Monday, December 29, 2008

Welcoming in the New Year

Thank you for your support, we sincerely appreciate all of those who visit the site and share their thoughts. If you have reached out to us about getting involved and we have yet to respond, please accept our apologies- we are busy figuring out the best way for people to help and how to maximize the interest you have expressed. You will be hearing from us soon.

Happy holidays. Enjoy the time with your loved ones.


- The HTP team

Monday, December 15, 2008

South Asians Left Jobless, Homeless In Iraq

From NPR:

By Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

Morning Edition,
December 15, 2008 · Tens of thousands of poor South Asians have made their way to Iraq since the U.S. invasion, in the hopes of making money to send home to support their families.

Dishwashers, cleaners, drivers and cooks from countries like Bangladesh, India and Nepal form part of an army of contractors that service America's expensive war.

But the system that gets them to Baghdad is riddled with corruption and exploitation, leaving some South Asians living in hovels, jobless and afraid.

Four months ago, Sushil Khadka, 26, left his wife, his two children and his home country of Nepal for Iraq.

"I'd dreamt of a good job, sending home my salary every month to feed my family, to send my children to school. That's why I came here. But that never happened. The opposite happened. It's terrible," he says.

Now Khadka sits in a hut made out of salvaged cardboard, huddled next to a chain-link fence in a dusty corner near Baghdad's international airport. Flies swarm around splattered bits of old food and dirty blankets.

"They made fools of us," he says. "Had we gotten work, it would've been alright but they took our money and ran away."

He sold the family jewelry — all they had in the world — to pay a recruiter in Nepal $5,000. He says the recruiter promised him a job working for American contractor KBR that would earn him $800 a month — a fortune in Nepal. The average income there is $340 a year.

But when he arrived in Iraq he was told there was no work, he says. The agent who was supposed to help him was arrested and the visa in Khadka's passport was ripped out. He was left to his own devices, scrounging around the airport to find shelter and food.

Khadka is not alone. The 40-or-so men who live with him in this makeshift camp tell similar tales.

Upendra Das, 17, sits on the floor chopping vegetables on a dirty plank of painted wood.

"We eat once a day. Sometimes we can't even do that," he says. "I've been here three months so far. To get here I borrowed from the village moneylender. They charge a lot of interest. I can't leave so I'm still waiting, hoping that I will get some work."

Another group of 1,000 South Asians have been held in a nearby warehouse for several months by KBR subcontractor Najlaa Catering Services, a company based in Kuwait. The men say they had their passports taken away and were confined in substandard conditions.

The U.S. military and KBR say they are investigating.

The U.S. State and Defense departments have issued contracting guidelines that are supposed to protect workers in Iraq.

"As in all things, in Iraq there is a policy in place but there is no one really there to enforce it," says investigative journalist T. Christian Miller, who works for Pro Publica and has written a book called Blood Money about the mismanagement of Iraq's reconstruction.

He says that the abuse of South Asian workers in Iraq is common.

"It's definitely a situation of exploitation. You are talking about the most vulnerable people in the world," Miller says. "The U.S. has contracted some of the most dangerous and dirties jobs to some of the poorest people in the world. At this point, five years into the war, there are no excuses for U.S. companies not to be aware of the issue of human trafficking or labor trafficking."

Back at the Baghdad airport, a representative from the International Organization of Migration (IOM) has just showed up offering the homeless South Asians free repatriation. The IOM heard about the men only 10 days ago.

The men crowd around as Thair Issan hands out forms for them to fill out if they want to go home. Issan says the men's plight is desperate.

"Those are victims," he says. "You see the conditions they're living in. It's a very big humanitarian crisis."

Bangladeshi Mohammad Nazrul Islam says he wants to stay here but he's been told he'll be jailed if he does.

"The Iraqi authorities say ... they will jail us if we stay. If we leave right now, it's OK. But we don't want to leave because we've all paid a lot of money to get here," he says.

Where will we find the money to pay off that debt? he asks desperately, adding that he wants to stay but no one will give him a job.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Trafficking victims to finally get help to rebuild lives

Immigration officials will issue rules letting the women get green cards

Federal immigration officials agreed Monday to long-awaited proposals that for the first time would provide a path to permanent legal residency to hundreds of human trafficking victims in Houston and across the United States.

The move came two weeks after the Houston Chronicle reported that only about half of the victims of human trafficking identified by federal investigators in the U.S. are getting promised visas to help rebuild their lives — despite their cooperation in prosecuting traffickers.

The federal government has spent seven years and tens of millions of dollars to rescue and assist foreign women exploited as slaves in America under the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act, yet only 1,094 victims have managed to qualify for T visas.

Bureaucratic delays

None have received green cards because of previously unexplained bureaucratic delays in issuing the required regulations.

The proposed regulation would help both victims of human trafficking as well as immigrant victims of other crimes, such as domestic violence, who assist government prosecutions.

"It is wonderful news and long overdue," said Diana Velardo, an immigration lawyer at the University of Houston who said the law will help at least 25 of her own clients here. "This helps our victims move out of uncertainty and finally move on."

