One of Vermont's most recent cases of human trafficking was uncovered when John Green, 49, sexually assaulted two Korean employees at a massage parlor in Burlington. During the investigation police discovered the women were part of a sex slavery ring where Korean women were being smuggled into the U.S. from Canada.
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell says smugglers convince people to come here by promising high paying jobs and sometimes schooling.
"And then when they get here they don't speak the language, they don't have immigration papers, if they even had a passport it's been taken from them, and they're forced to work and they almost never get out of debt," said Sorrell, D-Vermont.
Sorrell is head of a task force created by lawmakers last spring. It was prompted by cases like Green's and the bust of several sex slavery rings at massage parlors around Chittenden County in 2004.
The task force heard about more cases of possible trafficking from Art Edersheim, a professor at the Vermont Law School. In his clinical work Edersheim says he has been approached by people who said they were promised an education at Vermont colleges and then forced to work at area resorts.
"They were very, very nervous about having any contact with law enforcement and that's one of the big obstacles we face," Edersheim said.
Towns like Middlebury have already adopted policies that say they won't report people who are in the country illegally if they are victims of crime.
The task force plans to recommend that lawmakers pass a comprehensive anti-trafficking bill. It will give law enforcement tool and training to identify and fight cases of human trafficking and give victims assistance as their cases work their way through the courts.
"Law enforcement, any law enforcement agent really, can say this person is being helpful in the investigation, they've reported a case of potential human trafficking and so forth, which is what you really need," Edersheim said.
That will give trafficking victims a chance to apply for legal residency and hopefully come forward before they become victims of other crimes too.
The task force will present its complete findings to lawmakers this January.
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