweileh). Working at the An-Najah National University in Palestine, Sweileh’s report appears to be very well researched, citing over eighty sources, ranging from government reports to medical research. However, her research is quite broad, pulling statistics from research done all around the world, which may not be as credible. Parents are also often seen as culprits, selling their children to earn another source of income for the family. Parents who sell their children to who they believe are “labor workers” tend to live in poverty and see their children as another pair of hands that could bring money home to them (Allen, Straight). The research performed by Allen and Straight lacks some validity. While some of her research comes from the United Nations and other federal programs, she also contains some sources from news outlets such as ABC News and the New York Times. Since news outlets only report news and do not actually perform research, information may get skewed or “lost in translation”, thus, making the information not very credible. Children and parents hope for greater political and religious freedom in the U.S. along with the promise of more opportunities to make their lives more prosperous, which is what leads them to unknowingly fall into the trap of a human trafficker.


Child labor trafficking is an unresolved epidemic in the U.S.. The prevalence of the issue in the U.S. signals an urgent need that change in policy must take place to ensure the problem is no longer pervasive. The research concludes that policies such as border control, identity inspection for minors, and training health professionals more proficiently are the best ways to ensure the damages from child labor trafficking occur no longer. It is essential to the current and future safety of the children of the U.S. that the issue of child labor trafficking is terminated.

Works Cited

  1. Allen, Elizabeth D. Straight, Patricia P. “Natural Disasters as a Magnet for Forced Labor: The United States and Japan Case Studies”. Vol 5, Issue 2. Global Studies Journal. 2013. p115-125. Ebsco Host. Dec. 16.
  2. Author of Committee of Homeland Security. “Combating human trafficking in our major cities: field hearing before the Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives, One Hundred Thirteenth Congress, second session, March 20, 2014”. United States Homeland Department of Security. 2014. Galileo Search Engine. Dec. 16.
  3. Burke, Mary. McCauley, Heather L. Rackow, Anne. Orsini, Bradley. Simunovic, Bridget. “Implementing a Coordinated Care Model for Sex Trafficked Minors in Smaller Cities”. Vol. 6, Issue 1. The TMC Library Health Sciences Resource Center. 2015. Journal of Applied Research: Informing Policy for Children at Risk. Dec. 16.
  4. Elzbieta, Gozdziak. Micah, Bump N. “Victims No Longer: Research on Child Survivors of Trafficking for Sexual and Labor Exploitation in the United States”. Institute for the Study of International Migration. Mar. 2018. U.S. Department of Justice. Dec. 16
  5. Freedom Network USA. “Child Trafficking for Labor in the United States”. Freedom Network USA. Apr. 2015. Freedom Network USA. Dec. 16.
  6. Greenbaum, Jordan V. Yun, Katherine. Todres, Jonathan. “Child Trafficking: Issues for Policy and Practice”. Vol. 46, Issue 1. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics. 2018. p159-163. Galileo Search Engine. Dec. 16.
  7. Sweileh, Waleed M. “Research trends on human trafficking: a bibliometric analysis using Scopus database”. Vol 14, Issue 1. Globalization and Health. Nov. 8. 2018. Ebsco Host. Dec. 16.
  8. Walts, Katherine, K. “Child Labor Trafficking: The Hidden Crime”. Vol. 5, Issue 2. Social Inclusion. 2017. p59-68. Galileo Search Engine. Dec. 16.
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