The terms smuggling and trafficking are often used interchangeably. But experts and scholars often struggle to define these terms and the nuances between them. To shed light on this distinction, we spoke with Patrick Radden Keefe, author of the 2009 book The Snakehead, and Skadden Fellow and Attorney Lauren Burke. A report by the International Council on Human Rights provides a helpful overview of these issues and their implications for migrant persons; full article with comments and analysis on this after the break.


Every year, Chinese human smugglers, known as 'snakeheads', use transnational, illicit networks to transport persons from China into the United States. Migrants pay fees as high as $80,000, and are subject to exploitation and brutality in the course of their journeys, as well as retribution upon themselves and their families should they be unable to pay.  Read more after the break to find out about who's involved and how it happens.

Earlier this week I sat down with Producer Rob Nguyen and Director, Co-Producer Ethan Downing to learn about NJR's upcoming film The Snakehead. This blog will provide explanation of the content of the film-the issue of Chinese human smuggling and child trafficking, as well as sneak peeks of the film itself!

Jordanna Birnbaum: What are your backgrounds? Did you go through some experience which led you to this work?

ED:  I'm not even sure where to begin on this one, haha.  So to get the full picture we have to go back to when Rob and I met in undergrad at Fordham.  We were both English majors in the Honors Program, and we produced student theater there together.  After graduating I continued to act and Rob continued to direct and work in production on our own separate paths.  After a couple of years of working on shows that we weren't terribly impressed with, we decided to start producing our own shows (the first of which was picked up for an international re-staging in Belgium, and the second was an award winning show at the NYC International Fringe Festival last August).  About the same time as we started producing theater, I went back to school to get an M.S. in Conflict Resolution and Negotiation at Columbia (in retrospect this was probably not the best timing, but I have a knack for doing things the hard way I suppose).