'Many difficult ... issues'

Immigration officials said the delay of nearly seven years in issuing the regulation stemmed from "many difficult legal and policy issues (that) required resolution ... We recognize this is a vulnerable population and we want to ensure that our policies and procedures are sound, " according to a press release issued Monday by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Under the proposed rule, hundreds of trafficking victims and family members who received T visas in 2005 or before — could apply for green cards.

In 2001, Congress approved granting as many as 5,000 T visas each year under the Trafficking Victims act. Those T visas give victims and their qualifying family members temporary permission to stay up to three years in the United States to rebuild lives and avoid retribution they could face in home countries.

The law also called for regulations to permit trafficking victims to permanently resettle here after T visas expired.
But until Monday, those regulations had never been issued. That left hundreds of victims in legal limbo — including dozens here in Houston.

American Samoa victims

About 300 victims who could be eligible for green cards under the proposal were rescued in American Samoa in 2001 in the largest human trafficking case in U.S. history. All of those victims, mostly Vietnamese women, had been duped into paying their own way to the island for what they thought were legitimate jobs at the Daewoosa sewing factory, where they were forced to work without pay or adequate food, according to court records.

Twenty victims resettled here. The Daewoosa victims also were the first T visa recipients. They were unable to get green cards after their T visas ended — because of the regulation that was delayed until now.

"My clients are going to be ecstatic!" said Boat People SOS Attorney An Phong Vo, who represents the 20 Daewoosa victims who live here. "It's going to (make) a whole world of difference."

The rule will be published in the Federal Register and become final 30 days later.

Tactics Used in U.S. Raids Draw Claims of Brutality

From the New York Times:

MIAMI — Advocates for immigrants here demanded an investigation Tuesday into a series of federal raids last month that they said left at least six Guatemalan men bloodied and bruised in a roundup of nearly 100 people.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied all accusations of misconduct by agents in the raids on Nov. 19 in three South Florida counties, noting that the operation focused on sex trafficking and led to charges against seven people and the release of several women.
But lawyers working with other detainees said they were concerned that the agency was using human trafficking laws as a front for broader operations, and a cover for harsh tactics.

“There is a way that these operations should be conducted,” said Jose Rodriguez, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Miami-Dade County. “And this is not it.”

At a news conference, Mr. Rodriguez and others said agents had relied on vaguely worded warrants to invade people’s homes and arrest nearly anyone who looked Hispanic. In all, according to the federal agency, 77 illegal immigrants were detained in the operation, and only a handful appear to have been charged with a crime.

In the case involving the accusations of beatings, none of the men have been charged with sex trafficking. Lawyers working with the men said the agents used excessive force: bursting into their home in Homestead about 8:30 p.m., pulling their guns in front of a 4-year-old girl, then forcing all 10 or 11 men inside onto the floor in handcuffs.

No guns or drugs were found. All the men were Guatemalan immigrants, and the advocates said at least six of them arrived at a nearby detention center with bruises and cuts.

The wife of one detainee, the mother of the 4-year-old girl, said she saw agents kick her husband and others while they were on the floor. She declined to give her name because she feared retribution.

Agency officials, in a statement denying the accusations of abuse and the display of a weapon near a child, said they were required to arrest anyone found to be violating immigration law, regardless of the circumstances.

The statement also said the accusations would be forwarded to the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility for review.

But the advocates said that was not enough. Witnesses have already been deported, they said, and without a robust investigation by the agency’s inspector general or the United States attorney’s office in Miami, agents who might have violated the law might never be punished.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Position open in Los Angeles Anti-Trafficking Organization

From CAST's website:

The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST), established in 1998, has been a pioneer in the anti-trafficking movement in the United States and works exclusively with trafficked persons. CAST is a multi-ethnic human rights organization whose mission is to assist persons trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and slavery-like practices and to work toward ending all instances of such human rights violations. CAST has provided training and technical assistance to thousands of NGO and government personnel and represented the United States at international events on human trafficking. CAST is a grantee of the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services and, as one of the leading anti-trafficking organizations in the U.S. , has extensive expertise to deliver quality training to participants.


Purpose of the position:

Under the general supervision of the Associate Director, the Office Administrator is responsible for the management of administrative, bookkeeping, and facilities functions for CAST. Supervises the Administrative Assistant and any office-related staff or volunteer positions. The CAST office is highly technological and requires that the Office Administrator be comfortable and knowledgeable of the latest technological advances in order to maximize both inter-and intra-agency efficiency and communications. Full-time, exempt position.

Essential duties include tasks in office management, administrative management, supervision, policies & procedures, office equipment and services, administrative support, bookkeeping, accounts receivable & cash receipts, accounts payable & cash disbursements, payroll, human resources, among additional duties.

Last day to apply: January 31, 2009
For the full profile of the position and requirements, click here.

Remitt Resume (word,txt formats) to Enter Office Administrator in the subject line. No phone calls please.