Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Detroit Dance Club Busted

Veniamin Gonikman, 56, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Ukraine, was sentenced last week in federal court for his role in an international conspiracy to compel Eastern European women to work in exotic dance clubs in the Detroit metropolitan area.   U.S. District Court Judge Victoria A. Roberts sentenced Gonikman to 36 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release.   He is the ninth and final member of the charged conspiracy to be sentenced.                                                      
Gonikman became a fugitive in 2005 following the arrests of his co-conspirators, Aleksandr Maksimenko and Michael Aronov.   He was apprehended in Ukraine in January 2011 and pleaded guilty to money laundering on Sept. 13, 2011.   According to information presented in court filings, between September 2001 and February 2005, Gonikman, together with Maksimenko and Aronov, operated Beauty Search Inc., a business that brokered and managed Eastern European women who performed in exotic dance clubs in the Detroit area.   The three men recruited a number of these women in Ukraine, facilitated their illegal entry into the United States, and then harbored them for commercial advantage and private financial gain.  Gonikman obtained a share of the proceeds earned by the women and transferred the money to Ukraine in order to promote and carry on the Beauty Search business.
“Human trafficking is the equivalent of modern day slavery.   It deprives the victims of their freedom and dignity and it has no place in our country,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.   “The Justice Department is committed to the aggressive prosecution of those who rob individuals of their freedom.”
“This sentence brings the final member of this human trafficking ring to justice,” Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.   “These defendants treated human beings like a commodity, enticing Eastern European women to come to the United States illegally and then exploiting them for commercial advantage.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Promising Practices in Benin

In Benin, UNICEF programs help keep children safe from exploitation
Alex Duval Smith, UNICEF

DJOUGOU, Benin (May 25, 2012) — Kabirou is only 15 years old, yet his life story could fill a book.

 UNICEF correspondent Suzanne Beukes reports on UNICEF's efforts to improve education in Benin.
 “It happened at the end of a school day,” he explained when asked how he came to be a victim of child trafficking. ''I met a man called Baba who traffics in children. He tried to tell me the advantages of leaving for Nigeria.''

Kabirou, then just 12 years old, was eager to leave his home in Bandessar, a tiny village in northern Benin, and Baba bribed him with the promise of a brand new motorcycle and “several luxury goods.”

Kabirou did not know he would be forced to labor for long hours on a farm once he arrived in Nigeria.

Waiting to go home

“After three months, I wanted to come back to my mother and father, but Baba would not bring me,” said Kabirou.

Meanwhile, his father was working to bring him home.

“There was not much I could do to get the boy back,” said Kabirou's father, Sidi Sayo. “I waited for the man who had taken him, Baba, to return. I spoke to him; I was angry. I called Baba to come before the elders... Baba said he had done wrong and would not do it again,” said Sayo.

Under pressure from the elders, Baba eventually brought the boy back.

“I spent two years over there,” Kabirou said.

Going back to school

In Djougou, Benin, students play a UNICEF-distributed board game teaching children about their rights, including their right to education and protection from exploitation.
Back in Bandassar, Kabirou asked to go back to school.

School is an important alternative to child labor, and it offers children a long-term path out of poverty. Education is also a right belonging to all children, one guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most endorsed human rights treaty in the world.

Djougou is one of 18 target communes where UNICEF is working to help the government increase the primary school enrollment and completion rates. But the challenges are manifold, says Abiba Orou-Tokpo, UNICEF Education Project officer. “The cotton sector is in crisis and production has fallen. When families lack resources, they are forced to establish priorities, and education is not at the top of the list.”

The problems are not just economic, says Parfait Houssou, the head teacher at Bandessar's primary school. “Many of our schools are short of buildings and equipment. We also suffer from a chronic lack of qualified teachers. The national teacher training college was closed down in 1986 and only recently re-opened. I am quite lucky to have five teachers for six classes. In many schools, children enroll and then sit there, without a teacher. The next year, they just don't come back.”

UNICEF is working to improve education, approaching the challenges from a variety of angles, including establishing partnerships with community and religious leaders; providing furniture and school supplies; and upgrading schools through the provision of latrines and safe drinking water. A special program also aims to keep girls in school beyond primary school.
UNICEF is also distributing a board game teaching children about their rights. Based on the CRC, the ‘Analyse en boîte’ game uses elements of Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit to help children understand that they have a right to education, to protection from exploitation, and to grow up to be happy and healthy.

In Djougou, pupils in 21 primary schools play the game, and competitions are organized between the top teams. Prizes include pens, copybooks and geometry sets. While judging a play-off at Bandessar Primary School, Deputy Mayor Djibril Amadou commended the initiative. “The game teaches children their rights and prepares them for adult life. You also find that those children in Djougou's schools who have come into contact with the game are better prepared for secondary school.”

