Category Archives: government

September in DC

Washington DC has made September its Human Trafficking Awareness Month thanks to efforts by the District of Columbia Task Force on Human Trafficking, which was established five years ago with the DC Police Department and the DC US Attorney’s Office.

September will highlight in an effort to educate the public about the Task Force’s main goals:

  • To facilitate a anti-trafficking efforts in the DC area through community outreach, proactive investigations, law enforcement training, intelligence sharing, and more formalized partnerships between law enforcement organizations and non-governmental organizations.
  • To identify citizen, resident and transnational victims of both sex and labor trafficking.
  • To provide comprehensive services to trafficking victims.
  • To increase the prosecution of traffickers.

Hillary Rodham Clinton on Human Trafficking

In a piece for The Washington Post, Secretary of State Hillary Rhodam Clinton discusses the battle against slavery in the world and at home:

To some, human trafficking may seem like a problem limited to other parts of the world. In fact, it occurs in every country, including the United States, and we have a responsibility to fight it just as others do. The destructive effects of trafficking have an impact on all of us. Trafficking weakens legitimate economies, breaks up families, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress. It undermines our long-term efforts to promote peace and prosperity worldwide. And it is an affront to our values and our commitment to human rights.

The Obama administration views the fight against human trafficking, at home and abroad, as an important priority on our foreign policy agenda. The United States funds 140 anti-trafficking programs in nearly 70 countries, as well as 42 domestic task forces that bring state and local authorities together with nongovernmental organizations to combat trafficking. But there is so much more to do.

The problem is particularly urgent now, as local economies around the world reel from the global financial crisis. People are increasingly desperate for the chance to support their families, making them more susceptible to the tricks of ruthless criminals. Economic pressure means more incentive for unscrupulous bosses to squeeze everything they can from vulnerable workers and fewer resources for the organizations and governments trying to stop them.

Luis C. de Baca: Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

Yesterday President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Luis C. de Baca as Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department.

President Obama said, “I’m grateful that this fine public servant has agreed to join my administration, and I am confident that with Secretary Clinton he will be an indispensable part of our team as we work tirelessly to stand up for human rights and the rule of law. I am confident that his unique experiences and proven ability will make him a strong advocate for our values and for justice around the globe.”

De Baca is Counsel to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, on detail from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. His portfolio includes national security, intelligence, immigration, civil rights, and modern slavery issues. At the Justice Department, de Baca served as Chief Counsel of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit. During the Clinton Administration, he was the Department’s Involuntary Servitude and Slavery Coordinator and was instrumental in developing the United States’ victim-centered approach to combating modern slavery. He has investigated and prosecuted human trafficking cases in which victims were held for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation, farm labor, domestic service, and factory work. De Baca received the leading honor given by the national trafficking victim service provider community, the Freedom Network’s Paul & Sheila Wellstone Award, and has been named the Michigan Law School’s Distinguished Latino Alumnus.

Read more about de Baca…

Neighborhood Watch: Joining Forces with Canada

From The Toronto Star:

Obama’s inauguration was truly a turning of the page. Slavery is the deepest scar in American history. As an African American took the oath of office, that scar was finally healed. But as an old injustice was symbolically rectified, a new one was spreading around the globe.

Human trafficking of women, men and children for the purposes of forced labour and/or sexual exploitation occurs in most countries, including Canada. As the U.S. Action Group to End Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery said in its transition report to Obama: “The illicit commercialization of humanity is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, and the selling of children is the fastest growing global crime.”

The Obama administration will make this scourge a foreign policy priority. In her Senate confirmation hearings to become secretary of state, Hillary Clinton pledged “to do all that we can to end this modern form of slavery. We have sex slavery; we have wage slavery. And it is primarily a slavery of girls and women.”

Clinton is not alone in her concern. The Council of Europe has a strong convention on human trafficking, and Brazil has a national action plan for the eradication of slave labour. There is a potential international coalition willing to be led. Obama and Clinton can be the leaders of that coalition, and Canada should be the first to urge them to do so.

The Harper government may be lukewarm on the environment compared with Obama’s enthusiasm, but there is no disagreement on the importance of human trafficking. In February 2007, Conservative MP Joy Smith introduced motion C-153, which was passed unanimously in the House of Commons, on Canada’s need for a national strategy to combat human trafficking.

Smith also recently introduced a private member’s bill to amend the Criminal Code to include a mandatory minimum prison term of five years for the trafficking of children. Citing a case in which a man made more than $350,000 off a 15-year-old by daily exploiting her sexually, Smith declared: “I believe there is clearly need for Parliament to provide additional guidance to the courts on the trafficking of minors.”

