By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Local and federal prosecutors hosting an anti-human-trafficking seminar today in Philadelphia say updated laws are helping, but human trafficking remains one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
Assistant US attorney Dan Velez says at its core, human trafficking is modern-day slavery “(that) involves the exploitation of people for either commercial sex or for forced labor.”
According to the US Department of State, 20 million people are trafficked around the world each year, including an estimated 15,000 to 18,000 in the US.
And, Velez says, it’s happening in plain sight, especially with undocumented immigrants:
“It’s right in front of us, from people who are cleaning the floors in the stores where we go shopping every day, to restaurant workers.”
FBI special agent Rose Vesci says they are also often American children — girls aged 13 to 15 years old who are involved in child prostitution.
“Let’s not just keep locking up these girls,” she said.
Assistant US attorney Michelle Morgan says authorities are now going after their pimps, who are getting mandatory minimum prison terms of ten to 15 years.
“Because they have multiple victims, the guideline ranges often result in and around a life sentence,” she notes.
Vesci says 2,700 children have been rescued from trafficking in the United States since 2003.