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Human Trafficking at Home: Labor Trafficking of Domestic Workers


Agatha* came to the United States in 2007 on a temporary work visa. Even though she was hired as a nanny, she also had to work as a housekeeper and cook—without a pay increase to reflect those additional roles. Her employers did not give her adequate medical benefits, kept her passport, and threatened not to send money to her family, as promised, when she objected to their increasing demands.

Agatha was finally able to contact the Polaris-operated National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2017 to get help. Her case represents just one of the approximately 8,000 labor trafficking cases reported to the National Hotline between December 2007 and December 2017. Nearly 23 percent of all labor trafficking cases originated from domestic workers like Agatha.

Domestic workers include nannies, housekeepers, and in-home caee givers who are especially vulnerable to labor trafficking. Their work conditions leave them physically isolated—and they are excluded from laws that protect other workers’ rights. This is why Polaris and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) are drawing attention to the complex world of domestic work and labor trafficking.

Our new report with NDWA looks at the life of a domestic worker along a continuum and ends with a focus on strategies to keep domestic workers from becoming trafficking victims.

In order to change this system, we must address lax labor laws, amend harmful visa policies, hold employers more accountable, and learn more about identifying and responding to the labor trafficking of domestic workers. Domestic workers make the economy work. Let us go to work for them.

* Name changed to ensure confidentiality

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