Canadians are also active internationally. Brian McConaghy, a former forensic scientist with the RCMP, was involved in the first investigation and conviction of a Canadian international pedophile in Cambodia. He now directs the Ratanak Foundation, which tries to protect Cambodian children from sexual exploitation. McConaghy recently spoke in Toronto and described how dangerous this was; brothel owners have guns and are quite prepared to use them. But despite the threats, Cambodian children are being rescued and helped in rebuilding their lives.

Waiting for Crist to Speak Up

The denial expressed by the Florida Department of Agriculture of the persistence and severity of slavery in the fields and the silence of Florida Governor Charlie Crist are disappointing.

The Navarrete case could not be a more a clear-cut example of modern slavery: the victims were literally locked up at night, abused and refused release. Usually, we see different forms of debt peonage and psychological coercion employed to keep workers under a bosses’ illicit control, but here, the mechanisms are laid almost laughably bare.

From a bulletin on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers website:

Since the late 1990’s, Florida’s fields have produced a steady stream of slavery prosecutions, and 2008 was no exception. But what made the slavery operation that came to light in the past year — resulting in the conviction of a family of farm bosses for holding workers against their will right here in Immokalee — stand out were the disturbing details of unmitigated brutality suffered by the workers, including being chained and locked inside U-Haul trucks at night, and beaten by their bosses during the day.

Even more disturbing, perhaps, was the dismissive reaction by a spokesperson for Florida’s Governor Crist when asked for comment on the case by a reporter from Ft. Myers. The spokesperson — Mr. Terence McElroy of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services — appeared to downplay the significance of forced labor in the state’s fields, not once, but twice. His statements provoked an immediate outcry by human rights, religious, labor, student, and community organizations and leaders across the country.

Among those troubled by Mr. McElroy’s statements — and the governor’s own silence and inaction — was the honorable Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who wrote in a public statement:

“… Slavery persists when government leaders fail to take the necessary action to prevent it. Taking preventive action is a human rights obligation of local, state and national governments… I support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and others in urging Governor Crist to take immediate steps to combat modern-day slavery in Florida agriculture.”

As 2009 begins, Governor Crist has yet to speak on the subject of slavery in his state’s fields.

Join the CIW in asking the Governor to stand against slavery.

ACLU Sues U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday over its partnership with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to fight human trafficking because the bishops conference does not provide emergency contraception and abortion with its funding.

I’m including this story on a blog post not to comment on it so much as to ask, “Why can’t we all just get along?” There is a constant tendency for like-minded interest groups to splinter apart because of differences. It’s a much more interesting phenomenon when groups put aside differences to focus on their goals. Abolishing slavery is such a goal.

The ACLU allege bishops are imposing their religious beliefs on trafficking victims by denying these services, thereby making the government’s involvement with the conference unconstitutional.

The bishop’s conference (USCCB) administers the Anti-Trafficking Per Capita Services Program for the Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement. Through federal grant partnerships, the USCCB sub-contracts with local organizations to help refugees and victims of human trafficking to resettle in American cities and towns.

Per the program’s application kit, available on the USCCB Web site, subcontractors are required to aid victims in getting residency visas, affordable housing, employment, education, and legal counsel, if necessary. Sub-contractors also assist victims in reuniting their families, which are often broken up as a result of trafficking. The application does not mention providing abortion, emergency contraceptives, or condoms.

The ACLU claims that many victims of human trafficking, which includes sexual slavery, need abortion and other controversial services–which are denied them by the USCCB.

Read the whole article here at Cybercast Net Services.

Hillary Clinton Pledges to Fight Slavery During Confirmation Hearings

New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof posts some words from Hillary Clinton uttered during her confirmation hearings yesterday:

I take very seriously the function of the State department to lead our government through the Office on Human Trafficking, to do all that we can to end this modern form of slavery. We have sex slavery, we have wage slavery, and it is primarily a slavery of girls and women. So I look also forward, Senator, to reviewing your legislation and working with you as a continuing partnership on behalf of these issues we care so much about.

So we’re going to have a very active office on trafficking, we’re going to be speaking out consistently and strongly against discrimination and oppression of women, and slavery in particular. Because I think that is not only in keeping with American values, as we all recognize, but American national security interests as well.

“We’re seeing the rise of a new foreign policy agenda — side by side with the old one,” Kristof writes, “consisting of issues like human trafficking, the environment, genocide. They are every bit as important as the traditional agenda.”