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CIA Finds Thousands of Women Brought to U.S. to Be Slaves
by Joel Brinkley/New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON - April 2, 2000

As many as 50,000 women and children from Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe are brought to the United States under false pretenses each year and forced to work as prostitutes, abused laborers or servants, according to a CIA report that is the government's first comprehensive assessment of the problem. The carefully annotated and exhaustively researched 79-page report - "International Trafficking in Women to the United States: A Contemporary Manifestation of Slavery" - paints a broad picture of this hidden trade and of the difficulties that government agencies face in fighting it. 

Completed in November, the report is based on more than 150 interviews with government officials, law-enforcement officers, victims and experts in the United States and abroad, as well as investigative documents and a review of international literature on the subject.

Law-enforcement officials have seen episodic evidence for years of trafficking in immigrant women and children, some as young as 9. But the report says that officers generally do not like to take on these slavery cases because they are difficult to investigate and prosecute. And, it says, U.S. laws do not provide substantial penalties in such cases. 

Over the last two years, while up to 100,000 victims poured into the country and were held in bondage, federal officials estimated that the government prosecuted cases involving no more than 250 victims. The Justice Department said it could not provide precise figures. 

The report was prepared by a government intelligence analyst who was working on assignment to the CIA. Although it is not classified, it has not been made public. Another government official who wanted the report's findings made public provided a copy to The New York Times. It describes case after case of foreign women who answered advertisements for au pair, sales clerk, secretarial or waitress jobs in the United States but found, once they arrived, that the jobs did not exist. Instead they were taken prisoner, held under guard and forced into prostitution or peonage. Some of them were sold outright to brothel owners, the report says. 

"Examples of this may include Latvian women threatened and forced to dance nude in Chicago," the report says. Thai women were brought to here and "forced to be virtual sex slaves." Chinese-Korean women were "held as indentured servants." And "Mexican women and girls, some as young as 14," were promised jobs in housekeeping or child care but, upon arrival, "were told they must work as prostitutes in brothels serving migrant workers." 

Girls from Asian and African countries, some as young as 9, were essentially sold to traffickers by their parents "for less than the price of a toaster," one government official said. This mainly happens in cultures where female children are not valued. The girls are smuggled into the United States where they are often forced to work "in an indentured sexual servitude arrangement," the report says. 

A Nigerian smuggling ring, the report says, citing an Immigration and Naturalization Service case, charged parents from that country $10,000 to $12,000 to bring their children to New York so they would have "better educational opportunities." But once here, the smugglers "forced the Nigerian children to work as domestics." 

Some of these cases received prominent news coverage when they were discovered. But they are only a tiny fraction of the problem. The report says 700,000 to 2 million women and children worldwide are victimized by traffickers each year. Although the numbers who come to the United States are relatively small, the report says that the problem "is likely to increase in the United States."

The primary sources for traffickers are Thailand, Vietnam, China, Mexico, Russia and the Czech Republic, the report says. But other countries that are increasingly providing victims include the Philippines, Korea, Malaysia, Latvia, Hungary, Poland, Brazil and Honduras, the report says.

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