Monday, August 31, 2009

Diplomatic Immunity

In an earlier post on civil litigation on behalf of human trafficking survivors, I briefly mentioned the ways that diplomatic immunity complicates work to help trafficking victims. After spending a summer in DC and a conversation where someone told me that she flat out refused to believe that a diplomat or someone involved with government could be a trafficker, this is an issue that has been on my mind again.

Diplomatic immunity protects diplomats from lawsuit or prosecution under their host country's laws. In the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations in 1961 it was agreed as international law. The official's home country can waive immunity, though many countries refuse to waive immunity in any circumstance. Countries that do waive immunity only do so for serious crimes unrelated to the official's role as a diplomat. Home countries can also choose to prosecute under their own laws. Thus, it is possible for diplomats to be punished for trafficking.

However, it is extremely difficult, partially because law enforcement are reluctant to investigate such cases given the low-likelihood of successful prosecution and potential repercussions. According to Ambassador Mark Lagon of Polaris Project and formerly the Ambassador-at-Large assigned by Congress to combat human trafficking, diplomatic immunity can become "diplomatic impunity," often shielding officials who are simply withdrawn from the host country if the country requests to waive immunity because of a trafficking case. Lagon argues that "The reflexive desire not to rock the boat in our relations with other countries given misplaced concerns about constant whining from their ambassadors or fear of backlash against U.S. diplomats must end."

A recent article in the Washington Examiner notes that exploitative labor conditions under diplomatic officials can make their employees vulnerable to trafficking, even if the diplomats are not the traffickers. Soripada Lubis, who entered a plea agreement in a trafficking ring case in February of 2009, utilized women's vulnerability because of their employment by diplomats, where they faced poor pay and horrible working conditions. The Examiner piece states that "According to court documents, the women enticed into Lubis' network came to the United States as domestic servants for diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen and other countries. . . Prosecutors believe Lubis found the women by using contacts at the Indonesian Embassy, where he was once a driver."

Cases are certainly not confined to the US. In early August, the Independent reported on a case in the UK, where a 23-year-old woman came to London to work for a diplomat and his wife, with the impression that she would be a paid nanny with the ability to leave. The woman states "They made me get up at six to cook, clean and care for them and their children; I didn't get to bed until one in the morning. They treated me like dirt, throwing things at me, shouting at me and hitting me ... If I didn't do what they asked they would beat me and smash my head against the wall. Every time I asked to go home they threatened me. They said they would destroy my passport and harm my family. I was terrified because I knew they could; they have power in my country."

Their power extends to make them immune to repercussions. According to the article, "Although the woman reported her allegations to police, they advised her that the couple could not be prosecuted because of their diplomatic status. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) contacted their embassy but were told that since they have returned to their home country they cannot be chased for the compensation payments ordered in January."

Some cases on behalf of trafficking survivors are making headway. In a recent New York case, a federal judge denied immunity to a Ambassador Lauro Liboon Baja, Jr., a former representative of the Philippine Mission to the United Nations. The Baja family is being sued on 15 counts of violations, including slavery and forced labor, by a woman they allegedly brought to the United States with false offers that she could find work as a nurse. Instead, according to an article at In These Times, "she was forced to work 126 hours per week for three months. Moreover, she was banished to the basement and fed only leftovers, and only paid $100." Judge Marreo denied Baja's claim to immunity, stating that under legal precedent this was a private act, not an official act; had the act been an official act, it is likely nothing could have been done.

Last summer the Government Accountability Office issued a report entitled "U.S. Government’s Efforts to Address Alleged Abuse of Household Workers by Foreign Diplomats with Immunity Could Be Strengthened" detailing the situation, challenges, and potential directions for addressing this issue. The report identified three main challenges in these particular cases: immunity, which poses constraints for investigations, increased vulnerability of employees because of the power diplomats have, and the red-tape involved in these cases that can slow down and ultimately stymie investigative attempts. The report also suggested a number of ways that U.S. Government can strengthen its efforts to address abuse, including increase oversight, cooperation between agency, and training and technical assistance.

For any of these measures to succeed, though, I would argue that we must join Ambassador Lagon in advocating for an end to immunity as impunity.

The picture is a map of embassies in DC.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

NGO: Traid Ladder of Hope

I recently received an e-mail from a member of an organization called, "Traid Ladder of Hope." She was seeking for support to establish shelters for human trafficking victims in North Carolina. Granted, human trafficking in the United States is nothing new. But I have never imagined North Carolina as a state of high human trafficking rate.

I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Sandra Johnson ( founder) and Danielle Mitchelle (executive director) of the organization, " Triad Ladder of Hope-- an anti-human trafficking organization located in North Carolina. The two representatives of Triad Ladder of Hope answered a few questions regarding the organization and its anti-human trafficking effort:

Tell me a little bit about your organization:

Sandra: I worked for a year under a federal grant. Seeing the need for more faith based organizations to get involved in the human trafficking issue, Triad Ladder of Hope Ministry was born. The human trafficking issue is a social issue which should be addressed by our churches.

What is the current situation of human trafficking in NC?

Danielle: Pretty much the same as the current HT situation everywhere…it's bad. It's hard to know all the numbers and statistics because it is so underground. We work with survivors of Human Trafficking in the Triad and through hearing their stories, we know this issue is much bigger than anyone can comprehend. However, when people ask me for statistics in NC my answer is always the same: What number are you looking for? What number will make you care? What number is enough? Because as far as I am concerned, 1 case of Human Trafficking in NC is TOO MANY!

Your organization has an interesting name. Does it have any meaning behind it?

