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|Articles on illegal behaviour|
Human trafficking (aka trafficking in persons) has been referred to as "the face of modern slavery" and usually refers to illicit labor managed by a boss, pimp, or other middleman who arranges the transaction. The more desperate the worker, the less autonomy they have to leave their job, and the worse their wages and working conditions, the more likely the situation is to be considered a case of human trafficking. Much of the behavior now being called "human trafficking" is criminalized under other laws too; for example, a pimp's confiscating a prostitute's passport to prevent her from leaving the country is theft; threatening a prostitute with death if she tries to escape is a crime of violence; and locking someone up in a sweatshop is false imprisonment. However, there is a push among NGOs and federal officials to get local law enforcement and courts to recognize and punish these offenses as human trafficking.
In some cases, the people being trafficked take the initiative to cross borders in search of a better life, but it is still considered human trafficking when they end up working at a sweatshop or as a prostitute (which often happens because, as illegal immigrants, they don't have a work permit that would allow them to work outside the underground economy).
Prostitution, is increasingly being relabeled "sex trafficking" regardless of whether or not force, fraud, or coercion (denial of agency) are involved. Lurid tales of foreign women (mostly from Eastern Europe) being abducted or deceived to serve as prostitutes against their will during the 1990s led to passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which offers amnesty and T-1 visas to foreign women in exchange for co-operation with investigations of international prostitution rings. Despite the ghastly estimates of the numbers of women crossing international borders as prostitutes against their will, there have been very few takers for T-1 visas.
Most confirmed cases of force, fraud, or coercion related to prostitution, particularly involving minors under the age of consent, have involved either solitary pimps or small domestic networks of pimps. To combat prostitution among minors, legislatures are criminalizing sex with minors who are above the age of consent if the sex was an act of prostitution (age of consent varies between 16 and 18 in US states). There's some controversy about the fact that trafficked children are also sometimes treated as criminals themselves.
The failure to confirm large amounts of international trafficking (defined as denial of agency) for prostitution coupled with the profiles of traffickers that have been confirmed through criminal investigation suggests that the broad-brush approach to promoting the issue of sex trafficking is a moral panic that disregards actual circumstances.