Coalition to Abolish Slavery and
Trafficking (CAST) is a Los Angeles-based anti-human
Through legal, social, and
advocacy services, CAST helps rehabilitate survivors of
trafficking, raises awareness, and affects legislation and public
policy surrounding human trafficking.
founded in 1998 as a response to the landmark El Monte sweatshop case of 1995, in which 72 Thai
immigrants were forced to work in slave-like conditions for
18-hours a day, while locked-up in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte.
victims were paid about 69 cents an hour, and charged exorbitant
amounts for basic necessities, ensuring they would never be able to
pay off their original debt to their traffickers, and remain under
their control. The case garnered national press coverage, and
brought the issue of modern slavery
mainstream media. In 1997, Dr. Kathryn McMahon, a professor at
California State University, Long
Beach, started the Trafficked Women Project.
grew into CAST, which officially came into existence in 1998
CAST defines human trafficking as “a modern-day form of slavery
,” in which victims are subjected to force
for the purpose of forced labor
or sexual exploitation
. Victims of trafficking can work
in domestic service
sites, hotel housekeeping,
, forced prostitution
, child prostitution
and child pornography
According to their website, CAST has spearheaded many developments
in the anti-trafficking movement. They are the first organization
in the United States exclusively dedicated to serving survivors of
trafficking, and were instrumental in starting the Los Angeles
Slavery and Trafficking Task Force (now called the Los Angeles
Metropolitan Task Force on Human Trafficking), the first task force
in the U.S. dedicated to combating human trafficking. In 2004, CAST
opened the country’s first shelter exclusively housing survivors of
CAST’s stated mission is to “assist persons trafficked for the
purpose of forced labor and slavery-like practices and work toward
ending all instances of such human rights violations." The
organization favors a survivor-centric approach, and achieves its
mission by providing three main services: Advocacy and coalition
building, client service programs, and outreach.
- Advocacy and Coalition Building – Through
advocacy and coalition building, CAST campaigns to affect public
policy and legislation surrounding the issue of human trafficking.
CAST partners with other NGOs and law enforcement organizations, to
foster a co-operative approach to combating trafficking.
CAST has influenced anti-trafficking legislation, including the
Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008,
and the SB 1569 California bill in 2006, which allows for
non-citizen victims of trafficking to gain access to state funded
social services for up to one year.
- Client Services – CAST’s client services are
designed to meet the needs of survivors of human trafficking, and
include legal representation, social services such as job training,
counseling, life skills training, and provision of food and
shelter. CAST started the first shelter in the U.S. that
exclusively houses survivors of human trafficking.
- Outreach – CAST’s outreach programs raise
public awareness of the existence of human trafficking—focusing on
how to identify victims of trafficking, and “ensure that they will
be treated as victims rather than illegal aliens or even
criminals.” CAST provides training to law enforcement, health and
social service providers, attorneys, government and faith-based
Survivor Advisory Caucus
CAST’s Survivor Advisory Caucus is made up of former CAST clients
who have healed from their trafficking situations. Members of the
caucus organize to speak publicly to raise awareness of human
trafficking, and advocate for policy changes. Caucus members took
part in the Border Governor’s Conference in 2008, led by
California’s First Lady Maria Shriver
CAST endorses low-risk activism. They do not encourage activists to
take it upon themselves to “save a victim” on their own. CAST takes
the approach that doing so can prove dangerous to the victim(s)
and/or the individual(s) getting involved. Instead, they encourage
individuals to get involved by becoming volunteers, advocating for
the abolition of modern day slavery, supporting CAST and other
anti-trafficking initiatives through events, drives and fundraising
campaigns, and reporting a potential case of trafficking by calling
law enforcement, CAST, or the national trafficking hotline
CAST helped launch Freedom Network
, a national training and technical assistance project, with
funding from the Department of Health & Human Services Office
of Refugee Resettlement As of 2009, there are 29 member
organizations from across the U.S. in this network
Locally, CAST partners with the Los
Angeles Metropolitan Area Task Force on Human Trafficking
California Partners for Social Justice
, Sex Trafficking Outreach
(STOP), Rescue and Restore
Regional Outreach Program
, and Sweat Free Advisory Group
Internationally, CAST partners with the Humanity United Action Group
an organization that campaigns against mass atrocities and
modern-day slavery, whose members include Free the Slaves
, Polaris Project
, Solidarity Center
, the Ricky Martin Foundation
, Not for Sale campaign
, ASSET campaign,
, Vital Voices
, and the International Justice
- 27 million people are enslaved around the world today.