Sandra: “Triad” represents the area in which we live and minister. “Ladder” is a visual picture of our motto … “Rebuilding lives One Step at a time”.

Danielle: We didn't want to just raise awareness about the issue of HT. We want to help victims get rescued and become survivors. We want to be the ladder that gives them the steps to have renewed hope in their lives. There are also 4 rungs on our ladder b/c we have 4 “steps” to help us focus on eradicating slavery in our communities and bring hope to victims.

EDUCATION is the key to eradicating modern-day slavery in our communities. Triad Ladder of Hope utilizes volunteers to organize campaigns against slavery and raise awareness in our communities. We offer training and education on why trafficking happens, how it takes place, identifying predators, identifying and interacting with potential victims. We offer training and education to churches, law-enforcement, service providers, schools, and anyone else who will listen.

RESCUE: We work closely with law enforcement and the community to help identify potential victims or trafficking situations and to rescue victims from their situation.

RESTORATION: After rescue, victims have many needs such as shelter, food, clothing, legal help, protection, and counseling. We work to meet those needs and walk the victim through the process. We are currently working toward opening a shelter where trained staff will continue to help victims through the restoration process.

RE-ENTRY: Once a victim has been rescued and worked through the trauma of exploitation they need to re-enter society. We walk with them through the process of employment training, becoming self supporting and independent.

: What are some specific examples of your anti-human trafficking effort?

In raising awareness, we recently found out how much sex trafficking was happening in the local high schools through gang recruitment in NC. So we decided to start raising awareness with students. We gave away free t-shirts to middle and high school students that say “Slavery Still Exists…” and on the back it says “in North Carolina”. With the shirts we hand out cards with sex trafficking and gang involvement facts. We encourage them to wear the shirt and tell their friends what they have learned. Our website is also listed on the shirt for students to find out more information. (You can check out the t-shirts on our website and even buy one. For every shirt you buy, it gives us the ability to give away 2 free shirts to students).

Last July, we also trained over 170 law enforcement officers and service providers on how to recognize victims of Human Trafficking and what to do if they come in contact with someone they think is a victim. We do presentations on HT in undocumented immigrant communities in hopes of getting tips on trafficking situations. Sometimes, we even have victims contact us after hearing one of our presentations.

As a faith-based organization, we recently implemented a program called 1 in 100. It is a program that we ask 100 churches in the triad to join us in the fight against slavery. We believe that slavery is a COMMUNITY problem so the community should step up to fight it. We want 100 churches to say, “No, we will not tolerate slavery in our own backyard!”These are just a couple examples but feel free to check out our website and sign up for our newsletter to hear more.

YK: Does your organization work with other community organizations, service providers, or law enforcement or government?

We are a part of the Health and Human Services Rescue and Restore Campaign; on the NC Human Trafficking Task Force; and Christian Women’s Job Corps organization. We work with all agencies of law-enforcement, World Relief and other non-profit organizations to help victims re-enter society. Danielle: Of course! We all have a part to play and one of the things I love about anti-trafficking efforts in the Triad is that we are working together! See above about our Rapid Response Team. Also, when working with our clients (HT survivors) we work hand in hand with FBI, local law, Legal Aid and many NGOs to ensure that our clients are being taken care of. YK: Do you utilize volunteers and, if so, how do you recruit volunteers and who are they?

Danielle: We depend heavily on volunteers. Every time we do an awareness event we encourage people to come to our weekly volunteer meeting and get involved. We do Awareness events about twice a week. Our volunteers help out in a lot of ways but mostly with awareness events, training and outreach.

What about your organization’s unique efforts do you think makes it a particularly effective in the means of raising awareness of trafficking?

Triad Ladder of Hope exists for our community. Community means that we help each other. There are people who find themselves in our community, desperate but too afraid or unable to ask for help. It may be the night watchman that notices, or someone living in the next apartment. We all need to be aware in order to eradicate slavery in our community. We offer training to local churches and other organizations to educate each of us who live here. We work closely with the local law enforcement agencies and first responders both with training and victim assistance.

I had to decide a while back that I will not be able to eradicate slavery in the world during my lifetime, probably not even in the USA. However, I do believe that if we all work together then in 5-10 years we CAN start to see slavery eradicated in the Triad. We really focus on people fighting slavery in their own community. After all, how can we fight slavery in other countries if we allow it to happen in our own city?

YK: How do you see your organization evolve in the future?

Sandra: Our dream is to become so successful in the Triad that other parts of the state will get involved in their communities and fight along with us. We want to change lives by creating laws and awareness to allow these victims to become contributing members of our communities.

YK: How can people support your organization and its initiatives?

Volunteer. Sign up for the Victim Partnership Program where 100% of your donation goes directly to a service for a victim. The more partnerships we have, the more victims we can help. Encourage your church to be 1 in 100 if your church is in the Triad of NC.

For more information, visit

New Texas Law Establishes State Task Force and Victim Assistance for Domestic Victims of Trafficking

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today ceremonially signed House Bill (HB) 4009, which establishes a human trafficking taskforce in the Attorney General's Office that will develop policies and procedures for the prevention and prosecution of human trafficking crimes.

"The taskforce created by this bill will focus state efforts on ending this criminal activity that primarily targets women and children," Gov. Perry said. "Human trafficking is a serious problem, and this legislation sends a message to those who would profit from exploiting others in this fashion – Texas won't stand for it."

