Also known as "modern day slavery," reported cases of human trafficking have risen 60% in 2011 compared to 2010, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (HTRS). Reported cases of human trafficking have been steadily increasing for the last five years.
Attorney Meyerovich discussed human trafficking with "Our Lives" host Gwen Edwards, and explained that human trafficking is on the rise because the financial gain of exploiting human life is simply too great.
"It's widespread because it's cheap labor, and billions of dollars are involved -- it's supply and demand," Meyerovich said.
Human trafficking occurs when a victim is held hostage and forced to work against their will, commonly as commercial sex workers, drug traffickers, or laborers in unregulated industries. Victims are often held in deplorable conditions and suffer physical and sexual abuse.
Attorney Meyerovich, whose firm specializes in immigration law, knows how susceptible illegal immigrants are in particular to human traffickers. Immigrants pay smugglers to be brought into the
illegally, and on arrival smugglers demand more money from their captives. Immigrants then must work to repay their "debts," and are held hostage with threats of violence or deportation. U.S.
"I've dealt with victims running away from drug cartels and sexual exploitation," said Meyerovich of past clients affected by human trafficking. "They're traumatized and afraid to talk."
Human trafficking victims are not likely to seek help for fear of retribution. The problem goes unnoticed by most Americans because victims remain silent and are often hidden in plain sight.
Meyerovich also urged parents to be aware of how vulnerable children are to human traffickers and sexual exploitation, especially in an age of exposure through social media.
"People need to know that it happens, and that it is very easy to manipulate kids' minds," Meyerovich said. "Children are extorted and threatened to be exposed on Facebook, or to their parents and teachers…and they become victims of sexual exploitation."
In fact, sex trafficking preys on Americans at a shocking rate, with HTRS reporting that 80% of sex trafficking victims are
citizens. "Our Lives" host Ms. Edwards and Meyerovich urged viewers -- and especially parents -- to be aware that human trafficking and sexual exploitation exists in communities throughout the U.S. U.S.
"Parents need to be educated that their kid's classmate could be a victim of human trafficking," Meyerovich added, explaining that young victims may still attend school, but may act shy and fearful of their peers and teachers.
Ultimately, Meyerovich offered a dual solution to combat human trafficking: increased awareness and immigration reform. Only with both, Meyerovich explained, will "modern day slavery" become a thing of the past.
Watch the full "Our Lives" segment featuring Attorney Meyerovich below:
To learn more about human trafficking, including how to recognize victims and report suspected cases, visit the
. National Human Trafficking Resource Center