Kabirou now attends secondary school, and is grateful for the education he receives. He says he wants to be the Education Minister of Benin when he grows up.

In the meantime, he would like to do some educating of his own. “I would like to tell Baba that if he wants to take people to Nigeria, he should choose grown up villagers, not children,” he said.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Advancing Justice: The Fight Against Human Trafficking

Advancing Justice: The Fight Against Human Trafficking
Posted by A. Marisa Chun on May 23, 2012 at 09:00 AM EDT

The U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) mission is to “enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment . . . and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”
Having spent part of my childhood in Seoul, Korea, only 35 miles from the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea and where fewer opportunities for girls and women were the norm, the Department’s mission resonates with special meaning.  It has been an honor to serve under several administrations to help advance DOJ’s critical mission.
The efforts of the Department’s dedicated attorneys and agents to advance DOJ’s mission touch the lives of many Americans, including the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.  The Department prosecutes hate crimes, combats unlawful discrimination, and strives to improve access to critical federally-funded services for persons with limited English proficiency, such as sexual assault survivors.
One important area of work has been DOJ’s leadership in combating human trafficking.  The term human trafficking includes a variety of crimes that exploit the most vulnerable among us – often, but not always, women and children.  It can be the American-born runaway girl in Virginia, desperate for help, who accepts a place to stay from gang members only to find herself being abused and sold for sex.  Or it can be the worker from China, the Philippines, or Micronesia tricked into forced labor at factories in the American Samoa, in the home of affluent professionals in Wisconsin, or in bars in Guam.
The Department of Justice’s commitment to prevent and combat human trafficking in all its forms has never been stronger.  It is a commitment shared across the United States Attorney’s Offices, the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of Justice Programs.  DOJ also collaborates with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organizations to help prevent and identify such crimes.
Last year, DOJ, in collaboration with the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor, launched a Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative.  We selected six pilot Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams (“ACTeams”) across the country, aimed at streamlining federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking offenses.  We also provide grant funding to victim service organizations, such as Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO) in the San Francisco Bay Area, so that critically needed services can help victims heal and rebuild their lives.
These efforts are making a difference.  Over the last three years, the number of forced labor and adult sex trafficking prosecutions charged has increased by more than 30 percent.  In 2011 alone, DOJ charged nearly 120 defendants – an all-time high – in forced labor and adult sex trafficking cases.  But more work remains to be done.
As we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, let us also reaffirm our resolve to make real for all Americans the promise of safety and justice reflected in the Department of Justice’s mission, including for those who yearn to be free from the scourge of human trafficking.
A. Marisa Chun serves as Deputy Associate Attorney General.  She is also a Special Assistant United States Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

She Has a Pimp’s Name Etched on Her

New York Times
Published: May 23, 2012

We think of branding as something ranchers do to their cattle. But it’s also what pimps do to women and girls they control across America.

Taz, a 16-year-old girl here in New York City, told me that her pimp had branded three other girls with tattoos bearing his name. When she refused the tattoo, she said, he held her down and carved his name on her back with a safety pin.

More about Taz in a moment. That kind of branding isn’t universal, but it’s very common. An alleged pimp indicted last month in Manhattan is accused of tattooing his street name on a prostitute’s neck, along with a bar code. He allegedly tattooed another prostitute with a symbol of his name on her pubic area, along with a dollar sign. In each case, the message was clear: They were his property, and they were for sale.

Such branding is a reminder that women being sold on the streets in America are — not always, but often — victims rather than criminals. That consciousness is spreading, and we are finally seeing considerable progress in tackling domestic sex trafficking.

So far, in 2012, states have passed more than 40 laws relating to human trafficking, according to Megan Fowler of Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking organization.

Prosecutors and police are increasingly targeting pimps and johns, and not just the women and girls who are their victims. In Manhattan, the district attorney’s office recently started a sex trafficking program and just secured its most comprehensive indictments for sex trafficking. Likewise, a federal prosecutor in Virginia brought sex trafficking charges last month against a man accused of selling a 14-year-old girl in several states.

Now President Obama is said to be planning an initiative on human trafficking. I’m hoping that he will direct the attorney general to make sex trafficking a higher federal priority and call on states to pass “safe harbor” laws that treat prostituted teenage girls as victims rather than criminals.

The other important shift is growing pressure on, a classified advertising Web site that dominates the sex trafficking industry. Calls for Village Voice Media, which owns Backpage, to end its links to sex trafficking have come from attorneys general from 48 states, dozens of mayors from around the country, and some 240,000 Americans who have signed a petition on

Resolutions are pending in the Senate and House calling on Village Voice Media to get out of this trade. At least 34 advertisers have dropped Village Voice Media publications, including the flagship, Village Voice in New York City.

In its defense, Village Voice Media notes that it screens ads and cooperates with the police. That’s true, but Taz — the 16-year-old with her former pimp’s name carved into her back — told me that three-quarters of her “dates” had come from Backpage.

