Human trafficking is not a new crime, but it has recently prompted heightened attention and action among social services, legal services, law enforcement, and the general public. Human trafficking victims/survivors are forced or coerced — through sexual, physical, psychological violence, and/or torture — to perform a variety of labor including sex work, domestic services, childcare, agricultural labor, and restaurant work. All these exist in Maine. Maine is also home to laborers, many of them recent immigrants, who are exploited by unfair labor and immigration practices, receive little to no pay, and are subjected to unsafe working conditions.
Since understanding the laws and systems of a new country can be challenging, immigrants can be especially vulnerable to trafficking inside the United States. Immigrants, whether asylum-seekers or refugees, may not know their rights as workers or may not know to whom to turn for help. Immigrants who are undocumented or who are inside the U.S. on a guest worker visa program may not seek help due to fear of prosecution or deportation. Some may hesitate to speak out due to threats to their families back home or they may fear losing their ability to work in the U.S.
Preble Street cares about the needs of all human trafficking survivors. Since 2013, our Anti-Trafficking Services (ATS) has been working to end human trafficking in Maine. While ATS is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime, it is not part of the government or law enforcement.