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Slavery in My Own Backyard
I first heard the term modern-day slavery while sitting in my church pew one Sunday morning. We had invited a representative of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to talk briefly about working conditions in Floridas tomato fields. I left the service that day wondering if things in Florida could really be that bad. Slavery? This sounded exaggerated. It was 2011 slavery has long been abolished in our country. Two months ago our church offered a site visit to Immokalee, Florida, where we could meet and talk with members of the coalition.
I went. This is real. Modern-day slavery exists within 90 minutes of my home.
The CIW is a worker-led community organization based in Immokalee, Florida, that works with farm workers trafficked into forced labor. They uncover and investigate cases of slavery while raising awareness of forced labor practices amongst the farm worker community. Since 1997, seven cases of forced labor have been successfully prosecuted right here in the U.S., resulting in the liberation of over a thousand workers.
In 2010 Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recognized CIWs Anti-Slavery Campaign Coordinator Laura Germino as a Trafficking in Persons hero, the first time this annual award was bestowed on a U.S. citizen. The occasion was the release of the State Departments 10th Annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. This was the first time that the report included an assessment of trafficking in the United States. The report reads in part that the United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor, debt bondage and forced prostitution. Involuntary servitude is not something we can ignore or hope doesnt exist in our own community. It does exist --Ive seen it.
I am passionate about supporting IJMs work around the world to end human trafficking. I support IJMs work financially. I recently met with my congressional representatives to encourage them to support the Trafficking Victims Protection Re-authorization Act (TVPRA). I serve as a volunteer advocacy leader for IJM in Florida. This is vitally important work.
Now we have an opportunity to address modern-day slavery in our own country. I encourage you to learn more and get involved today in IJMs Recipe for Change campaign find out what you can do to end modern-day slavery globally and here at home.
Wendy Cox is a volunteer advocacy leader in the state of Florida for IJM Justice Campaigns. Justice Campaigns mobilizes people around the country in support of U.S. policies that will lead to the abolition of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Join us this summer for Recipe for Change, as we campaign for slave-free tomatoes.