I met Taz at Gateways, a treatment center outside New York City. She told me that she ran away from home in New York City at the age of 14 and eventually ended up in the hands of a violent 20-year-old pimp who peddled her on Backpage.

Skeptics mostly believe that prostitutes sell sex voluntarily, while anti-trafficking advocates sometimes suggest that they are almost all forced into the trade. The truth is more complicated.

Taz wasn’t locked up, and, at times, she felt a romantic bond with her pimp. She distrusted the police — with reason, for when officers found her in December, they arrested her and locked her up for four months in juvenile detention.

Yet Taz wasn’t exactly selling sex by choice, either. She said her pimp issued his four girls a daily quota of money to earn; if they didn’t, he would beat them. They could never leave, either, Taz said, and she explained what happened when her pimp caught her trying to run away:

“I got drowned,” she recalled. “He choked me, put me in the tub, and when I woke up, I was drowning. He said he’d kill me if I left.”

Another time, Taz says, she tried to call 911. “He hit me over the head with a glass bottle,” she recalls. Then he ordered another of his girls to sweep up the broken glass.

I bet the police looked at Taz and saw an angry, defiant prostitute who hated them and didn’t want to be rescued. There was an element of truth to that. But there’s another side as well, now visible, and it underscores the importance of helping these girls rather than giving up on them. Taz is emerging as a smart, ambitious girl with dazzling potential. She loves reading and writing, and when I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up, she smiled a bit self-consciously.

“I’d like to be a pediatrician,” she said.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wendy's (the other one, the one with a "y") Puts Spotlight on Human Trafficking

Wendy's Bahamas will now include a tray liner with information about human trafficking for each dine-in customer.  Get educated with your Frosty, mon.  Well done, Wendy's Bahamas!!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thrive Rescue Home

Good organization providing shelter and therapeutic services to trafficked girls in Thailand.

What's Going On...
We hired our first Thai staff member this month!
Thai Government workers will be viewing the home on Monday 5/28.
There are 7 beds ready for girls in the home.
We are working on filling the list of government requirements to open.
We have already had word of several girls needing to be placed in Thrive Rescue Home.
Monthly Operating Budget is $3,000                     Currently Committed $2660

Medical Room Needed
The Government of Thailand requires the home to have a medical treatment room. We are in need of approx $ 200 to cover the cost of this room. Would you please consider sponsoring the Healing Room for Thrive Rescue Home? If so, please visit now and designate the funds for "Healing Room".
Paint                          $60
Mattress                     $30
Outlet Covers             $10
Medicine Cabinet        $30
Bed Sheets                 $12
Medicines                   $40
           Total Needed         $ 200
From a House to a Home
This month we have seen the home go from a house to a home. We have painted, put together furniture, processed paperwork, and even hung the Thai flag outside. Great care has been taken to ensure that no detail has been overlooked in preparation for the girls. We have had news of several girls that could have moved into the home, but we weren't ready yet, we are finally seeing the light at the end of this tunnel!

Monday, Thai Government workers will come to the house to view it. The requirements from the government to prepare the home are outside of our normal operating budget. Please join with us in becoming a monthly partner, spreading the word about what TRH is doing.

Without you and all your support and encouragement, providing this care for these girls would not be possible. Thank you friends!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Abolish Child Trafficking

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 85% of victims in confirmed sex trafficking cases are U.S. citizens - mostly homeless kids. While often perceived as an international issue, American children are being trafficked throughout our country every day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Start strategies to prevent child trafficking early