HB 4009 directs the task force to report on the numbers of trafficking victims and convictions, how victims are transported into the state and routes taken, and the factors that create a demand for the services that victims are forced to provide. The taskforce is to present its reports to the Legislature and governor every even numbered year. The report will also include recommendations on training law enforcement to recognize and handle human trafficking, efforts to combat human trafficking, and ways to increase public awareness and bring offenders to justice.

"Texas has always been, and continues to be, a leader in the modern day abolitionist movement, and this legislation is the first of its kind in the United States," Rep. Randy Weber said. "Most people think human trafficking happens elsewhere in places like Thailand and Cambodia, but the reality is that it is happening in our own backyard. In fact, the vast majority of the victims identified within Texas are actually our own citizens."

The taskforce will work with U.S. attorneys, border patrol agents, and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards to develop and conduct training for law enforcement personnel, judges and their staff, examine law enforcement agency training protocol, and develop recommendations for strengthening state and local efforts to prevent human trafficking.

According to the U.S. State Department, nearly one in five victims of human trafficking in the U.S. travels through Texas, with Houston and El Paso listed among the most intense trafficking jurisdictions in the country. Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year, 80 percent of them women and 50 percent of them children. Victims of human trafficking are recruited, harbored and transported for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion, and are subjected to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, slavery or forced commercial sex acts.

We will undoubtedly be seeing more of these types of state legislation being signed over the next couple of years. Upon reading the bill itself, the highlight is probably Subchapter J-1, which is a provision for assistance to domestic victims of human trafficking (US citizens and permanent legal residents), which is currently not covered by federal legislation. The Task Force itself seems to apply to all victims, however the subchapter provides a grant program and specific resources for domestic victim services. It also includes a provision for the study of how to fund victim assistance programs, including the possibility of the use of assets seized from traffickers. The bill also includes the possibility of a study of alternatives to the juvenile justice system for children who engage in acts of prostitution.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Video by The Killers now available


The Killers release video to highlight human trafficking issue

The Killers have partnered with UNICEF and USAID to produce a disturbing music video that dramatically highlights the dangers and impact of trafficking for sexual exploitation, particularly for young women.

The video, for the band’s track ‘Goodnight, Travel Well’ from the album ‘Day & Age’ has been created in collaboration, MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) and follows a similar collaboration between the broadcaster and Radiohead.

Importantly for marketers, the music video represents an innovative and creative way to fuse musical content with pro-social messaging.

The ‘Goodnight, Travel Well’ video has been released globally across all of MTV’s platforms in 168 countries. It has the potential to reach more than 500 million households worldwide.

It has also clocked up over 80,000 views on Unicef’s official YouTube channel.

"We are deeply shocked and appalled that women and children are forced into such exploitative situations. We hope that through MTV's efforts and this powerful video that millions of people across the world learn about this tragic form of modern-day slavery,” said The Killers.

The Killers are bringing critical human trafficking messages to a global audience, said Olivier Carduner, USAID’s Regional Mission Director for Asia.

“By using a variety of mediums – music videos, anime, film, and online content – as well as live concerts, we are reaching vast numbers of young people, those most at risk of being trafficked,” he added.

“This campaign capitalizes on The Killers’ and other bands’ and movie stars’ images and MTV’s brand appeal to transform people’s views about trafficking and provide a platform for NGOs, governments and law enforcement agencies to prevent trafficking and assist victims.”

The’Goodnight, Travel Well’ video was developed by Australian advertising agency CRC, with support also provided by UK music consultancy Huge Music.

It provides insight into the realities of trafficking, in particular the trafficking of children and adolescents into forced prostitution, and provides a link to information about how people can help to end exploitation and trafficking.

Catch it by watching it below.

I chose the UTalkMarketing article as opposed to the
UNICEF release, MTV release or Killers webpage because this article highlights just how many sectors pay attention to social messaging through collaboration between private companies, international organizations and musical artists. 'Goodnight, Travel Well' is an excellent example of this type of collaboration, and the imagery is quite disturbing.

This article is already outdated, however. Youtube shows there has been over 99,000 hits now!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Announcing the Fair Trade Winner

Congratulations to Avra Cohen of Fight Slavery Now!

Late last month, Amanda with
End Human Trafficking and I challenged our readers to find slavery-free options for two lists of products. Avra Cohen supplied the most comprehensive response for both lists. According to Cohen, FightSlaveryNow.Org investigates products and awards a "Freedom Seal" to items that have not been made utilizing modern-day slavery.

In response to our challenge, Cohen wrote, "Since we had a head start on many of these product categories, I thought this would be a challenge easily met. It was not. But it has been fun and enlightening. . . For some products it was easy to find a large selection of Fair Trade alternatives, while for other products there were few or none." I think it is worth considering why some products have many fair-trade options, whereas other items that we use daily seem to only offer questionable options at best.

Cohen went above and beyond the directions of our challenge, including a variety of sources that in addition to being fair-trade and slavery free, also met eco-sustainability standards and are free from animal cruelty. Many products also directly support the original maker of the product, and many support social justice issues.

As Cohen noted, "there is nothing better than supporting your local craftspersons, farmers, and merchants. Ask about the materials involved and if applicable, about the labor practices that attend production. This has the double benefit of raising awareness about these issues, and expanding the market for slave-free sustainable goods."

Enjoy the list!

Couch: close...


TV: Well, almost...

According to Cohen, this product provoked some controversy.





Coffee Table

Coffee. Several options, including Veronica's Cup.


Chocolate Bar: The world's first slave-free chocolate bar and another delicious option.

Underwear and a bonus video "Eco-Boudoir, More Than Pretty Knickers."

MP3 Player (one option).

