What an exciting time to be in Tampa! The Bucs have made it all the way to the Super Bowl, and the game will be played right here in Tampa. Along with all the excitement, there is a less savory side to the Super Bowl. Perhaps you have seen the news reports and ads on TV describing the increase in human traffic in a city when it hosts the Super Bowl. Those reports tend to focus on the women and girls who are taken advantage of, and that, for most of us, is what we picture when we hear the words human trafficking. Unfortunately, though, that is not all there is to it.
When I lived in Washington, D.C., I would occasionally hear stories about diplomats who brought “relatives” to the United States with them. In reality, these relatives worked as domestic help for the diplomats and their families. Their pay was minimal and supposedly held for them for the time that they would return home. Their passports were also held. None of this was explained to them before they left home. Without money or documentation, they could not move freely around the city, resulting in a form of captivity for them.
I had a more immediate experience of trafficked people when I lived in Albany, NY. One day on the news, there was a story of a knife fight. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was on the very next block where 15 men were living in a small home. All had been trafficked from a rural part of China. They had been promised good jobs in the United States. Once they arrived in the U.S., their passports were taken from them. They all worked menial jobs in restaurants around town. Their wages were withheld to pay back the traffickers for travel expenses. With escalating interest rates, they were never going to be able to pay back the traffickers. They were stuck!
I tell these stories because trafficking can happen any where not just in the vicinity of large sporting events and it takes many different forms. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “it is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit.” (Paragraph 2414). This is one of the reasons that the Sisters of the Holy Names have taken a corporate stand against human trafficking. Will you join us?