WASHINGTON, DC, May 16, 2012 - Last week, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed into legislation several bills aimed to combat human trafficking within the state. As a survivor of child trafficking, I was honored to be part of the bill signing ceremony at the Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, VA. However, as an advocate for the SB 259/HB1188 bill, I am concerned about the future implementation of this legislation. This bill, which was sponsored by Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Vivian E. Watts, requires the Board of Education and the Department of Social Services to provide awareness and training materials for local school divisions on human trafficking, including strategies to prevent trafficking of children. I’m told that passing the bill was the easy part. The hard part is ensuring its execution and impact. To those appointed with this task, I implore you to understand that prevention strategies are paramount and must begin early. I was 14 years old when I was trafficked. I had barely begun my summer vacation from eighth grade middle school when a man lured me away from home and forced me into prostitution. The day this man spotted me in the mall and pointed me out of a crowd of kids, he was looking for a girl just like me- a girl who was depressed, who had low self-esteem, and who lacked self-value. Traffickers consider the pre-teen and early teen years to be prime picking seasons for girls and boys struggling with self-identity and self-confidence issues. If we are to outsmart traffickers who are preying on our children, we must initiate prevention strategies early on in elementary and intermediate school. The most effective tactic to fighting traffickers is arming children with self-confidence, and the best way to boost a child’s self-confidence is to support them through the awkward, and sometimes painfully difficult, transitions of childhood and to help strengthen their self-identity. By doing this, a child will be less prone to manipulation and coercion by predators. According to the CDC website (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), elementary school students begin a stage of development called “middle childhood” between the ages of 6 and 8. Middle childhood, they explain, is a time in which independence from family becomes more important as the child attends school, makes new friends, and discovers the larger world. The CDC states that “[t]his is a critical time for children to develop confidence in all areas of life, such as through friends, schoolwork, and sports.” CDC’s website indicated that middle childhood continues into age 9 to 11 years, and it’s during this time that a child’s growing independence will be met with peer pressure. The CDC states, “[c]hildren who feel good about themselves are more able to resist negative peer pressure and make better choices for themselves.” As an adult, I can trace back to elementary school the very moments in which the seeds of self-doubt were planted. From bullies to worrying over self-image, these seeds grew into a gaping loss of confidence and a crippling dependency for acceptance. By fourteen, I was the perfect victim; I lacked the self-esteem to stand up for myself, and I was unable to differentiate between exploitation and genuine friendship. To those in charge of prevention strategies, I beseech you to start early and to create programs which will help children develop and maintain self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-identity. For those in charge of awareness training and resources for teachers, FAIR Girls of Washington D.C. offers the following warning signs for potential child trafficking in students: A sudden withdrawal from friends or classmates Unexplained absences, particularly on Thursdays or Fridays A sudden shift in dress - particularly toward provocative or risqué clothing A new, much older boyfriend A growing occurrence for suddenly texting or wanting to step out of class to talk to someone A new, expensive phone and/or clothing that costs outside the student's price range Talk of going “clubbing” or dancing Talk of travel or going somewhere outside of the city FAIR Girls was created to empower girls in the U.S. and around the world who have been forgotten or exploited, or who are otherwise at-risk of not reaching their full potential. Through prevention education, compassionate care, and survivor-inclusive advocacy, FAIR Girls aims to create opportunities for girls to become confident, happy, and healthy. Co-founder, Andrea Powell, lists the following instructions for a teacher who suspects a potential trafficking situation: Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888 to report your concerns. Reach out to the student to ask if something is wrong at home. If the teacher shows real concern, a student will often open up. Educate students about human trafficking by inviting an organization like FAIR Girls or a trafficking survivor into the school to speak. For a list of survivor speakers, visit Survivor Strong. Holly Austin Smith is a survivor advocate, author, and speaker. She invites you to join her on Facebook or Twitter and to follow her personal blog.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Justice after Trafficking

Girl rescued from brothel returns from Bengal to depose before court DEVESH K. PANDEY Almost two years after being rescued from a red-light area of the Capital, where she was sold to a brothel owner by human traffickers, a minor girl has travelled all the way back from West Bengal to seek justice for the physical and mental torture she was subjected to. Unlike a large number of human trafficking victims, who after being rescued go missing, the girl has come back to depose before a city court as a witness, hoping to see the culprits behind bars. Vishakha (name changed) also plans to move a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court seeking directions for making mandatory the examination of all the victims like her through video-conferencing, so that they are not made to come in person from far off places to testify in court. “The victim will also approach the apex court for compensation to all victims of sex trafficking. As of now, there is no detailed guideline for compensation in such cases,” said her lawyer Ravi Kant. The girl who was kidnapped from South 24 Parganas is still living under the threat of being targeted by her kidnappers. “A few days ago, they pelted stones at my house late at night to scare us. My father then lodged a complaint with the local police seeking action against them. They have been regularly issuing threats to me and my family. We are constantly living in terror, because of which I seldom venture out and am unable to even resume my studies. In fact, we have put a photograph of the lady police inspector, who had rescued me, in our house to ward off the traffickers,” said Vishakha. It was in July 2010 that Vishakha was kidnapped by two acquaintances of one of her friends. “I went out along with my friend to a fair, where two young men joined us. We then went to her residence, where I was kept in confinement and the next day I was forced to board a Delhi-bound train at the Howrah railway station. They took me to the red-light area and handed me over to a woman, who tortured me physically when I refused to comply with her demands,” she alleged. The girl was then raped several times. Vishakha's plight only came to light after she narrated her woes to a client requesting him to contact her family. “He informed my parents regarding my whereabouts, following which they contacted the Kamla Market police station,” said the victim. Back home, her parents had already got an abduction case registered. “The area Station House Officer immediately formed a team and rescued the girl. The brothel owner and another female accused were subsequently arrested. While both the accused are now out on bail, the male accused still remains at large,” said a representative of non-government organisation Shakti Vahini, which was also involved in the operation. Recounting the harrowing experience, the girl said soon after being rescued from “hell”, she landed up at a shelter home where she was ill-treated by the staff. “A woman officer would scold me often without reason. Apparently they did not have enough plates, because of which three or four of us had to eat in the same plate. We were made to cook food ourselves; the rice provided to us was all rotten and there was not enough water for the inmates,” she alleged. “In most cases, after a brief stay at shelter homes, the victims are sent back to their family without any State support and they are left on their own to suffer. Most States have no rehabilitation and compensation scheme in place and many victims, a large number of them minors, who have suffered grave fundamental rights violations are left on their own,” said Mr. Kant. Incidentally, in reply to a question raised by Rajya Sabha MP Upendra Kushwaha, the Union Home Ministry on Wednesday informed that seven girls had been rescued from the red-light area of G.B. Road and eight persons arrested in 2010, 26 victims rescued and 16 arrested in 2011 and 15 girls rescued and four accused arrested so far this year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Couple Jailed Abroad for Child Trafficking Back Home

