News - January 18, 2018 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Combating sex trafficking in Nevada has been a high priority for Nevada's Attorney General's office under the watch of former AG Catherine Cortez-Masto and current AG Adam Laxalt.

Republican attorney general candidate Wes Duncan said on Nevada Newsmakers he will continue with that work of "standing up for victims and trying to make the state a safer place."

Yet Duncan vowed to battle another form of trafficking that is not so well known -- labor trafficking.

"This sort of thing is one of the things that happen a lot in our state and across our nation and it doesn't get as much attention as human trafficking," Duncan said. "But labor trafficking is just as serious. I pledge to work with local law enforcement across our state and also federal law enforcement to try and curb and cut back on labor trafficking as well."

Labor trafficking is defined as involuntary labor through force, fraud or coercion. Like sex trafficking, many times it involves young women, according to national reports. Sometimes a victim may be forced into labor and sex trafficking at the same time, Duncan said.

Labor trafficking victims can be legal or illegal immigrants and the practice occurs in agriculture, the garment industry sweat shops and homes where domestic workers or house keepers are employed. It also occurs in restaurant or food services, beauty services, landscaping, construction, carnivals and elder care.

"Labor trafficking can also be young girls doing all sorts of things, not only for the sex trafficking but other doing other parts of labor," Duncan said. "It's also able-bodied men or people taking advantage of the immigrant population, or snagging people who are really down on their luck or down on life and using them in places where they can't leave, are not free to go and having them work in very, very harsh conditions."

It's a major issue in Northern Nevada, said Duncan,a former assemblyman from Las Vegas and U.S. Air Force veteran.

"You see human (sex) trafficking and labor trafficking going on along the I-80 corridor," Duncan said.

At least 10,000 forced laborers are currently working in the United States, according to the National Human Rights Center in Berkeley, Calif. One third of those identified are domestic servants while many are also children. Yet the numbers of forced laborers could be much higher because of the secret nature of the practice.

"Every person in the state deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and they don't deserve to be in a situation where they are not allowed to leave," Duncan said.

Working with law enforcement "is critical" in combating labor trafficking, Duncan said.

"You need on day one, to be able to have the trust and relationships with law enforcement -- federal, state and local -- to be able to collaborate and solve problems."

Duncan said he has 15 endorsements from sheriffs' offices in Nevada's 17 counties.

"I tell people, in running for AG, I want to make Nevada the safest place for families," Duncan said. "I've got two young boys, aged 4  and 3, and I want to be able to look them in the eye someday and say, 'Your dad did everything he could to make our communities and our state safe."