Human Trafficking in Florida Agriculture

January 28, 2021 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Human Trafficking in Florida Agriculture

Florida's Farming Industry and Human Trafficking

Florida is currently considered to be the third-largest contributor to human trafficking in the United States. This is partly because the state's income mostly comes from industries that are commonly tied to human trafficking. Industries like tourism, hospitality, and agriculture are industries that human traffickers regularly profit from. Agriculture is an oft-forgotten part of the human trafficking problem here in Florida since it is so far out of sight for most people and therefore out of mind. 

How is Human Trafficking and Agriculture Connected?

Florida generates a lot of income through its farming and agriculture industry since the state's tropical climate makes for ideal conditions when it comes to cultivating certain crops such as tomatoes, peppers, sugarcane, and citrus of all kinds. However, this produce needs a steady stream of laborers to get it from the fields to processing centers.  For the most part, Florida has had its immense demand for cheap labor met by migrant workers that have made up the backbone of the farming industry of this state for decades. Unfortunately, migrant workers have also made up a large portion of Florida's human trafficking victims.

Who Does Human Trafficking Target?

Migrant workers in the country both legally and illegally are regularly targetted by human traffickers. In many cases, the traffickers are the ones that brought them into the country in the first place. Traffickers will seek out desperate people in dire financial circumstances or who are on the run and recruit them with promises of economic opportunity. Traffickers may also target foreign nationals in the country with an H-2A temporary work visa. It is not unheard of to have human traffickers that work in the agriculture industry to traffick American citizens although it is significantly less common.  The vast majority of people that are targetted by human traffickers for labor in the Florida agriculture industry hail from Central and South America. Women, men, and even children as young as 5 years old are trafficked and forced to work in the fields. 

How are People Forced Into Human Trafficking

Human traffickers are known to rely on the use of force and outright abduction in order to accumulate workers. Human traffickers may threaten to use physical violence or simply beat their victims into submission. 

Human Trafficking and Deportation Threats

One of the most common strategies utilized by human traffickers working in the Florida agriculture industry to force their victims into slavery is capitalization on their status as an undocumented immigrant.  The fear of being reported to immigration authorities alone is often enough to force vulnerable undocumented immigrants into slavery. Human traffickers may even use this strategy against immigrants with visas by threatening to report loved ones that may be undocumented.  Workers that have an H-2A temporary work visa may also be forced into human trafficking when their employer that requested their visa threatens their deportation knowing that the worker is legally prohibited from working for someone other than them. 

Human Traffickers and Debt Manipulation

Human traffickers may also use a much more subtle way to traffick people via fraud and deception. A migrant worker from Mexico may be recruited with the promise of steady pay and is then brought to a Florida farm where they work the fields for a meager paycheck. Their handler or crew leader will often demand the payment of any number of fees they may make up like gas fees, finders fees, room and board, etc. These fees will be taken out of their pay to the point that the worker is no longer making any money but is essentially working for free because they are handing over their earnings to pay off a manipulated debt. 

How Are People Trafficked?

Human trafficking is usually used synonymously with sex trafficking which consists of the forcing or coercion of someone to perform a commercial sex act like prostitution. While much of human trafficking involves sex trafficking, the agricultural exploitation of human trafficking victims focuses on forced physical labor instead.  Traffickers force their victims to work in various menial roles in the farming industry of Florida against their will in horrific conditions. Trafficked migrant workers can be forced to pick produce, clear fields, haul equipment, spray chemicals, pack produce, and perform other similar grueling work against their will. While they do this they often suffer severe injuries because of physical or sexual abuse, pesticide exposure, and overworking. 

What Can Human Trafficking Survivors Do?

Human trafficking survivors have the right to seek compensation for the injuries they have suffered by filing a lawsuit against those whose negligence contributed to their trafficking. In many cases, filing a lawsuit against a human trafficker is not viable since they may be in prison and unable to provide compensation. However, many people that endure the hardship of human trafficking do so on land owned by companies and individuals that can be considered liable for the damages a human trafficking survivor suffered on their property thanks to premises liability. Many human traffickers work directly with the owners of the property their victims are trafficked on but in many other cases the owners of the property turn a blind eye as long as the work gets done. In the event that trafficking is discovered the owners of the property may try to claim it was done so without their knowledge. A human trafficking lawsuit against these liable parties can help human trafficking survivors secure compensation to help cover damages like medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or mental anguish. Filing a lawsuit of this kind is seldom a simple affair and navigating the legal complexities that come with these cases requires expert assistance which is why it is recommended that you at least speak to a Florida human trafficking lawyer about your case.

Florida Human Trafficking Lawyers

If you or a loved one are a survivor of human trafficking and believe that certain parties are liable for the damages that you suffered during your ordeal because of negligent actions then do not hesitate to contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. Our attorneys are ready to provide a free consultation to hear the details of your case and provide information on what legal options are available to you. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has been serving the people of Florida case by case for years and ensuring that our clients not only get compensation for the damages that they unjustly suffered but have their case fought for by attorneys that are invested in its success. Dolman Law provides experienced legal representation with the resources one would expect from a large firm while also ensuring your case is handled in a sensitive and professional manner by attorneys that will remain in contact with you every step of the way.  To set up a consultation with Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA you can either call our office at (866) 632-9381 or fill out a contact form online Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (866) 632-9381  


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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