Antonio* loved his parents. When they got sick, and he needed to provide medical care for them which they could not afford, the Colombian man decided to try and find work in the United States. Two recruiters for a tomato farm in Florida promised him good living conditions, enough money to care for his family–and legal entry into the United States, through the H-2A visa program.
Antonio arrived, ready to work. The living conditions were not good: they were dilapidated and stuffed with other workers. He watched two other employees get beaten for taking a break from their extreme hours in the summer sun. His employer took his passport and visa, and told Antonio he would be deported for questioning him.
Antonio was stuck. Living in violent and scary conditions, he reached out to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. But his demographics were working against him. There are no dedicated beds for labor trafficking survivors in the United States, according to our survey and report on the state of shelter beds. There are 153 beds which can be given to either labor or sex trafficking survivors, only 8 beds in the entire United States dedicated to foreign nationals like Antonio and only 2 beds for men.
Most trafficking survivors are left to hope for a bed at a shelter which does not focus on victims of human trafficking–a homeless shelter, a domestic violence shelter, a run-away youth shelter. This is because there are only 2,173 beds available to human trafficking survivors across the country, and they cannot possibly serve the hundreds of thousands of trafficking victims in the United States.
We were able to connect Antonio to a shelter, and reported his abusive employer to law enforcement, who opened an investigation. But there are not nearly enough beds for the people who need them, and this must change if we are to live in a slave-free world.
*Antonio’s story is representative of the types of calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and is meant for informational purposes only.