A Durham couple is trying to rebuild their life in the United States after serving time in Egypt for an adoption that went wrong. Iris Botros and Louis Andros were a happily, married couple, established at home and in business, when they felt something was missing. "I thought it was time to settle and realize our dreams," said Botros. The couple wanted to start a family but was unable to have children of their own. In 2008, Botros, then 40-years-old, and Andros, then 70-years-old, both Christian, said they went to Iris's native Egypt to adopt twins. "Then we got into the big problem," said Andros. Islamic law forbids adoption, and that is the law applied to Muslims in Egypt. The religion emphasizes maintaining clear bloodlines to ensure lines of patrimony and inheritance. At most, Muslims can take a child into long-term foster care, but such a situation does not allow the child to inherit from the foster parents. On the advice of Egyptian friends, the couple contacted a Coptic Christian orphanage in Cairo that was caring for two newborn orphans. When Botros and Andros tried to acquire the children's passports to bring them to the states, the U.S. Embassy grew suspicious and reported them to Egyptian authorities. Egyptian officials accused them of violating Islamic law on adoption. "We went through orphanage," said Botros. "The orphanage had too many babies. It's not like we hired somebody to kidnap somebody." They were charged with trafficking children illegally by using fake birth certificates. The couple claimed the orphanage gave them forged birth certificates in exchange for a $4,600 donation. A first of its kind in Egypt, the couple was tried for participating in an illegal adoption in a foreign country. They pleaded not guilty but were convicted of the child trafficking charges and jailed for more than two years. "The jail conditions at the police station is the worst, of the worst of the worst that you ever were to know," said Andros. Botros said guardsmen could harass those jailed at any time. "They come and beat you up," she said. "If you're up to sexual conduct, he's happy to do it under the stairs right there." It was in 2009 that Eyewitness News aired images of Botros and Andros being held in a cage in Egypt. In 2011, the couple was released from prison after serving their time. The couple then found it difficult to leave the country together. They each had to pay a $20,000 fine before they could depart. Botros' family sold the property she had inherited from her father and raised enough money for only one of them to return. However, the couple insisted on returning to the United States together. Eventually, enough money was raised, and both of them recently returned stateside. Before the adoption complication, they owned two restaurants and a house in Durham. During the ordeal, the couple was forced to close both restaurants and said they are now on the verge of losing their home. However, Andros and his wife said they are still thankful to be back. Botros hopes their story will serve as a caution to those considering adopting abroad. "Before you go outside and try to adopt, you need to really check what you're doing," she said. "Once you are out of the states there is no protection whatsoever. Botros is now faced with immigration problems. Although Andros is a U.S. citizen, Botros was living in the United States on a green card which expired while she was in Egypt.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Where to put immigrant children?

