Many middle-aged Asian immigrants have found sanctuary in Chinese-owned massage parlors. While unlicensed massage work is illegal, it is only a class B misdemeanor. This makes trafficking less of a concern for Asian massage workers.
Chinese-owned massage parlors are a safe harbor for middle-aged Asian immigrants
While the broader American population is ignoring the danger of illicit Chinese massage parlors, some middle-aged Asian immigrants are relying on them as a source of employment. One recent New York Times article revealed that Chinese-owned massage parlors supply middle-aged Chinese immigrants with an income to pay off debts. The women are recruited through the popular Chinese social media app, WeChat. Employment agencies in the Los Angeles area have received calls from Seattle operators looking for Chinese women to provide services for them.
The Chinese owners of these massage parlors have a long history in the city. For decades, Chinese immigrants have worked in these businesses as a way to support themselves. The business has a high proportion of Asian workers. Most of these workers are middle-aged, illiterate, and have little or no English. Some of the women have little or no English language skills, which makes it difficult for them to communicate with customers.
Recent crackdowns have led to several arrests and prosecutions. But despite the headlines, no one has been convicted of human trafficking. Rather, authorities have focused their attention on the business and prosecuted the owner. A recent Minnesota NBC affiliate article reported that the owner of one such parlor had pleaded guilty to two counts of prostitution. While the allegations are largely baseless, it is clear that this type of business has been the target of many crimes.
Unlicensed massage work is punishable by up to three months in prison
Massage workers in the state of New York are in a constant state of fear. They fear police raids and retribution for the lack of proper licensing and documentation, as well as assault and mistreatment by clients and managers. In addition to these fears, workers fear being victimized by exploitation or robbery. In many cases, they are also afraid to ask for police protection.
Many Asian massage workers are migrant workers who are not U.S. citizens and therefore face many barriers to accessing basic government services and health care. They often lack formal legal status and face deportation. The government has responded to these concerns by expanding social protections for a broad section of the population but imposed stricter restrictions on Asian massage workers.
In the past, it was possible to avoid prosecution by offering massage or holding out as a massage provider without a license. However, these acts were not considered prostitution and thus, did not fall under the purview of the New York Penal Law’s Article 230. Nevertheless, law enforcement often pursues this charge to punish people they suspect of prostitution.
Unlicensed massage work is a class B misdemeanor
Practicing massage without a license is a class B misdemeanor in New York. However, it is not as serious as prostitution. A misdemeanor conviction can result in up to three months in jail, a fine of up to $500, and even a year in jail. It is therefore advisable to have a license before attempting to perform massage services.
In a report published by the Nonpartisan Urban Institute, we learned that the arrest rate for unlicensed massage work rose by 2,700 percent in New York City between 2012 and 2016. And nearly all of these arrests were made by non-citizen Asian migrant women. These statistics are alarming, and we must take action now to stop this trend. This bill will help to protect the lives of massage workers.
There are a number of cases in which police have raided massage parlors in New York, including a recent death of a Chinese massage worker. Other cases of arrests have resulted in police confiscating valuables and sexually assaulting massage workers. In one case, a Chinese massage worker named Yang Song died during a police raid. In another, a Korean massage worker, Charlotte K., a 20-year veteran in the industry, has described how she was terrified of arrest before and after a police raid.
Trafficking is not a serious problem for Asian massage workers
Recent police statements and stories about sex trafficking in Atlanta have made Asian massage parlors the focus of increased scrutiny. These parlors are believed to be hotbeds for Asian women who are trafficked to other countries for sexual services. Those who work in the industry fear that increased scrutiny will lead to anti-trafficking raids. While police raids may ensnare sex workers, they do not solve the problem of human trafficking.
Despite the rising awareness of human trafficking, many asian massage in las vegas workers do not consider it a serious problem. In the past, there were reports of robbers storming a massage parlor at gunpoint. Another case involved a driver charging workers 10 times the market rate. A massage worker’s salary can be as low as $60 for an hour’s work, but much of that money comes in the form of tips. Some are forced to raise tips illegally to supplement their salaries.
In December, a Minnesota court found 36 people guilty of trafficking. These men and women were involved in a multimillion-dollar sex trafficking ring. The organization involved in this case shuttled hundreds of Thai women from Bangkok to the United States. Once there, the women were forced to work at massage parlors and perform sex acts until their debts were paid.