U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Thirty Percent of Migrant Laborers in San Diego Experience Trafficking Violations

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2013
4 pages

Based on a survey of 826 unauthorized Spanish-speaking, mostly Mexican, workers in San Diego County, CA, this study obtained information on their experiences in traveling to the United States and during their employment here.


The study found that most of the human trafficking violations and abuses experienced by the workers occurred during their employment rather than during their travel to the United States. The study used a narrow definition of what constitutes human trafficking, defining it as an act that involved restrictions imposed by employers on a worker's physical or communicative freedom and/or actual or threatened physical assaults. Some examples of labor trafficking are violations that include beatings, imprisonment, and sexual abuse. Although approximately 20 percent of the workers experienced abuse at the hands of smugglers, 28 percent experienced labor trafficking violations by their employers. The study also questioned workers about practices that did not rise to the level of labor trafficking but were fraudulent, deceptive, or abusive. These abuses included wage theft and instructing workers to lie about their own or their employer's identity. Approximately 49 percent experienced such abusive labor practices by employers. Agriculture had the lowest rate of victimization among all businesses. Construction, janitorial/cleaning, and landscaping sectors had the highest rates of reported trafficking violations and labor abuses. Using these findings to roughly estimate national figures on trafficking violations and abuse, there could be as many as 2.5 million labor trafficking victims just among unauthorized Spanish-speaking laborers in the United States. Recommendations for policymakers pertain to resource allocation, criminal justice intervention, public awareness, and advocacy. 2 exhibits and 2 notes

Date Published: July 1, 2013