Taking action against human trafficking

November 14, 2008 4:31:19 PM PST
Thousands of people are shipped into the U.S. every year, forced to become slaves to people who brought them here. Now, groups here in Houston are fighting back against the underground world of human trafficking. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Some have encountered people who have been forced to be servants with no financial reward without even knowing it. And now, groups are drawing attention to the problem.

In her hair salon, Nyg Nguyen enjoys the American dream. Ngyuen was stunned to learn just a few doors down from her shop, several girls were living an American nightmare.

"I asked them what they do in there and they say, 'We're dancing'," she said. "So the men come there to drink and they need someone to dance."

What the girls didn't tell Ngyuen is that they were modern day slaves, lured to the U.S. by empty promises, held captive and forced to have sex. It's a brutal life for thousands of victims living in Houston.

"If she didn't service 30 johns a day, and she was slowing down on her metrics for the day, they would bring the picture out of her child and rip it in front of her," said Stephanie Weber with Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition

Weber explains how one woman was constantly threatened.

"So that she would work faster, work longer, make more money for them," she said.

The problem is so widespread that the mayor issued a proclamation and Yellow Cabs have new billboards, all to raise awareness. It happens in countless local businesses.

Landscapes, construction, nail salons," said Weber.

People miss signs of the underground crime every day.

"If you go into a place of employment and there are women working there and they're chastised by their employer for talking to you, that's a clear sign of human trafficking," said Weber.

"I didn't know what they did in there," said Nguyen.

Nguyen admits she's proof the unthinkable can happen right next door.

Some victims of human trafficking are forced to work in peoples' homes and often times, they're beaten and abused. If you spot something that makes you suspicious this is going on, call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

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