Last month, dozens of boxes of sneakers, men’s dress shirts, blouses and other clothing were unloaded off a plane in Atlanta, bound for U.S. consumers. But the shipments never made it out of the port.
Although many of the goods listed Vietnam as their country of origin, Customs and Border Protection inspectors detained the goods because of “reasonable suspicion” that they were actually made with cotton harvested by forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region, where more than 1 million Uyghurs are believed to be held in camps.
Just a year ago, the goods might have sailed through customs. Now, however, customs officials are detaining hundreds of millions of dollars of goods suspected of being made with forced labor, many of them products Americans consume and use every day, from clothes to palm oil, tomatoes, rubber gloves and even hair extensions.