Pencil with bonus pencil box and sharpener.

Strawberries: As Cohen points out, this raises questions about fair trade vs. food miles; Cohen advocates supporting your local greenmarket and joing the Community Supported Agriculture Movement. Or plant your own!

Lipstick/Lip Gloss

Pillow: Many options.

Water Bottle (too many good choices, according to Cohen, though this one won for product, value, and overall philosophy).

Wallet: Again, many options.

Extra Credit:
Sneakers and USB drive.

Also, check out the Ethical Superstore for a wide variety of Fair Trade Products if you are looking for something not on our lists!

Finally, Cohen leaves us with another challenge: Who will make the first slave-free mobile phone? Read "Blood Tantalum' in your mobile phone" and "Murder, Rape, All for Your Cell Phone."

Again, congratulations to Avra Cohen for this incredible list. Please consider supporting socially conscious options whenever possible, and let the companies you patronize know that you want them to be slavery-free.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Tradition That Fosters Trafficking

Thailand is an example of a culture in which the lower status of women is supported by the traditional values. A Thai woman, by tradition, is encouraged to take pride in making her husband comfortable and satisfied. Such traditional values of women are well reflected in the literary work of Sunthon Phu, a Thai poet recognized as a UNESCO Classic Poet of the World in 1986, described the duties of a good wife as follows:

A wife should show her respect to her husband every day. When the sun sets, she will not go anywhere but prepare the bed for her husband. When the husband goes to bed, she krap him at his feet (by raising the hands pressed together at her chest and prostrating herself at the husband's feet as a Thai way to show her high respect). In the morning, she wakes up before him to cook food and prepare all things for him. When he has breakfast, she sits besides him to see whether he wants anything that she can bring to him. A good wife will not eat before her husband.
Sadly, the dynamics of such traditional norms still pervade in many ways in Thai society. Since Thai society considers domestic violence as a private matter, a man can justifiably abuse his wife in any circumstance without fear of punishment. In any case, neither the victims nor the law enforcement would be willing to bring the matter before the court.

Such traditional values, if nothing else, mitigate the gravity of sex trafficking and the prostitution in the minds Thai men and women. A Thai man whose upbringing teaches him that a woman should please him would not feel bad about abusing his wife when she fails to do so. Neither would he feel the need to apologize to his wife for having multiple mistresses or visiting brothels for his sexual pleasure and comfort. Similarly, another Thai man with the same upbringing would not feel bad about buying Burmese or Cambodian children as a brothel facilitator to meet the customers’ sexual pleasure. Neither would he feel bad about selling them to the sex industries abroad such as, Japan, Europe or the United States.

Similarly, a Thai woman whose primary duty as a wife is to serve her sick husband will choose to sell her daughter as either a domestic servant or a prostitute to pay for her husband’s hospital bills. In her mind, her duty to fulfill the needs of family and her husband comes before her duty to protect her daughter as a mother.

Unfortunately, Thailand is not the only example of a culture that supports the lower status of women. In fact, the status of a woman in Japan is much worse than it is in Thailand. Therefore, the education that challenges such traditional or cultural norms in the minds of young men and women in various cultures is a vital step to fight against human trafficking.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

DC Stop Child Trafficking Now Walk September 26th

On Saturday, September 26th 2009, the DC abolitionist community will come together for the first annual DC Stop Child Trafficking Now Walk. September is Combating Human Trafficking Month, and the DC walk will be part of national anti-trafficking efforts, including walks in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas, according to the walk's website.

According to Ray Lian of
Stop Modern Slavery, one of the organizations planning the event, the walk has two main goals. First, it aims to bring together the DC anti-trafficking community, including NGOs, local authorities, businesses, and the media to raise awareness about modern slavery.

Second, the walk will raise money for anti-trafficking work, focusing primarily on efforts to fight child trafficking. 75% will go to
Stop Child Trafficking Now, an organization that works to address the demand side of child trafficking, promoting efforts to investigate the buyers/predators who patronize child victims of sex trafficking. 15% will go to Courtney's House, a safe-house in DC for child victims of sex trafficking, and 10% will go to DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Organizers expect that between 400-600 walkers will attend the inaugural walk, and they hope it will become an annual event that brings together the anti-slavery movement in DC and celebrates its work and accomplishments.

Lian says that he is excited that the walk will unite DC's anti-slavery movement. As he points out, many different organizations in DC are tackling various aspects of human trafficking, each with its own strengths and strategies; however, in the past these organizations seldom worked together. According to Lian, one goal of Stop Modern Slavery is to make DC slave free by bringing together these organizations to collaborate. The September walk will help establish a culture of collaboration amongst community members, NGO's, public sector, and private sector. According to Lian, "This walk represents the culmination of this strategy and effort. As a large and diverse grassroots organization, we are finally reaching a point where we have the attention of the various anti-slavery organization."

The walk has been organized entirely by part-time community volunteers, which has been a massive undertaking. Lian notes that this strategy has worked, though, because they have emphasized collaboration and have worked to leverage people's strengths and talents. Lian states, "We ascribe to Ghandi's belief that before you can change the world you must change yourself. So before we could ask the anti-slavery movement to work together, we had to first learn to work together ourselves. We are doing this today and I am proud to be part of this effort." And as Lian also notes, the money raised will help end child trafficking by putting child predators in prison and providing services to child victims of sex trafficking.

