Owners, developers and contractors have a new critical issue to add to their list of concerns about the hiring of illegal labor on their projects – human trafficking victims.
We were alerted to the seriousness of the issue by Brandon Darby, a subcontractor and human rights activist who has been investigating human trafficking in the U.S., its impact on the construction industry and its toll on human lives. Darby is best known for his work with law enforcement agencies on anti-terror issues. We followed up with Darby and asked him a few questions.
Why did you contact Construction Citizen about this issue?
“When I found Construction Citizen and realized that many construction industry organizations and leaders are working to hold their own industry accountable, I wanted to alert them to another issue that exists in our industry, one that is undermining the image and future of the industry, the issue of human trafficking and slave labor in construction.”
“Human trafficking is becoming more of an issue in the US. It is seldom seen and less seldom prosecuted. It exists in several industries: construction, retail, hospitality and certainly in the drug trade. As the Cartels and their partners have diversified, they have found a ready market for individuals who want to come to the US, and many of those individuals get caught up in slave labor and human trafficking.”
What is being done to address this issue in the industry?
“For me, there are several sensitivities around this human trafficking issue. One is that it is more prevalent in the industry than anyone realizes. Second, it is not a priority for law enforcement agencies like ICE as they have their hands full with anti-terrorist issues and the protection of the country. Third, law enforcement agencies are focused on catching and deporting those who are involved, not on the victims. I am most interested in working with the organizations and individuals who will identify and ultimately prosecute those who are driving this devastating condition.”
What are you doing in that regard?
“I can’t talk about it much other than to say that the victims we've identified are in a safe place and that men and women of law enforcement are going above and beyond their call of duty in working with the citizens they serve to address the issue of human trafficking and slave labor in our society and in the construction industry.”
What should Construction Citizen readers and followers do about this issue?
“Right now, just be aware of it, watch for it and educate yourselves about it. A good place to learn more about the issue is at http://www.lasterglobal.com. Many people confuse the issue of human trafficking with illegal immigration, but they are not the same. I'm also working on uncovering more about these human rights issues and will be happy to share what I learn with Construction Citizen and will also help find ways to help the industry identify, investigate and hold accountable the relatively small percentage of corrupt company owners and contractors who would violate the standards of human decency in this way. Human trafficking is human slavery. We all know it exists in our nation and we all know it's wrong. Even though citizens, advocates and law enforcement personnel have worked tirelessly to address these issues, what's being done is not enough. We need to bring these issues to light, and that's where the Construction Citizen blog can play a role.”
We will be following this issue and will alert you to current developments as they unfold.