Modern-Day Slavery in America
March 26, 2007 — -- Emily Nicely, 19, was routinely beaten with broom handles, a metal pipe, belts and wooden boards.
She was forced to quit school, to do chores and deliver newspapers without pay. She was by any definition -- including those of the federal government and the family that held her captive for six months -- a slave.
Nicely's case made headlines last week, in part because a Pennsylvania family was accused of abusing and threatening her. The arrests of Mark and Cynthia Pollard, as well as their three teenage children, shed light on a problem most Americans believe was eradicated more than 140 years ago.
Human rights organizations and federal officials, including President Bush, however, insist that modern-day slavery, also known as "human trafficking," is alive and well today in the United States.
Next to the illegal trades in drugs and arms, human trafficking is the third-largest and fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world, according to government figures. The departments of Justice and State, as well as anti-trafficking groups, estimate there are about 27 million people worldwide in modern-day slavery.
The term "human trafficking" can be applied in all cases where the use of "force, fraud or coercion" is used to get people to work or have sex against their will, a senior official at the U.S. Department of Justice told ABCNEWS.com.
"Despite what the word 'trafficking' suggests," the official said, "it is not human smuggling … [and] does not require proof of movement or crossing of borders."
Human trafficking is a federal offense because it violates the 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery.
The Department of Justice has conducted more than 700 investigations into cases of alleged human trafficking since 2001, an increase of 600 percent over the previous six years.
Last year, the Justice Department initiated 168 investigations, charged 111 defendants in 32 cases, and obtained 98 convictions involving human trafficking cases.
Two of those convictions in 2006 were for Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and his wife, Elnora, both doctors from Milwaukee, Wis.
In November 2006, the couple were each sentenced to four years in prison for "forcing a woman to work as their domestic servant and illegally harboring her for 19 years in their residence," according to the Justice Department.
The Calimlims were convicted of using threats of serious harm and physical restraint against their victim, whom they had brought to the United States from the Philippines when she was 19.