Hidden in Plain Sight

America's Slaves of the New Millennium

by Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, PhD


Slavery is not a thing of the past. In fact, there are more slaves today than at any other time in human history.

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October 2017


Pages 245
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/Human Rights and Civil Liberties
  Current Events and Issues/Law and Crime
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Pimp-controlled sex workers, exploited migrants, domestic servants, and sex trafficking of runaway and homeless youth are just a few of the many forms of sex trafficking and labor trafficking going on all around the world—including in the United States. This book exposes both well-known and more obscure forms of human trafficking, documenting how these heinous crimes are encountered in our daily lives.

What types of human trafficking crimes are being committed here in the United States? Who are the victims of traffickers? How do we all unknowingly consume the services and products of slavery? And why are human traffickers able to maintain their illicit operations with relative impunity—indeed, with less than .01 percent of human traffickers ever being held accountable for their crimes?

Hidden in Plain Sight: America's Slaves of the New Millennium documents how human trafficking and its byproducts touch every community in America, from impoverished inner-city neighborhoods to middle-class suburbs and alcoves of wealthy estates. It presents information derived from narrative accounts of real-life trafficking cases, interviews with convicted human traffickers, empirical research, and criminal case files to expose the grim realities of human trafficking in America, perpetrated by Americans.

Readers will grasp the origins, evolution, and extent of the problem; understand how trafficking plays an unrecognized role in our day-to-day lives; and see why advancements in awareness and anti-trafficking resources have not changed the status quo. The victims of trafficking continue to be criminalized by law enforcement, and the offenders continue to exploit and profit from new recruits. This book equips readers with the knowledge needed to identify human trafficking cases and advocate for policy changes to end this scourge in America.


  • Exposes the tragic fact that human trafficking is likely going on in every city of the United States, often in legitimate industries, and that every American has worn, touched, or consumed goods produced with slave labor
  • Documents the shocking number of human trafficking forms, including sex trafficking of runaway and homeless youth, mail-order brides, forced labor and sex trafficking in massage parlors and nail salons, door-to-door solicitation crews, military sex tourism, child sex tourism, domestic servitude, gang-controlled sex trafficking, slavery in the chocolate and textile industries, and exploitation of undocumented migrants
  • Features a combination of direct experiences identifying and rescuing victims, interviews with convicted human traffickers, empirical research, and criminal case files
  • Lays out action items for the modern-day abolitionist movement to better prevent human trafficking victimization, as well as to protect survivors and prosecute offenders
Author Info

Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco holds a doctorate in criminology, law, and society from George Mason University, with an expertise in human trafficking. She currently serves as a human trafficking expert witness for criminal cases across the United States and is a regular contributor for The Hill. Mehlman-Orozco has served as a peer reviewer for human trafficking publications and taught human trafficking at the University of Maryland College Park. Her website is



"A brief but exhaustive debut book looks at human trafficking. . . . [Mehlman-Orozco's] meticulous research is based not only on a survey of the available literature, but also on her own interviews with victims, perpetrators of human trafficking, and the consumers who patronize their businesses. [Her] prose is both lucid and emotionally stirring, and she often illustrates her points with personal anecdotes to paint a picture that transcends statistical analysis. The subject matter can be disturbing—the chapter devoted to child sex tourism is particularly harrowing—but she navigates that dark terrain with grace and professionalism. She helpfully suggests a number of ways the response from law enforcement could be greatly improved, including empowering otherwise disenfranchised victims to come forward. An intellectually rigorous and emotionally affecting account of modern enslavement."Kirkus Reviews

"We strongly believe that this is an essential resource for anyone eager to spread awareness and take action. . . . The brilliance behind this book rests in how Mehlman-Orozco manages to give light to the complexities that surround modern-slavery in America. . . . After reading Hidden in Plain Sight, readers will not only understand the urgency of this situation but the importance of providing sustainable solutions and resources for victims of modern-slavery, so that the endless cycle of exploitation can be stopped. This book makes it clear that we can change what is happening in plain sight all around us if we only have the courage to look."Dressember


"A must-read to understand the mindset of human traffickers and their victims."—Susan Ingram, Founder, Walk Her Home, and Congressional Victims' Rights Award Recipient 2017

"Hidden in Plain Sight is a vital resource, not only for anti–human trafficking advocates, but for anyone who cares about humanity. Dr. Mehlman-Orozco's interviews with the traffickers are shocking, but they provide insight that can be used when trying to combat this horrific crime. Our organization will be implementing this book into our Advanced Law Enforcement Investigation Course. The material is presented in such a compelling and understandable way that this book will certainly be a powerful contribution to understanding the fastest growing crime in the world."—Sandra Sparks, Executive Director, ERASE Child Trafficking

"By carefully documenting the realities of human trafficking and the failures of prevention and enforcement, this eye-opening book is the antidote to every hyped scare story and pointless policy 'solution.' Knowledge is more than power — it is our obligation if we truly want to help the most vulnerable victims of sexual and labor slavery."—Mark Obbie, Criminal Justice Journalist, Soros Justice Media Fellow, and Former Executive Editor of The American Lawyer Magazine

