An investigation is underway into potential human labor trafficking at slaughterhouses in Nebraska and Minnesota.

Federal investigators discovered 50 underage migrants were illegally employed. The slaughterhouses themselves are not under investigation, but officers are looking into the possibility of outside organizations.

Executive director Becky Rasmussen says Call to Freedom had 21 labor victims in 2022; 5 of them were under the age of 17, one was under the age of 12.

“We’ve served victims of labor trafficking within the state of South Dakota, we know that it’s happening,” said Becky Rasmussen, Executive Director of Call to Freedom.

Associate director Michelle Treasure says they have had many cases of human labor trafficking in the Midwest region.

“Our geographical land, the way that it’s set up in the Midwest, is a vulnerability to that. With the meat plants and some of those that agricultural work in general,” Treasure said.

Investigators found the children were attending school during the day and working in the evening, which Treasure says is a common practice for child traffickers.

“Those signs of tiredness may seem like they’re normal, but from what we’ve heard from some of our survivors, and then also some of those education partners is that they do appear very tired and not able to focus on their education day,” Treasure said.

Rasmussen says the average age of a trafficking victim is 11 to 14 years old, but that average is getting younger.

“Every time one of these cases come forward, it’s important for us to learn how this is happening and to be able to do a better job of identifying it within our communities,” Rasmussen said.

The investigation is ongoing.

Call to Freedom has information on how to identify trafficking as well as a new Parent Guide written by families of human trafficking survivors.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D (KELO) — January 20, 2023