People can get involved in a number of ways:

1. WALK - Visit the
walk's website to sign-up.
2. PROMOTE - Help spread the word about the walk and recruit people to walk. Flyers can be found on the walk's website.
3. VOLUNTEER - Before the walk, volunteers can help with promotion, planning, organizing logistics, contacting celebrities and luminaries, and asking businesses for donations. During the event, they need help setting up, registering people, leading walkers, and cleaning up. To volunteer, email
4. DONATE - This walk is made possible entirely through the commitment of volunteers and the generosity of donors. To donate to the walk, please visit the walk's site and click 'Donate' on the left hand menu.

When: Saturday, September 26, 2009. Registration opens at 9:00am, walk beings at 10:00am.

Meridian Hill Park, 15th St. NW and Euclid St NW, Washington DC.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Position Open in Baltimore

From Idealist:

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Field Coordinator—Baltimore
Education: Bachelor (BA, BS, etc.)
Location: Baltimore, Maryland, 21230, United States
Job Category: Health & Medical, Social Science, Psychology and Welfare
Sector: Nonprofit
Last day to apply: September 27, 2009
Type: Full time
Language(s): English, Spanish
Area of Focus: Children and Youth, Health, Mental, Human Rights and Civil Liberties, Human Services, Immigration


Position Objective: To ensure professional services to undocumented and unaccompanied children through assessments and recommendations related to placements, transfers and releases to sponsors.

Qualifications include...
1. Commitment to LIRS’s core mission and values and an ability to model those values in relationship with colleagues and partners; commitment to refugees and immigrants
2. Master’s degree in social work and a minimum of two years of demonstrated child welfare, case management, social service or mental health professional experience or a bachelor’s in social work and equivalent professional work experience.
3. Knowledge and experience in work with refugee or immigrant children or cross-cultural experience
4. Professional interviewing skills
5. Ability to foster teamwork and collaboration among various service agencies
6. Fluency in Spanish
7. Knowledge of Microsoft Office software and database management
8. Ability to manage complex projects with a high degree of independence
9. Demonstrated creativity and initiative
10. Willingness and ability to travel

Responsibilities include...
1. Implement assessment and placement activities with a holistic professional child welfare approach for children in federal custody.
2. Ensure complete assessment information is made available to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for release or placement recommendations under the direction of the national agency.
3. Review family reunification packets from ORR-contracted facilities to ensure completeness and make release recommendations to ORR.
4. Track and manage various types of complex special needs cases including referrals for suitability assessments, follow-up services, long-term foster care, residential treatment and trafficking cases.
5. Act as liaison among local facilities’ staff, child, federal ORR/Division of Unaccompanied Children’s Services (DUCS) staff, national LIRS and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops staff, legal representatives for children in custody, Department of Homeland Security/ Immigration and Customs Enforcement, relevant consulates, and others regarding assessment of children’s placement or release.
6. Make regular visits to ORR-contracted facilities, meet with individual children as needed, and make recommendations for treatment or other services.
7. Maintain knowledge of the continuum of care options available throughout the country.
8. As part of a national team, consult with other field coordinators on special cases, provide operational support, and develop and share effective strategies and best practices.
9. Assist ORR or ORR-contracted facilities with rapid response on special cases as required.
10. Assist with training and technical assistance to local providers to support smooth field placements, transfers and releases.
11. Ensure clear and consistent communication with the LIRS national office and ORR, including regular conference calls and other coordination meetings necessary to ongoing case management and program development.
12. Ensure projects and assignments are completed within established guidelines and agency standards.
13. Provide statistics and assist with writing reports on activities and recommendations for ORR as required.
14. Utilize DUCS Tracking Management System (TMS) for processing releases and transfers as well as other functions that are incorporated into the system.
15. Monitor changes on the ground; identify new trends and effectively communicate those trends to LIRS.
16. Assist in the identification of social and mental health services for children in custody.
17. Where appropriate, monitor trends in immigration proceedings for DUCS children in the region.
18. Organize and participate in local and regional meetings with agencies and providers in the region to address current and future issues affecting the program operations.
19. Provide on-call assistance in emergency situations.
20. Perform other job-related duties as assigned.

How to Apply:
Send cover letter, including salary requirements, with résumé to...

This position is also open in New York.

Related information from LIRS's website on services for children:

Unaccompanied Children in Federal Custody
Refugee foster care programs are also open to children and youth who have entered the United States alone and are placed in the custody of the Division of Unaccompanied Children's Services (DUCS) within the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) pending a determination of their legal status. As an alternative to detaining such children, ORR refers some chilren for foster care and community-based services through the LIRS network of culturally sensitive service providers, Examples of such children includes minors who are applying for, or have been granted, asylum in the United States; children with special needs; and youths potentially at risk from smugglers and traffickers.

Trafficked Children
Trafficked children who are under the age of 18 are elgibile for a special foster care program, administered by LIRS and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which provides them with a home along with the services and support they need to rebuild their lives. This program has a special emphasis on preserving the cultural, linguistic and religious identities of all foreign-born children in care.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"The Road of Lost Innocence"

"In 1986, when I was sold to a brothel as a prostitute, I was about sixteen years old. Today there are many far younger prostitutes in Cambodia. There are virgins for sale in every large town, and to ensure their virginity, the girls are sometimes as young as five or six," writes Somaly Mam on the dedication page for her book The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine. In the book, originally published in French in 2005, Mam recounts her experiences as a sex trafficking victim, survivor, and eventually as a rescuer for others in the same situation.

