Believe it or not, human trafficking continues to be a national epidemic. Today’s story is about how it affects undocumented Latino farmworkers. 

January 11 is National Human Trafficking Day, which raises awareness to stop the ‘modern-day slavery’ that leads to forced labor or sexual exploitation. Most reported cases of trafficking are related to sex, but seasonal farmworkers in the U.S. frequently face this abuse. 

Some of our country’s most vulnerable are the undocumented adults and children who make up over half of the agricultural workforce. “Agriculture is the only industry in which children as young as 12 are allowed to labor with virtually no restrictions on the number of hours they work outside of the school day,” California Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard explained.

Farmworkers are more vulnerable because they have less access to legal systems, face anti-immigrant sentiments and often don’t speak English. Activists like César Chávez have advocated to better their conditions since the 1950s. Today, they fall victim to document thefts and outrageous hidden hiring “fees”.

Regardless of age or status, exploitation of this workforce affects the whole country, because we consume the foods that they harvest.

Human trafficking in agriculture thrives when we don’t have basic protections for undocumented workers.