The New American Slave Trade

Effective January 1808 the importation of slaves into the United States was forbidden by law. This law was the result of a compromise reached by the original thirteen states during the writing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Thus, only those slaves that currently resided within the boundaries of the United States and their progeny could be held in bondage. Yet, historical sources estimate as many as 50,000 slaves a year continued to enter the U.S. primarily through Spanish Florida and the Mexican state of Cohilla y Tejas (Texas) where slavery was still permitted. Trying to police the border between Spanish Florida and the U.S. was impossible as was the border between Tejas and the newly acquired Louisiana purchase territory. Thus, the trade in slaves changed from one of arriving by ship to one of being smuggled across very porous borders from the South and West. This process would continue until 1821 in the Tejas region when Mexico banned the slave trade and 1822 when Spanish Florida became a U.S. Territory. Slaves would continue to be smuggled into Florida from the Spanish and French Caribbean islands where slavery remained legal (The French outlawed slavery in 1794 but Napoleon reinstated it a few years later.)

Thus, the law making it illegal to import slaves into the federal territory of the United States was hardly a success. It changed the business of importing slaves into a criminal enterprise and as would be demonstrated by the failures of the 18th amendment, the Volstead Act and the War on Drugs, the profits became larger, the number of players increased and those engaged in the trafficking became more nefarious and proficient in their undertakings. This smuggling would continue until slavery became illegal with the 13th amendment to the Constitution. Note that an amendment to the Constitution was necessary because slavery was one of the compromises necessary to obtain a constitution in the first place.

But the 13th amendment did not end the slave trade in the U.S. or anywhere else for the criminal enterprise, by then well-founded, and with practitioners all over the world continued to flourish. Some countries simply turned a blind-eye to the practice, many government officials were bribed and some countries would simply ignore the rules of “civilization” and allow slavery to continue in their societies. By the middle of the 20th century the governments of Japan and Germany were using slave labor to accomplish their designs of dominance. Even into the 21st century slavery continued to exist in states like Saudi Arabia where anyone entering the country was required to have a Saudi sponsor, surrender their passport upon entry and obtain an exit visa before they being able to leave the country. Think of it as indentured servitude if you like, but it was government sponsored slavery. Saudi Arabia did not have a tourist visa until 2019.

Prominent Africans in a number of countries have young slaves working in their homes and you’ll find these “workers” are generally from poor tribes and areas where their families have been told the child will have a better life with the rich families but, in fact, they are and will remain menial laborers. You’ll find the same conditions in South Asia where the poor serve the well-off in conditions no better than if they were shackled to a plow. In Africa you have the kidnapped children taught to use an AK-47 and then sent to fight rival criminal gangs. Then we have the sex trade where children, teens and young adults are kidnapped, hoodwinked or otherwise entrapped by Russian, Mexican, Albanian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Salvadorian, Ukrainian (the list goes on) gang members. These “sex slavers” operate in every country in the world and their networks intertwine in one of the largest criminal enterprises currently operating. Sex, pornography, drugs, weapons, corruption of government officials, it’s all there and now we have the U.S. government aiding and abetting human traffickers.

“Not so” you say, “We are only doing humanitarian work,” you protest. In truth your protests are in vain for even the leaders of other countries are pointing out how policies of the current U.S. administration are emboldening criminal gangs to bring people into the U.S. in an indentured capacity where the smuggled person agrees to pay off the gang over years of working in the U.S. But like criminal loan sharks the interest on the “loans” or cost of importation are such the smuggled person remains a slave to the gang pretty much forever. There are even reports that some gangs use ankle-bracelets to keep track of their “slaves.” Then there are the young people being brought in who will find themselves in the clutches of the sex traffickers. Thousands of them will be bought and sold and pimped out and used to produce illicit pornography. How do you keep track of thousands of unaccompanied minors?

There are many other downline consequences we could discuss but idealists never think downline and consider the consequences of their idealistic pursuits someone else’s problem. In short, the idealists of equality and social justice have implemented policies that aid and abet the international slave trade and that is that.

One thought

  1. Read a book last year about the fishing industry. Most fishermen are Asian. They go through an agency that leaves them almost chronically in debt. Some spend 2 years at sea in deplorable conditions.They’re at sea, whose jurisdiction is it? Sometimes the captain is the law too.
    New York Times did an article year ago about Russian women who were hoodwinked into thinking they would be coming over to North America to nannies. They wound up in Mexico, sold into the sex trade there. Finally #45 even had a bunch of Polish workers sequestered in cramped housing without papers. They got lots of Vodka though.

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