SOLD sheds light on underground crime

Trisha Gauntt, Kara Franz and Kina Blackburn tour the SOLD exhibit.

Photo by Jennie McGhan
Trisha Gauntt, Kara Franz and Kina Blackburn tour the SOLD exhibit.

It’s the second largest organized crime in the world, yet many are oblivious that it is taking place in their own back yard.

Human trafficking is a problem that spans the globe, including countries like Jordan, Sri Linka, Mexico, Haiti, South Sudan, Yemen and even the U.S.

It’s not the topic often discussed around the dinner table, but it is happening in Washington state, even in the Yakima and Columbia basins.

Slavery does exist in spite of being illegal.

The SOLD human trafficking exhibit brought to Sunnyside by Lower Valley Soroptimist last night provided people a chance to see the conditions and hear testimonies during a tour of 12 rooms.

One of those rooms detailed the exploits of an organization that preyed upon Thais just more than 10 years ago.

Global Horizons Manpower was a “recruiting company” that promised people a better life, using them to provide farmers with laborers. What the farmers in Washington didn’t know was the employees were indebted to the company that had taken passports and visas, threatened them and provided them with poor living conditions.

There were 600 workers rescued.

In the Yakima and Columbia basins, there are gangs using young women, girls and boys for the sex industry.

Pimps court their targets for brothels, massage parlors, prostitution and pornography.

They groom unsuspecting victims, making them believe they will find love and acceptance. Instead, they find themselves and their families being threatened if they don’t cooperate.

Soroptimist Nancy Boettcher said the largest weekend for sex trafficking in the region is Water Follies in the Tri-Cities.

The organization provides hotels in the area with soaps on which a national hotline (1-888-3737-888) is advertised.

Another volunteer said there have been reports of weekly human trafficking pick ups at a gas station in Prosser.

“This is a local issue,”Boettcher said.


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