Mam was born in 1970 or 1971 during a time of great upheaval in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge political party came into power and ruled from 1975-1979; due to executions, starvation, and forced labor, 2 million Cambodians died during this time. As Mam notes, this time of incredible hardship and violence shaped and continues to shape life in Cambodia. People are especially vulnerable to exploitation, and Mam suggests that there is a legacy of extreme violence, particularly towards women and girls. Throughout the book, Mam contextualizes her experiences and the sex-trade in general in the larger socio-political context of Cambodia.

Mam was left as an orphan when she was a young girl. After living on her own and scrambling for food and shelter, a man calling himself her grandfather took her to a city, where he abused her and sold her out as a domestic slave. Eventually he sold her to a brothel as a sex slave. After experiencing years of abuse, she gained her freedom after the death of her "grandfather." Because she lacked job skills, education, and any support network, she stayed in the commercial sex industry until she eventually married a Frenchman who was working on foreign aid projects in Cambodia. Eventually they moved to France for a few years, where Mam gained work experience and learned French.

Upon her return to Cambodia, she started working on behalf of other girls and young women who were forced into commercial sex work, either by their parents who sold them to pay a debt or because they were kidnapped from their families for use as sex slaves. At first she mainly provided condoms and other services to the girls and women. Later, she started working to rescue them from the situations, and she opened a shelter. Eventually, Mam opened several shelters, ranging from emergency shelters to more permanent educational facilities for survivors.

In the book, Mam details the many challenges she has faced in her work, particularly relating to lack of consistent funding and police corruption. Despite these many difficulties, Mam's work has helped countless girls and women, many who had no other chance of getting out of their situations. Mam has received numerous honors for her heroic efforts, including being named one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time Magazine in 2009, which the Human Trafficking Project reported on earlier this year.

During her childhood and young-adult years, Mam endured horrific physical and sexual violence, which she graphically describes in the book. Mam notes, however, that the situation in Cambodia has only worsened. According to Mam "the brothels have grown larger and more violent. We find women chained to sewers. Girls come to us beaten half to death. They are so young. Increasingly we see that the meebons have addicted them to drugs so they won't even try to escape. When I was young we were terrorized with snakes and heavy fists, but these girls suffer a more brutal sort of torture. They have marks that are worse than anything I have ever endured" (166).

Looking back on her work, Mam writes, "I don't feel like I can change the world. I don't even try. I only want to change this small life that I see standing in front of me, which is suffering. I want to change this small real thing that is the destiny of one little girl. And then another, and another, because if I didn't, I wouldn't be able to live with myself or sleep at night" (129). Mam's words are especially powerful in light of the prevalence of sex trafficking in Cambodia. The Future Group, a Canadian NGO, reported in 2005 that at least 1 in 40 girls born in Cambodia will be sold into sex slavery.

Throughout the book, Mam emphasizes the need for people to get involved to work to end modern-day slavery. The Somaly Mam Foundation website lists a number of ways to support her work in Cambodia, including volunteering, interning, volunteering in Cambodia, donating, selling bracelets made by survivors, and hosting an awareness fundraiser. While the entire book is a pressing call to action, one passage in particular highlights the urgency of anti-trafficking work: "It's still happening, today, tonight. Imagine how many girls have been raped and hit since you started to read this book. My story doesn't matter, except that it stands for their story too, and their stories are why I don't sleep at night. They haunt me" (61).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Event: We Are Not For Sale Documentary Screening


ASTORIA, NY-- August 14, 2009.

Astoria Park in the summer usually bustles with the footfalls of toddlers on the playground and runners on its many trails. Sometimes, it just breathes with people looking out on the pool or the East River. On August 14, however, its serene visitors will be replaced with modern-day abolitionists, social activists, and anyone who might be passing by during the three-hour event from 6:30-9:30 pm.

Astoria Park will become the location of an outdoor film screening of “Not For Sale”-- a documentary by Robert Marcarelli on modern-day human trafficking. Inspired by faith, civic responsibility and compassion, a group of volunteers-- calling themselves “We Are Not For Sale”-- have organized the movie screening which will run from 8:00-9:30, employing what can be called “open-source activism”.

Groups like Invisible Children and ONE have come to the forefront of popular culture using this creative activism, partnering with actors and meeting target audiences where they sit. Rather than picket-protesting, open-source activism aims to bring social injustices not just into light but into the creative intellect and active lives of others. “We Are Not For Sale” is bringing the reality of modern-day slavery to Astoria Park through emails, letters, musicians, artists, writers, Facebook, WordPress, and with 11 partner organizations, to the citizens of New York and to anybody who might somehow learn of this activism and what it is for. It is for the 27 million slaves being trafficked worldwide at this very moment. An estimated 200,000 of who pass through the United States before reaching their destinations abroad.

“We Are Not For Sale” will be sharing the personal stories of those slaves, our privilege in declaring, “We are not for sale”, and the work of modern-day abolitionists towards a universal declaration of such. From 6:30-8:00, live musicians and artists will host pre-screening performances and sales to fundraise. Information booths will also be available for those interested. The movie runs from 8:00-9:30.

For additional information:

- We Are Not for Sale-
- Not For Sale by Robert Marcarelli-
- Facebook

Monday, August 10, 2009

FG urges reform of prostitution laws

*Picture from previous Irish Times article on prostituton.

Failure to amend the prostitution laws could lead to Ireland becoming the new “red light district of Europe”, a Fine Gael TD has claimed. Party immigration spokesman Denis Naughten yesterday said that Ireland has not reformed its laws on soliciting and prostitution, unlike many other EU states.

Mr Naughten said the Dutch authorities had recently decided to close a third of Amsterdam’s notorious red light district because its liberal policy on prostitution had failed to prevent organised crime and human trafficking. Similarly, he said, both Norway and Sweden had outlawed the buying of services from a prostitute.

