‘American Crime’ Highlights Modern-Day Slavery, Sex Trafficking In Season 3

American Crime returns for Season 3 on Sunday, and the Emmy-winning ABC TV show is once again taking on a heartbreaking social ill that haunts the nation. Season 3 of the anthology series will explore the epidemic of modern-day slavery that still plagues American society, from migrant workers held against their will to young women forced into a life of slavery in the sex trafficking industry.

As the Los Angeles Times‘ Lorraine Ali notes, each season of American Crime centers around a tragic event that impacts the major characters, albeit in various ways, and causes their paths to cross. The first two seasons of American Crime focused on race and class and gender and sexuality, respectively.

“And in this world of cause and effect, where one life influences the other like a chain of dominoes, one can’t escape the idea that we are all connected,” Ali writes.

While the subject of each season varies, American Crime as a whole remains concerned with the ongoing debate over the tensions between social equality and individual freedom. One way these tensions play out in Season 3 is through the storyline of Luis Salazar (Benito Martinez), a Mexican citizen who illegally crosses the U.S.-Mexico border in hopes of finding his son, Teo, who came to America in search of employment as a migrant worker. Luis has lost contact with Teo, and is worried about the fate of his son.

Traveling from Mexico to North Carolina to find Teo, Luis Salazar learns about the horrible, inhumane conditions many migrant workers face in America.

“What Salazar finds is a world of unchecked abuse and indentured servitude – Mexican workers live a dozen or more in dirty trailers and must keep toiling to pay off never-ending ‘debts’ for the food and shelter they’re given,” Ali writes.

Season 3 also looks at the depraved world of sex trafficking in America, where young women and teenagers fall victim to the most loathsome predators.

“But these aren’t immigrants tricked into coming to the U.S. on the false promise of a legitimate job,” Ali explains. “They are American kids with drug problems, no family and nowhere to go other than with a pimp who gives them some sort of purpose.”

With heated debate about immigration rights and reform taking center stage in American political discourse in recent months, the portrayal of labor-trafficking and modern-day slavery in Season 3 of American Crime is perhaps more topical than ever.

A 2014 article from CNN acknowledged that labor trafficking and forced labor is still prevalent in the United States despite slavery being abolished over 150 years ago.

“Foreign workers, lured by false promises of good jobs in America, soon find themselves enslaved in plain sight as victims of labor trafficking, according to a new report published by the nonpartisan Urban Institute and Northeastern University,” says the CNN article. “About half of these workers pay “recruitment” fees to traffickers – often thousands of dollars – that can leave them stuck in debt for years. And while some victims are smuggled here, a majority – or 71% – actually enter the United States with a visa, the report found.”

Likewise, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center reports on thousands of cases of sex trafficking in the U.S. each year, nearly 8,000 in 2016 alone. And that may just be the tip of the iceberg. As The Atlantic reported last year, it’s difficult to ascertain an accurate number of sex trafficking victims because so many of the crimes go unreported.

American Crime‘s creator John Ridley is particularly adept at dramatizing the horrors of slavery. He won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay in 2014 for his work on 12 Years a Slave. Under his guidance, Season 3 of American Crime may help draw attention to the ongoing problem of modern-day slavery that America faces.

[Featured Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]