Is DeShawn "Cash Money" Clark What Human Trafficking Looks Like?

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A brothel bust in China fits the rhetoric around human trafficking
Yes, the oddly-named DeShawn "Cash Money" Clark seems to have been a thoroughly unpleasant character. He pimped out young women, including his ex-girlfriend, using violence and false promises of love. It's, unfortunately, an old story. That's why it's so strange that he was convicted yesterday of what sounds like an exotic, new-fangled crime: human trafficking.

Clark argues that the state's six-year-old trafficking law was not meant for people like him, according to the Seattle P-I. He's got a point. Technically, the law addresses people who force others into involuntary servitude, and that appears to include him. But the anti-trafficking movement arose in the last decade to fight a new brand of human smugglers who take people across national borders and hold them, like prisoners, in sweatshops and brothels. "Modern-day slavery," it is dubbed by the interesting coalition of religious conservatives and feminists who crusade against it.

But it's always been hard to pin those crusaders down on the scope of the problem. It was, for instance, supposed to an epidemic in the Northwest, largely because of our port. Five years ago, Leigh Winchell, then head of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement's regional office, told Seattle Weekly that human trafficking accounted for about half of the women smuggled into the Northwest. (The other half, presumably, were brought here illicitly but did not become "slaves.")

The feds have brought noteworthy local cases to light from time to time, as shown by our 2007 cover story on a young Moroccan woman trapped by her uncle in his Tacoma home.

But neither they nor state authorities have turned up an epidemic. In six years, only one person has been convicted under the state law: Clark. And that person was not smuggling women in from China or the Ukraine. He was preying upon those right under his nose in West Seattle. Either law enforcement authorities have been terribly ineffective in catching brutal human smugglers, or the latter are not the problem they've been made out to be.

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