He said that in Britain new legislation will have the effect of clamping down on those who buy sex from women who have been victims of sex trafficking. Mr Naughten claimed tougher laws elsewhere could lead to illegal traffickers targeting Ireland. He called for the establishment of a group to review and examine prostitution laws with a view to preventing the proliferation of sex trafficking in a growing industry.

Full Article


As an abolitionist, I fully agree with Mr. Naughten's argument in regard to Irish prostitution law. If anything, a lax regulation or liberal policy of prostitution in Ireland will only facilitate the members of organized crime to take advantage of the systems. Irish Times earlier this year also reported the gravity of sex trafficking in Ireland. While some British showed full support for legalizing of the country's sex industry, a study in the past has proven otherwise. In Netherlands, for instance, the sex industry grew by 25% and accounted for 5% of the Netherlands' national economy. Also, 80% of women in the country's brothels are trafficked from other countries, with 70% from Central and Eastern European countries. But, the world will watch and see if the liberal regulation of the Irish sex industry will in fact countermeasure the problems of human trafficking in Northern Ireland.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Former Western New York Judge Receives Sentence

From the Buffalo News:

Ex-Justice Tills given prison term in sex case
Federal judge calls
women real victims

Phrases like “human trafficking” and “sex trade” bring to mind tough, brutal images that are hard to believe about anyone.

When the accused is a well-respected judge, a jurist known for tough sentences, it becomes what his own attorney acknowledged Friday is a long fall from grace.

Ronald H. Tills, 74, a retired State Supreme Court Justice, was sentenced to 18 months in prison Friday, becoming the first person given jail time in connection with the continuing federal probe of the Royal Order of Jesters.

“I will never forgive myself for the possible harm I’ve caused to the victims in this case,” Tills told a packed courtroom. “I’m embarrassed, and I feel terrible about the shame I’ve brought to the bench and the bar.”

In sentencing Tills, U. S. District Judge William M. Skretny referred numerous times to victims in the case and at least twice mentioned one young woman by name.

“Coco is a real victim in this case, and regrettably, she’s not the only one,” the judge said at one point.

Skretny described Coco as an illegal immigrant who barely spoke English and was sold into sexual slavery as a young woman. Coco, he added, was transported by Tills across state lines to serve as a prostitute at a Jesters convention in Kentucky.

The judge admonished Tills for victimizing a member of what he described as the most vulnerable subset of illegal aliens, “the undocumented women involved in the sex trade.”

The judge also chastised Tills for engaging in a sexual relationship with a woman who had appeared before him when he was still a judge and then recruiting her to work as a prostitute at a Jesters convention.

“I view, and I think society views, this as particularly disgraceful,” Skretny said.

He referred to Tills as a “real Jekyll and Hyde” and suggested the former judge and state assemblyman had not shown the level of remorse Skretny would have liked to have seen from him.

Tills pleaded guilty last September to a felony charge of transporting prostitutes across state lines.

He also admitted that, while still serving as a state judge, he recruited prostitutes for a number of Jesters weekend outings, known as “books.”

“He knows what he did was reprehensible,” said Terrence M. Connors, one of Tills’ lawyers. “He knows he’s disgraced that robe.”

Tills’ legal problems began in late 2007 when federal agents found out that a judge and a police captain were among the customers of a Niagara County massage parlor that hired illegal aliens to work as prostitutes.

The massage parlor probe— conducted by the Western New York Human Trafficking Task Force — led to an investigation into the Buffalo Jesters chapter and its use of prostitutes.

In urging the judge to give Tills 18 months, federal prosecutor John Rogowski told the judge his ruling would affect the public’s view of the judiciary.

Rogowski also urged the judge not to be blinded by the emotional aspects of the case and to remember that what Tills did was a serious crime.

Tills will begin his 18-month jail term on Oct. 1 at a federal prison yet to be determined.

Two other Jesters — John Trowbridge, 62, a former Lockport police captain, and Michael Stebick, 61, Tills’ former law clerk — were previously sentenced by Skretny.

Trowbridge was put on probation for two years. Stebick was given four months of home confinement and had to forfeit his motor home, which was used to transport prostitutes over state lines, to the government.

Connors, in seeking leniency from Skretny, stressed that Tills had helped federal agents with information about prostitution activities involving several other Jesters chapters in other cities.

So far, no charges have been filed against anyone outside the Buffalo chapter.

“He’s given them inner workings,” Connors said. “This group of sordid individuals, which has done what it’s done for years, has stopped. They’re out of business.”

In May, a national spokesman for the Jesters told The Buffalo News that the presence of prostitutes at Jesters gatherings is something that only the Buffalo chapter engaged in, adding that such conduct is never condoned by the national leadership.

The all-male organization — which is a division of the Freemasons— has 191 chapters with 22,000 members, mostly in the United States. The fraternal group’s members have included two U. S. presidents, politicians, entertainment figures and prominent businessmen.

Some former Jesters told The News that many Jesters chapters have engaged in wild parties with prostitutes for decades.

Tills, who previously served as a member of the State Assembly, was known by colleagues and defense attorneys as one of the region’s toughest sentencing judges before he retired from his job as a state judge in 2005.