Services Lacking at Shelters for Immigrant Kids Houston Chronicle By Susan Carroll JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND - The artwork hanging above row after row of tidy cots in an Air Force barracks offers only a hint of the children's stories, of their journeys from Central and South America. On a large piece of butcher paper, one youth had scrawled in Spanish: "Without grief, there is no triumph." Another, in uneven script, wrote: "God is love." Hundreds of children and youths caught crossing the border without their parents or legal guardians have been housed on the Air Force base in the makeshift emergency shelter - one of four now open in Texas - and served hot meals, allowed to play soccer and video games. But they are offered only one hour of education daily - not the six standard for government- contracted shelters, officials acknowledged. And they are not assigned mental health clinicians, which also is standard practice for those detained in regular shelters, though on-call mental health services are available, officials said. The sharp influx of undocumented children and teens - some 6,500 from October through the end of April - has forced federal officials to temporarily waive certain requirements outlined in a landmark 1997 legal agreement that has dictated the care of young illegal immigrants, including the amount of education services provided, according to Jesus Garcia, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "It's yet again another example of how the government is in triage mode," said Wendy Young, the executive director for Kids In Need of Defense, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that matches pro bono attorneys with immigrant children and youths. Some state officials have been sharply critical of the government's response to the influx of young illegal immigrants from Central and South America. They typically are held in the shelters while their immigration cases are pending, unless the government can locate a relative or adult custodian who can take custody of them. 'Should be exception' "This is an extremely concerning and dangerous situation: Thousands of unaccompanied minors are entering our country illegally, and the federal government does not have a plan to appropriately handle it - emergency shelters should be the exception, not the rule," said Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry. HHS referred questions on the governor's criticism to the Department of Homeland Security, which declined comment. Garcia said the children and teens taken to the temporary shelters generally are moved into more permanent facilities within 15 days. Federal officials said they will phase out use of the temporary shelters, which include Air Force barracks in San Antonio and the gymnasiums of other government-contracted facilities in Texas, later this summer. They plan to expand the number of beds available in permanent shelters. Garcia said HHS closed one of the temporary shelters in San Antonio this week. 6,581 in first 7 months Young, with Kids In Need of Defense, said the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the HHS agency responsible for the care of the children and teens, has made "significant progress" in improving education in recent years. Even so, the dearth of classroom time in temporary shelters is "certainly not ideal," she said. "Education is obviously so important to a child's development, but frankly it's also a way for these kids to get their mind off the fear and confusion they have faced by virtue of their voyages to the United States," Young said. The number of children and youths caught by the Border Patrol and transferred to the resettlement agency's care has soared this year, with more than 1,300 referred in both March and April. In the first seven months of this fiscal year, the agency took custody of 6,581 youths, compared with 6,560 in all of last year, government data shows.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sex Trafficking in Florida

Bradenton woman pleads guilty to sex trafficking of underage girls By HERALD STAFF REPORT on May 10, 2012 HERALD STAFF REPORT Bradenton_Herald A Bradenton woman has pleaded guilty to the sex trafficking of minors, recruiting four underage girls to work as prostitutes and promoting the business by taking sexually explicit photos of the girls and posting them on the Internet. Neang Prom, aka "Pocahontas," faces up to life in prison when she sentenced, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Tampa. According to a plea deal reached Wednesday, Prom and her boyfriend, Eric Bell, recruited the girls, who were ages 15 to 17, by offering them a place to live. "One the minors were living with Prom and Bell, they took sexually explicit photos of the minor victims and placed these photos on the Internet, to solicit clients for prostitution services," a news release from the U.S. attorney's office states. The girls were required to hand over the money earned to Prom and Bell, according to prosecutors. Bell pleaded guilty earlier and will be sentenced June 20. This case was investigated by the Clearwater Area Human Trafficking Task Force, the FBI, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to target child sexual exploitation and abuse. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I Love Everything About This

A 'Talk Show' Uses Humor to Inform Domestic Workers About Their RightsPrevious ArticleNext Article ZAK STONE May 10, 2012 There’s nothing funny about the treatment many nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers receive from their employers—including missed wages, no sick days, and strenuous hours. But a new public art project is using humor as a vehicle to educate workers, their bosses, and the public about the New York Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, a state law passed in 2010 that guarantees basic protections to a vulnerable class of workers. "New Day New Standard" turns the idea of an information hotline on its headset. Instead of hearing a set of numbered self-help options, callers choose from a collection of comedic sketches explaining the new legislation in a radio talk show format. Hosts Christine Lewis and "Miss Know-it-All" (played by voice actor Jen Cohn) tackle questions called in from real domestic workers about the new details in the new laws, including minimum wage, overtime, taxes, unemployment insurance, penalties for employers who disregard the requirements—plus broader subjects like immigration, human trafficking, and slavery. The voices on the phone also take the time to joke and deliver punchy one-liners in a menagerie of accents that highlight the diversity of the ethnic communities from which New York domestic workers hail, including West Indian, West African, Filipino, Haitian, Dominican, Mexican, and many other Spanish-speaking groups. A veteran advocate for New York City nannies and workers, Lewis has experience patiently explaining her industry’s hardships: She once appeared on The Colbert Report to tell the ostensibly-right-wing personality about why domestic workers need protection. Her status as a rising, charismatic leader in the movement made her a natural fit for the role as the talk show’s Oprah, according to creative director Marisa Jahn. Jahn and her collaborators from REV-, a nonprofit for socially engaged art and design, came up with the NDNS concept when advocacy group Domestic Workers United approached them with the idea of doing an audio PSA. “We know that many low-wage workers and multi-lingual immigrants don’t listen to the radio anymore,” says Jahn “And they don’t have regular access to the internet where they could download audio pieces.” But everyone has a phone, and even an antique flip phone can turn into a broadcasting device when NDNS’s hotline is dialed. Jahn imagines the service could come in handy for a nanny watching kids on the playground, for example. While she’s working, she "can whip out [her] cell phone, call the New Day New Standard hotline, and hear an 'episode' about minimum wages, paying your taxes, vacation time, etc." The New York Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, the first such law in the nation, offers the type of bare minimum protections you’d hope to see at any job: the right to time-and-a-half overtime pay, a day off every seven days, three paid days off per year after a year with the same employer, and added protection against sexual and racial harassment. The law came after years of organizing by DWU and a broad coalition of partners. Similar legislation is currently in the works in California. Jahn emphasizes that the project is more than the typical PSA: "To improve the livelihood and well being of domestic workers in New York State and beyond, we need a really compelling ‘product’ of the highest caliber. In other words […] we needed art." And that idea didn’t come solely from the creatives tasked with the project. Interviews with domestic workers proved that something entertaining and unique would work best for spreading the message. Describing the final product as "'art' dignifies their involvement in this project as one worthy of sharing with the broader public," Jahn says. "'Public art'" sounds like you’re going to hear something exciting and fresh; 'PSA' sounds like it will be boring and didactic." The project’s outreach efforts kick off this month in the liberal, yuppie neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, where Jahn says more than 60 percent of employers are in violation of the bill of rights legislation. Piloting in a progressive area, organizers hope, will make it easier to bring their work everywhere else. Image courtesy of Marisa Jahn