- Between 600,000 and 800,000 victims are trafficked through
international borders every year, not including the estimated
millions trafficked domestically within their own countries.
- Human Trafficking is a $9 billion industry.
- Human Trafficking ranks second, after drug smuggling, and tying
with arms dealing, in organized crime activities, and is the
fastest growing criminal enterprise in the 21st century.
- As many as 50,000 men, women and children are trafficked into
the U.S. every year.
- The U.S. is one of the top three destination points for
trafficked victims, along with Japan and Australia.
- Los Angeles is one of the top three points of entry in the U.S.
for victims of slavery and trafficking.
Trafficking vs. Smuggling
Human trafficking is not smuggling. There is a legal distinction
between these two acts. Smuggling is a consenting business
transaction, in which migrants agree to be moved illegally across
borders. Smuggling is considered a violation of a state’s
immigration laws. Human Trafficking is a crime against a person,
and a violation of their human rights. A trafficking victim is not
necessarily moved across borders—or moved at all. Trafficking is
the subsequent exploitation of a person for forced labor or forced
Human trafficking has been subject to increasing national
attention, eliciting legislation on the state and federal level.
Listed below are some key legislations enacted to combat
trafficking and support victims.
- Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000
(US) – This is the most comprehensive U.S. law to date
addressing human trafficking. Among other things, the law allows
victims to apply for T-visas, which allow for three-year temporary
stays which can lead to permanent residency status.
- Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Acts of
2003, 2005, and 2008 (US) – These Acts enhanced
protections for victims of trafficking, some of whom faced
“unintended obstacles” in being able to legally remain in the U.S,
and instituted revisions and additions to the prevention of
trafficking and prosecution of traffickers.
- Assembly Bill 22 (Lieber) and Senate Bill 180
(Kuehl) – Both enacted in California 2006, these bills
established a statewide task force (Caifornia Alliance to Combat
Trafficking and Slavery), of which CAST is a member. Among other
aspects, the bill provides for mandatory restitution and allows
trafficking victims to bring a civil action against their
- Senate Bill 1569 (Kuehl) – Put into effect in
2007, this bill gives victims of trafficking access to state-funded
medical, social service and cash assistance programs for up to one
CAST has a comprehensive but selective volunteer program, which
provides training and education about the best practices for
working with victims of trafficking.
Current and former Board members
Sr. Catherine Marie
Kevin R. Davis
Rachel J. Lee
Dr. Kathryn McMahon
Liliana T. Pérez
- "CAST's history." Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
- "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A History of American
Sweatshops, 1820-Present." History Matters.
- "CAST's history." Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
- "CAST's Definition of the Issue" Coalition to Abolish Slavery
and Trafficking. http://www.castla.org/definition-of-the-issue
- "CAST's Milestones." Coalition to Abolish Slavery and
- "CAST's Advocacy." Coalition to Abolish Slavery and
- "CAST's Client Services." Coalition to Abolish Slavery and
- "CAST's Outreach." Coalition to Abolish Slavery and
- "CAST's Caucus of Survivors." Coalition to Abolish Slavery and
- "Members of Freedom Network." Freedom Network Institute on
- "CAST's Supporters." Coalition to Abolish Slavery and
- "What's the Story." Free the Slaves.
- "The Slave Next Door." Final Call.
- "Human Trafficking Escalates as World Economy Plunges." UCLA
- "CAST's Key Stats." Coalition to Abolish Slavery and
- "Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000."
U.S. Department of State.
- "U.S. Laws on Trafficking in Persons." U.S. Department of
- "Human Trafficking Legislation." Governor's Office of Homeland
- "CAST's Board." Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.