The Port of Oakland and Human Trafficking

The Port of Oakland is arguably one of Oakland’s most historic symbols of infrastructure. The port was the first major port on the West Coast to build terminals for containerships, and was the second largest next to New York in size in the 1960’s. Additionally, the Port of Oakland has a place in literary history, as it was the home base for Jack London’s sailboat the “Razzle Dazzle.” Today, the port is one of the most common symbols of Oakland, even among the younger generation.The Snapchat “geofilter” for Oakland is a colorful depiction of the giraffe-like shipping structures found there.

While The Port of Oakland continues to be a major symbol and institution of commerce in the traditional sense, it also provides a conduit for traffickers in the business of buying and selling people. The Port of Oakland is included in this tour because it is a primary location for human trafficking in Oakland and beyond. Like airports, ports are frequently used to transport victims of human trafficking. Because of the larger space available on boats and containerships, victims are often transported in groups. And due to the nature of the group transportation, victims are frequently misled into paying for illegal transportation into a new country and then being forced into human trafficking (ICE).

The port of Oakland is significant to citizens of Oakland as well as port workers and the victims and traffickers who occupy the space. While the port is significant to the issue of human trafficking, it may be more difficult to recognize than some of the other more obvious locations on my tour.
The Port of Oakland’s website does not directly address the problem of human trafficking and its role in fighting it. There is one link that mentions some port employees attended the human trafficking training session hosted by the Oakland Airport as discussed in The Oakland Airport pin. Other than that, the problem is hardly acknowledged. This seems to be a common trend as it was incredibly difficult to find any information about human trafficking through any ports. This is surprising because many websites list ports as a primary place through which human trafficking victims are transported.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website lists several indicators of human trafficking at ports, including the following:

-Does the victim possess identification and travel documents? Is someone else in control of these documents?
-Did the victim travel to a country or destination for a job different than the one they are assigned.
-Does the victim owe money to an employer or does the employer hold wages?
-Can the victim freely leave the employment situation?

The Port of Oakland is important to this tour for many reasons. Not only will tour takers see an important historic Oakland location but they will also have a chance to gain awareness about a primary location in which human trafficking may occur.

Cite this Page:

Kendall Anderson , “The Port of Oakland and Human Trafficking ,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed October 16, 2018,
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