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Human Trafficking and Youngsters

Issue Paper 5: Children, Adolescents and Human Trafficking: Making sense of a complex problem By Mike Dottridge and Ann Jordan This Issue Paper presents current knowledge about the scope and meaning of child trafficking. Although it might seem to be a simple subject to describe, it is not. First, there is the question of what a ‘child’ is. The international definition in the Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a ‘child’ as a person under the age of 18 but, at the same time, it recognizes the evolving capacity of adolescents to engage in certain activities and make certain decisions (UN Child Rights Convention, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child 2003). Additionally, there is confusion about how to distinguish between child employment, which is permissible, and child labor, which is not. Also, there is a conflict between international law and local practices because, in many countries, children routinely start to work before reaching the minimum legal age for employment set by international law. The issue is particularly problematic when children work away from home and are assisted in travelling or finding work by a range of intermediaries. When observers from outside the country denounce these intermediaries as 'traffickers,' the children view their intervention as unhelpful and unrealistic in the local context of their work. Read more. ***** The Rights Work Initiative is a project of the Program on Human Trafficking and Forced Labor at the American University Washington College of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Washington, D.C. Rights Work seeks to promote evidence-based research, rights-based policies and lively debate on issues relating to human trafficking and forced labor. We encourage contributions from readers and welcome your suggestions and comments.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Texas rodeo champ guilty of child trafficking

Texas rodeo champ guilty of child trafficking MARSHALL, TX (KLTV) - A 44-year-old Linden, Texas man has pleaded guilty to sexual assault related charges in the Eastern District of Texas announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today. Rodney Ray Hayes pleaded guilty to the transportation of minors with intent to engage in illicit sexual activity today before U.S. District Judge T. John Ward. According to information presented in court, Hayes, also known as the Texas Kid, had a professional rodeo act which was based out of Linden, Cass County, Texas. As part of his rodeo act, Hayes had children under the age of eighteen years old performing and traveling with him. Hayes would travel with these children in interstate commerce to other states to perform their act at various rodeos. An investigation revealed that at various times between March 2005 and June 2008, Hayes engaged in illicit sexual contact with at least one minor. Hayes was indicted by a federal grand jury on Sep. 7, 2010 This case is being prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit In addition to facing federal prison time, Hayes will be required to register as a sex offender and is prohibited from having any contact with his victims. A sentencing date has not been set. This case is being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise O. Simpson.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Protect Women!

ACTION ALERT: IMMIGRANT SURVIVORS NEED PROTECTION, NOT HR 4970 For years, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has provided essential protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Now the U.S. House VAWA reauthorization bill (HR 4970), sponsored by U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Central Florida, threatens to undermine these crucial protections and put vulnerable victims at greater risk of horrific abuse, if not death. Should this bill be enacted, countless victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, including children will suffer immeasurably. For example, "Sara," legally came to the U.S. as a student, fell in love and married a U.S. citizen. Her husband soon became controlling, his beatings increasingly violent. Finally, a vicious attack left her unconscious. Though neighbors and police rescued her, Sara withdrew the charges against him out of fear that he would kill her, as is often the case. Without legal status allowing her to financially support herself, Sara was afraid to escape her brutal husband. Fortunately, while he was jailed, Sara connected with an attorney who helped her secretly file a VAWA application for legal residency. Once it was approved, advocates strategically planned her escape and she relocated to another state. Sara likely would not have attempted to free herself from her abuser without the promise of confidentiality. Without VAWA protections, she might not be alive today. The House Judiciary Committee will review HR 4970 on Tuesday, May 8. Your input will help! Take Action! Contact U.S. Rep. Adams at 202-225-2706, 407-977-7601, 386-756-9798 or Contact U.S. House Speaker John Boehner at 202-225-0600,202-225-6205, orTwitter:@SpeakerBoehner Contact your U.S. House Representative. Find him/her here. Tell them HR 4970: Would place countless immigrants women and children at risk, even of death Would roll back decades of protections for immigrant survivors without any justification. Do NOT eliminate VAWA protections for vulnerable immigrant women Mirror the better VAWA bill (S 1925) already approved by the U.S. Senate.