The human trafficking task force includes investigators from the FBI, U. S. Border Patrol, U. S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, and the Erie and Niagara County sheriff’s offices. and

Another case that demonstrates traffickers can come from any part of society. This is a case that I feel surprisingly few people in Western New York know about; most people seemed shocked to find out that a judge had been involved in a sex trafficking case right in our community. Shock is a natural reaction to almost any trafficking case, I suppose, but at this point, I think we really need to accept the fact that traffickers and victims can have any background. Human trafficking is defined by the exploitation of the victim and the profit gained by the trafficker; not the personal identity or background of the people involved. The sooner this realization is accepted, the sooner we will be able to help more victims and put away more traffickers.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Interview: Climb for Captives

Mountain climbing and fighting human trafficking. The combination was so unexpected, that I had to ask Jeremy Vallerand of the Climb for Captives team about the connection. He readily agreed that the two have nothing in common, but for him that's part of the point. People are curious and intrigued when they learn about the project, he says, and it helps show them that anyone and everyone, no matter what their passions are, can take part in ending slavery. According to Vallerand, he and his team are "trying to send a message that everyone can make a difference. Whether you like climbing mountains, playing music, baking cookies or painting pictures, you can use your talents and your community to impact people around the world."

Vallerand and the rest of the Climb for Captives team will use their passion for mountain climbing to raise awareness and raise money for the International Justice Mission. This year will mark their second climb; last year in the summer of 2008, they climbed Mount Rainier and raised nearly $20,000 for the Home Foundation. Both of these organizations are dedicated to ending trafficking, helping victims, and empowering survivors.

The project truly began, though, in February of 2008 when Vallerand traveled to Mumbai, India, and saw first-hand the realities of human trafficking. At the conclusion of his trip, he visited a home for young children rescued from sex trafficking. The experience was a catalyst for Vallerand, who states, "After a few minutes of playing games, giving piggy back rides, and letting the kids climb all over me like I was a jungle gym, I promised myself that I would never forget their faces." Far from forgetting them, he decided to take action. When planning a climb up Mount Rainier, Vallerand and the rest of his team decided to dedicate the climb to fighting trafficking.

The climb itself is challenging, and only about 50% of the people who attempt the summit actually make it to the top. This summer the climbing predictions are unpredictable, since record temperatures have led to melting snow, falling rock and ice, and huge crevasses. The climbers, who finance the trip themselves, also face the pressures of fulltime jobs aside from the climb, families, busy lives, and like everyone, the difficult economic times.

Vallerand credits the importance of his team in meeting these challenges, stating, "There is no way I could do this alone. . . each guy brings a passion that keeps us moving forward." As they approach the climb, Vallerand says "Our team is in high spirits and we are excited about the opportunity to make a difference around the world. We enjoy training together, climbing together, and laboring together in the fight against human trafficking."

In addition to the support of each other, Vallerand says that the team finds motivation in raising awareness about trafficking. He notes that they "come across people all the time who have never heard about human trafficking and have no idea that children around the world and within our own borders are being sold for sex and for labor. Those conversations remind us that we are making a difference and that we can't give up."

More than simply not giving up, Climb for Captives plans to continue to step up their anti-trafficking work. This year they hope to raise twice as much money as last year, and Vallerand suggested that there might be "bigger mountains and bigger financial goals" in store for them. He emphasized, though, that Climb for Captives is committed to ensuring that everything they raise goes directly to the cause, not for paying for the logistics of the climbs themselves. At the same time, he notes that Climb for Captives has supporters all around the world, and he thinks they are ready for a global endeavor.

When I asked what motivates him, Vallerand's answer was as poignant as it was powerful: "the memory I have of the children in India. I remember one little girl in particular. She was no more than 8 years old, living in a home for children with HIV. She had been rescued from a brothel. She didn't speak, she just smiled, and she wanted to hold my hand wherever I went. She followed me around in her pretty pink dress, and I remember trying to think of some way to communicate to her that she was beautiful, that she was a princess. I would climb the mountain just for her."

While everyone might not be able to climb a mountain to fight slavery, Vallerand stresses the fact that everyone can be involved with this fight. Vallerand recounted the story of family in British Columbia who raised $850 for the Climb for Captives by holding a garage sale a couple of weeks ago. His favorite part: "the little neighbor girl who was so saddened by the idea of kids living in slavery that she went home and sold her gold fish to her brother for $8.15" so that she could donate for the climb.

Informed and effective action has to begin with awareness and education, as Vallerand points out. The Climb for Captives website has a number of resources for people who want to learn more and get involved. People can also donate via the site, and Vallerand states that "ALL of the money given goes to the International Justice Mission (and is tax deductible) and goes towards a specific project in India that we are partnering on." People can also contact Climb for Captives at with questions.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Deja Vu

Some of the posts I'll be making don't pertain directly to the issue of human trafficking, but indirectly, by observing and exploring themes surrounding it: innocence lost, the nature of evil, etc. Also, underscores ("____") indicate additional spacing/formatting which firefox won't allow the space bar to perform.

Cicada evening on the lake.
A stand of children throw rocks
from the cliff at a three-legged dog who is too dumb to flee.
It looks fished, fashioned of sludge and an unwanted rib,
hopping as rocks break and clot the water
in a staccato of would-be-wounds,
shouting as rocks flutter plates
catering its reflection.
__________A rock pats its skull.
The lake top wavers. Birds. Inconsequential details.

The children have gone home.
The dog is on its side,
________tail slashing in slow motion.
Eyes look out from inside the dirty face
with a look like it's known about this day
________a long time but

showed up anyways.

Who is to blame for the landscape?
Cicada buzzsaw oscillating every atom in space.
It says, after Eden, nature was given to nature,
animal to man to cancer.

Cicada sunrise.
The flies are a function.
The dog is processed by the sun.