Combating sex trafficking in Nevada has been a high priority under the watches of former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and current Attorney General Adam Laxalt, and Republican candidate Wes Duncan says that he will continue that work.
But Duncan also vowed to battle another form of trafficking that is not so well known — labor trafficking.
“Labor trafficking is just as serious,” Duncan said on “Nevada Newsmakers” on Wednesday. “I pledge to work with local law enforcement across our state and also federal law enforcement to try to curb and cut back on labor trafficking as well.”
Labor trafficking is any involuntary labor through force, fraud or coercion. Like sex trafficking, many times it involves young women. Sometimes a victim may be forced into labor and sex trafficking at the same time, Duncan said.
Victims can be legal or illegal immigrants and the practice occurs in agriculture, garment industry sweat shops and homes where domestic workers or housekeepers are employed. It also occurs in restaurant or food services, beauty services, landscaping, construction, carnivals and elder care.
“Labor trafficking can also be young girls doing all sorts of things, not only for the sex trafficking but doing other parts of labor,” Duncan said. “It’s also able-bodied men or people taking advantage of the immigrant population. Or snagging people who are really down on their luck or down on life and using them in places where they can’t leave, are not free to go and having them work in very, very harsh conditions.”
It’s a major issue in Northern Nevada, said Duncan, a former assemblyman from Las Vegas and U.S. Air Force veteran. After being elected to his second term in the Assembly in 2014, he resigned to work with Attorney General-elect Adam Laxalt's administration.
“You see human (sex) trafficking and labor trafficking going on along the I-80 corridor,” Duncan said.
At least 10,000 forced laborers are working in the United States, according to the National Human Rights Center in Berkeley, Calif. One-third of those identified are domestic servants while many are also children. The numbers could be much higher because of the secretive nature of the practice.
“Every person in the state deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, and they don’t deserve to be in a situation where they are not allowed to leave,” Duncan said.
Working with law enforcement is critical in combating labor trafficking, Duncan said.
“You need on Day One to be able to have the trust and relationships with law enforcement — federal, state and local — to be able to collaborate and solve problems.”
Ray Hagar is a retired political journalist from the Reno Gazette-Journal and current reporter/columnist for the Nevada Newsmakers podcast and website, nevadanewsmakers.com. Follow Ray on Twitter at @RayHagarNV.