State Bar Association President Seymour W. James, Jr., calling human trafficking "one of America's dark secrets," has appointed a committee to study how to prevent children and adults from being forced into prostitution and hard labor against their will. 

Some 27 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking. Here in New York, the confluence of immigrants, runaway children and domestic violence has brought heightened interest in eradicating trafficking, yet the problem persists.

The Special Committee on Human Trafficking, headed by former State Bar President Bernice K. Leber of New York (Arent Fox) and Sandra D. Rivera of Albany (Manatt, Phelps & Phillips), is reviewing the current statute in New York that criminalizes sex trafficking and labor trafficking, as well as related criminal, civil and international laws. The goal of the committee's review is to identify reasons why the trafficking business persists and to propose additional reforms.
"Each day, innocent victims are taken off the streets or removed from their families and cast into modern-day slavery. Often they are subjected to threats, intimidation and physical, psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of their captors," said James (The Legal Aid Society in New York City). "Whether the victims live here or abroad, human trafficking is slavery and cannot be tolerated anywhere."

Human traffickers often use force, make threats, withhold victims' identification or immigration documents, compel victims to pay off debt by engaging in prostitution or forced labor, provide the victim with drugs, or otherwise use trickery to entice the victim into forced sex or labor.

The New York State Bar Association, with 76,000 members, is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. It was founded in 1876.


Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services and Public Affairs