Human trafficking has been in the spotlight recently – both in the national news and right here in our own state.
You’ve probably heard about this already, but toward the end of July, law enforcement officials found a tractor-trailer parked at a San Antonio Walmart with dozens of undocumented immigrants, including eight who were already dead. Two more died later after being hospitalized. One report says that “70 – to possibly several hundred individuals” were in the trailer.
The immigrants struggled to breathe in the sweltering truck. Some fainted, some were severely injured and, according to San Antonio’s fire chief, some will suffer from irreversible brain damage.
James Matthew Bradley, Jr., the driver of the truck, said he didn’t know he was hauling immigrants, but federal authorities still charged him with knowingly transporting undocumented people.
Bradley claims that he was hired by an Iowa company to bring an empty truck to a buyer in Brownsville, Texas. He allegedly drove 200 miles out of his way to Laredo, where he had the truck washed and detailed, instead of heading to Brownsville. He was then found in a San Antonio parking lot.
Federal authorities believe Bradley was a key player in the Mexican Zeta Cartel’s human smuggling operation.
This horrific tragedy shows us that human trafficking continues to be an issue for our country, but another story shows that it hits even closer to home for Illinois residents.
Our State’s Role in Human Trafficking
Human trafficking involves men, women, children, adults being used as forced laborers in fields, factories, mines, fishing boats, in brothels or motels as sex workers, and in numerous other positions to essentially be slaves.
Recently, six Chicago area suspects were charged with sex trafficking in a large-scale prostitution ring bust, which highlights our state’s struggle with trafficking.
According to Jennifer Cacciapaglia, a Rockford attorney and co-founder of the Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (RAASE), Illinois ranks eighth in the country for human trafficking. While Chicago leads Illinois’ cities for human trafficking, Rockford ranks second.
Along with RAASE, which held a forum to raise community awareness about human trafficking, another organization – Yet She Rise – held a number of demonstrations all over Chicago in their effort to ultimately stop human trafficking.
With human trafficking commanding so much news recently, our need to understand the laws and penalties associated with this crime in both in our country and in our own state is more important than ever.
Human Trafficking Laws in Illinois
Human trafficking is an illegal crime at the federal level and here in Illinois. We have explicit laws against:
- Involuntary servitude: when someone knowingly subjects another person to labor or services obtained or maintained through threats of physical harm, physical restraints, abusing the legal process, tampering with a passport or ID, or intimidation.
- Involuntary sexual servitude of a minor: when someone knowingly recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains by any means another person under 18 years of age, knowing that the minor will engage in sexual activity.
- Trafficking in persons: when someone knowingly recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains by any means another person, knowing that the person will be subjected to involuntary servitude
- Aggravated trafficking in persons: when someone commits trafficking in persons with aggravating factors such as kidnapping, criminal sexual assault, or first degree murder.
All human trafficking offenses in our state are felonies, but the severity of the felony depends on the specific circumstances of the supposed crime.
As you can see, human trafficking is taken seriously in our state and throughout the country. For this reason, if you’re charged with a human trafficking offense, it’s important to contact an experienced Illinois human trafficking attorney as soon as possible so you can get started on defending your charges and fighting back.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.