Child victims of trafficking can be lured into the United States through the promise of education or work and the opportunity to send money back to their families. Children are vulnerable to kidnappers, pimps and professional brokers, with some even being sold by their families who may or may not have an understanding of what will happen to their child. US children are also trafficked within the US with cases of human trafficking reported in all 50 US states. It is estimated that 10 000 forced labourers in the US are trapped in domestic servitude.
At 11 years old Jamelia was sold to a woman by her mother in Belize. She was taken to the US to live with her trafficker and two other adopted children. Jamelia regularly went without food, was beaten when she disobeyed and wasn’t allowed access to phones or computers. She and the other children were moved around constantly by her trafficker and when not in school were forced to work for her trafficker’s business without pay. Jamelia had to do all the housework, yardwork and take care of five children. At the age of 23 Jamelia finally found someone who could help when she found a number for Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission. She was rescued in 2010 and became the first identified victim of human trafficking in Fresno County.
I’m from Belize, Central America and I was off and on with my family so I was kind of the black sheep in my family. Erm I was just playing the school, er in my yard, I had missed school because my toe, I’d got injured. And this white van just pulled up and this white woman, American woman, asked me is your cousin Peila there? And I said no she had left to go to one of her friends’ house and I knew where she was so I offered to take her there and when we returned back home my mom and all my little sisters were leaning on the fence. And she looked through the window and asked my mom, ‘can I have one of your girls? You have such beautiful kids’ and erm she’s like ‘which one can I take?’ And I left with a little plastic bag that day with her and didn’t return.
The first week wasn’t that good because that’s when I got my first beating with a piece of board off the beach because her daughter didn’t want me in the house. She got papers, my mom to sign papers and told her she’s going to do the adoption in America and she packed up the school bus, packed us up in the school bus and we drove from Placencia all the way through Mexico and into Texas and during that time the bus kept breaking down and breaking down. Because it was an old school bus it was a school bus that she went from America to Belize in.
We moved actually right across from Buchanan, I mean smack in front, we walked to school. And erm that’s where I attended tenth through twelfth grade was Buchanan high school.
I, after that I truly knew I was free and it’s a feeling that I can never explain because for so many wars I tried and tried and nobody could help me. Everybody said either sorry or call this number or I don’t know what we can do and here’s this one woman I just explained a little bit of my story and she was at my front door, she was at that front door.
Well preventing human trafficking is getting educated because there are many parts of human trafficking, there’s the sex part, and there’s the labour part. And with the labour part, you don’t necessarily see the victims, they’re behind closed doors. I was walking with behind people’s shadows and they didn’t even know I was a victim. I didn’t even know I was a victim. So it’s really, very important to get educated so even when the victim is not seeing the signs, you do, so you can help rescue them before its too late.
As told to the Central Valley Justice Coalition