Target: Congressman Earl Blumenauer
Goal: Prevent Portland, Oregon from being a hub for the transportation of human trafficking victims
Anywhere from 750,000 to 2 million people have been trafficked in the United States over the last decade, 80% of whom are forced into the sex trade industry. According to the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report by the U.S. Department of State, there are 12.3 million currently in slavery around the world. Many American citizens believe that human trafficking is a problem in developing countries, foreign to U.S. soil. Even those who know of the persistent problem of trafficking within American borders tend to believe the victims are trafficked mostly from developing nations, brought into the U.S. against their will. While this is a factor in the American trafficking industry, what is often unknown is that the majority of the victims currently being trafficked in the U.S., especially in the sex trade, are in fact American citizens.
Human trafficking is often confused with prostitution but the two are very different. Under legal definition, those who enter into prostitution do so with the intent of willingly trading sex for income. But human trafficking is defined as coercing or forcing the victim to provide services against his or her will. Victims do not receive income or financial support. Often they are forcibly restrained or dependent on their captors.
Because of the city’s proximity to I-5 and I-84, Portland has become a hub for human trafficking. Because Portland has a legal sex industry, lax sex trafficking enforcement and a large population of vulnerable street children, plus the fact the city is on the route of two rivers, Portland is an appealing location to traffickers. Also Oregon relies heavily on seasonal workers, important to the labor trafficking industry. Yet Oregon does not keep data on victims of trafficking so current estimates are guesses at best. Because of its central location, Portland is often used as a transfer port for victims to be shipped all over the U.S. and into Canada and Mexico.
Although there are many factors contributing to this problem nationally, Portland has become a central hub for human trafficking on the West Coast. Currently there is the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force based in Multnomah county being headed by Keith Bickford. Mr. Bickford divides his caseload between victims trafficked for sexual exploitation (who are mostly U.S. citizens) and victims trafficked for labor (mostly immigrants). He has stated he sees 3-5 children being commercially trafficked weekly in Portland alone.
Human trafficking is a scourge on society and humanity. Portland needs to remedy this problem by fiercely enforcing sexual exploitation laws and by expanding and further funding the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force. In addition, shelters and rehabilitation centers for victims need to be created and funded. Multnomah County and Portland officials have stated they will find money to open a shelter but currently there is no timeline in place for construction and creation. This shelter needs to be a top priority.
By signing the petition below, you will let Congressman Blumenauer know that American citizens know about human trafficking and are committed to shutting this $32 billion industry down. Sign this petition to ask Congressman Blumenauer to commit with us to provide support and rehabilitation for victims and harsh consequences for traffickers.
Dear Congressman Blumenauer,
Human trafficking is a serious problem in America and in the state of Oregon. Portland, Oregon, a major city in your district, is a major hub in the human trafficking industry in this country. With its proximity to I-5, I-84, and two river routes coupled with the lax enforcement and legal sex industry, Portland is an appealing place to traffickers. In February 2009 during a national sting investigation into the sex trade industry, law enforcement officers picked up seven underage girls being sexually exploited in Portland, more than in any of the other 29 cities involved in the sting operation.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 300,000 children are trafficked for sexual exploitation annually. This is a grave violation of human rights that we are experiencing in this country. Multnomah County alone is dealing with hundreds of human trafficking cases right now. The Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force is doing what they can to process these cases and pursue other trafficking leads, but they are under-staffed and under-funded. Additionally, there are few resources available to victims of trafficking in Portland. Shelters and rehabilitation centers are essential to victim recovery.
Congressman Blumenauer, please pledge to make this problem a high priority for you and other Oregon officials. Take a stand with us against modern-day slavery and work on improving law enforcement against traffickers and recovery for trafficking victims. The head of the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force, Keith Bickford, says he sees 3-5 child victims of commercial trafficking a week in Portland, Oregon alone. We, American citizens, demand change and justice for these victims. Fight against this severe human rights violations in our country and save potential future victims.
[Your Name Here]