"Hidden in Plain Sight reveals the diverse and disturbing manifestations of human trafficking in the United States. Using accessible language and clear illustrations, Mehlman-Orozco illuminates the complexity and tragic dimensions of human trafficking. Based on her own research, this work helps us see a phenomenon that many traffickers prefer we do not notice. The work should be eye-opening to its readers."—Louise Shelley, Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Chair and Director, Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC), Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University, and author of Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective

"A clear and easily digestible primer on human trafficking. Calling upon insights from traffickers, victims, and customers, Kim Mehlman-Orozco details the diverse exploitive models and highlights a hopeful pathway to stop traffickers by vigorously enforcing the law."—John Cotton Richmond, Former Federal Human Trafficking Prosecutor and Founding Director of the Human Trafficking Institute, McLean, Virginia

"Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco has written an absorbing—and sometimes horrifying—account of a crime that most Americans consider remote from their daily lives, but reaches into every family and neighborhood. It's a wake-up call to action."—Stephen Handelman, Editor, The Crime Report

"This book provides important empirical evidence of the many harms caused by labor and sex trafficking and the limited ability of the police to do much about it."—Alex S. Vitale, Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College

"Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco's book absolutely delivers on its promise to provide an honest, revealing glimpse behind the hidden world of modern slavery in the USA. Within the first five pages, I was hooked—I couldn't put it down. While many books on this topic tend to be filled with clichés and unsubstantiated nuances, Mehlman-Orozco offers detailed stories and evidence-based descriptions that help to offer clarity and an understanding of this often-misunderstood topic. Even after addressing this issue for over 27 years, I walked away with many new insights that significantly changed some of my existing views. For those who are seeking a book that truly captures the essence of this important issue, along with a thoughtful and compelling analysis, this is a must-read." —Matt S. Friedman, CEO, The Mekong Club

"Hidden in Plain Sight is a compelling account of human trafficking, analyzed from a social scientist's perspective with a journalist's tenacity and attention to detail. Mehlman-Orozco's narrative vividly documents and describes the various actors and their interactions at the core of the problem of human trafficking today; what really stands out is the author's first-hand experiences coming face-to-face with traffickers, victims, and those who struggle, often unsuccessfully or counterproductively, to find solutions to these problems."—Ric Curtis, Professor of Anthropology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

"A brutally honest, well-researched, and comprehensive look into the horrors of modern-day slavery and trafficking in human beings which has become embedded into the fabric of today's society."—Laura D. Jones, President, Soroptimist International/SIA/SAR/Mid-Atlantic Online

"This courageous, personal, and meticulously documented behind-the-scenes account of human trafficking is a must-read for everyone. Human trafficking is in your backyard—you just need to know where to look and how to see it, and Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco gives you that knowledge."—Susan Camardese, RDH, MS, President, Mid-Atlantic Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness (P.A.N.D.A.)


2018 IPPY Award Bronze Medal in Current Events category — Independent Publisher

In the News

HuffPost, Will Legalized Prostitution End The Sex Trafficking Scourge?, 9/16/2016

CBS News, Mom's warning about "human trafficking" at IKEA goes viral; what you need to know, 3/30/2017

NPR, Misinformation Sparked #DCMissingGirls Outrage, But It Highlights Real And Overlooked Issues, 4/19/2017

i24NEWS, Model Allegedly Kidnapped for Dark Web Auction, 8/8/2017

The Hill, Decriminalize sex work to bring trafficking victims out of shadows, 10/21/2017

IBTimes UK, Human trafficking: Why we are all guilty of supporting the modern slave trade, 1/11/2018

HuffPost, Study Finds More Than 9,000 Brothels Masquerading As Legit Businesses, 1/23/2018

The Week, GOP Senate candidate claims 'cultural elites, Hollywood, and the media' are responsible for human trafficking , 1/31/2018

The Washington Post, GOP candidate blames human trafficking on sexual liberation, saying it leads to 'slavery' of women, 1/31/2018

The Kansas City Star, Josh Hawley blames sex trafficking on 'sexual revolution' of 1960s in leaked audio, 1/31/2018

Governing, Missouri AG Blames Human Trafficking on Sexual Revolution of 1960s , 2/1/2018

MSN, Missouri attorney general blames sex trafficking on sexual revolution of 1960s in speech to pastors , 2/1/2018

New York Magazine, Missouri GOP Senate Hopeful Goes Off the Deep End on the Sexual Revolution and Human Trafficking, 2/1/2018

Vice, Please Tip in Cash: The Shadow Economy of American Nail Salons, 2/26/2018

Mason Spirit Magazine, Seeing What Others Don't, 3/7/2018

The Washington Post, Bill enabling prosecutors, victims to pursue websites that host sex traffickers heads to White House, 3/22/2018

New York Times, Documentary Puts New Attention on R. Kelly Sex Allegations, 1/10/2019

Seattle Times, Documentary puts new attention on R. Kelly sex allegations, 1/10/2019

Look Inside

Other Titles of Interest

Human Trafficking, Human Misery cover imageModern Slavery cover imageHuman Trafficking cover image
Geography of Trafficking cover imageThe Nexus cover imageHow the Drug War Ruins American Lives cover image

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