CNMI Continues To Be Forced Labor, Sex Trafficking Destination

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State Department report affirms status despite contrary claims

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 24, 2014) – The CNMI has once again been tagged as a "destination and transit location for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking," based on the U.S. State Department’s newly released 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report. But Rep. Tony Sablan (Ind-Saipan), a former CNMI immigration director, is leery about the report’s continued labeling of the islands since the federal government now controls CNMI immigration.

"I just hope that their evaluation is true. Where’s the actual data to back up their report that the CNMI is still [a destination and transit location] for sex trafficking and forced labor? Again, I question the facts in this report. And if there’s someone that should answer to this, it should be the U.S. government or DHS [Department of Homeland Security] and agencies under it because they are now supposed to control our borders," Sablan told Saipan Tribune.

The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report is an important instrument to assess the current state of anti-trafficking responses in each country.

The CNMI and Guam’s classifications, along with other U.S. territories’, didn’t change from the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report. Guam, the report says, is a "source and transit location" for persons subjected to "forced labor and sex trafficking."

In February 2014, the report says, the U.S. District Court for the CNMI accepted the guilty plea of a woman for child sex trafficking.

In a separate case, the court sentenced a defendant for the sex trafficking of a Chinese woman at a karaoke club to 235 months in prison and ordered almost $10,000 in restitution to the victim, the report adds.

Still, the CNMI’s former immigration director said the U.S. government does not have statistics to show whether the number of cases of human trafficking and forced labor has gone down, the number of cases filed, and the number of cases resolved, among other things.

"How many cases [did] they look at to arrive at that conclusion? The U.S. federal government is now controlling CNMI immigration, they should also be able to answer that," Sablan added.

The Federated States of Micronesia’s standing was upgraded this year, based on the State Department’s latest report.

The 2014 TIP Report comes six months after FSM President Emanuel Mori and Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak told the Micronesian Chief Executives’ Summit on Saipan in December that 2013 TIP Report listing their islands under a "Tier 2 watch list" for human trafficking and sex trafficking do not reflect the real situation in their areas and hurt their image and economic development.

FSM—which is composed of Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap, and Kosrae—is among the 15 countries upgraded in the 2014 report.

There are four tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 4. Tier 1 countries include governments fully compliant with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. While the U.S. puts itself on the Tier 1 category, the State Department acknowledged its own problems fighting trafficking.

U.S. State Secretary John F. Kerry, in the release of the 2014 TIP Report, said each has a "responsibility to make this horrific and all-too-common crime a lot less common."

"And our work with victims is the key that will open the door to real change—not just on behalf of the more than 44,000 survivors who have been identified in the past year, but also for the more than 20 million victims of trafficking who have not," he said.

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