Missing to Trafficked

May 25th commemorates National Missing Children's Day. On this day, the Department of Justice, public agencies, and private organizations gather in communities throughout the country to renew their commitment to find missing children, celebrate heartwarming stories of recovery, and honor those whose tragic loss remains in our hearts and memories. In recognition of Missing Children's Day and its associated activities, the Missing and Exploited Children's Program (MECP) has partnered with the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program to increase awareness for missing children and child trafficking victims. This webinar presentation will demonstrate the correlation and commonalities between the unknown missing child, chronic runaway, repeat victims of sexual abuse, abducted children, and the child victimized through sex trafficking. Participants will be provided with information regarding the dynamics of child sex trafficking, cumulative risk factors and how these affect the child. Panelists will provide participants information on developing community responses to effectively respond to and provide services for this vulnerable population. Date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 Time: 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT Cost: Free Space is limited! Register Now!! Sergeant Byron Fassett has been with the Dallas Police Department for 29 years.The Child Exploitation Squad, which Sergeant Fassett is responsible for supervising, handles approximately 1,100 cases a year,consists of 15 detectives, and is divided into three teams; the Investigations Team, the High Risk Victims and Trafficking Team, (HRVT) and the Internet Crimes Against Children Team (ICAC). He has been designated as a Special Investigator for the Attorney General's Office of the State of Texas and a Special Deputy for United States Marshall's Service. Sergeant Fassett has presented both nationally and internationally on the issue of Domestic Trafficking of Children with regards to dynamics, investigative, and intervention techniques for law enforcement, prosecutors, and NGO's in the United States, Canada, Thailand, and numerous other countries in Southeast Asia. Detective Cathy De La Paz is a 27-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, assigned to the High Risk Victims and Trafficking Unit within the Child Exploitation Squad for the last ten years. Detective De La Paz specializes in conducting interviews of adolescent children and non-compliant victims who may be deceptive, avoidant and/or tentative in their disclosures. Detective De La Paz is often called upon to assist and consult on these interviews and cases, both locally and nationally. Additionally, Detective De La Paz instructs on the unique interview skills and investigative techniques needed on cases involving children who have been victimized through prostitution. Jim Walters is a retired Captain from the City of Placerville, California Police Department. He is currently the Deputy Chief of Police at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, Texas where he conducts advanced law enforcement training and course development. He is also the AMBER Alert Liaison for Indian Country. Mr. Walters has over 20 years of law enforcement experience, serving as a crimes of violence investigator and investigations supervisor. Mr. Walters is a court-recognized expert in child maltreatment and sexual exploitation. Program Director, Phil Keith has more than 40 years of experience in the fields of criminal justice, public safety and business administration. From 1988 to 2004, Mr. Keith served as the Chief of Police for the City of Knoxville, Tennessee. His involvement with innovation initiatives lead to the development and establishment of the National Forensic Academy with the University of Tennessee. Throughout his career, Mr. Keith has received numerous commendations and awards. Since his retirement in 2004, Mr. Keith has served as the Program Director for Training and Technical Assistance for the Department of Justice AMBER Alert Initiative.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Protect VAWA, Protect Women

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Provides Protections for Immigrant Women and Victims of Crime As the House Judiciary Committee prepares to consider reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), numerous questions have arisen about the important immigration provisions that help to protect victims of domestic violence, trafficking and violent crime. In response, the Immigration Policy Center releases a new fact sheet that provides basic information on the key protections: the U visa, the T visa, and self-petitioning for battered spouses. With approximately 19 million immigrant women and girls in the United States, nearly half of the foreign-born population is female. Unfortunately, many of these immigrant women, particularly those who are unauthorized, are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Immigrant women are more likely to experience exploitation while entering the country, while working, and even within their homes. For these and other reasons, federal law provides numerous forms of protection, including special visas, for immigrant women. To view the fact sheet in its entirety see: Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Provides Protections for Immigrant Women and Victims of Crime (IPC Fact Check, May, 2012) ### For more information contact Wendy Sefsaf at of 202-507-7524.

As if Haiti Hasn't Been Through Enough

10 Americans Arrested In Haiti, Accused Of Child Trafficking MICHELLE FAUL and FRANK BAJAK 02/ 1/10 04:32 PM ET PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti's prime minister said Monday it's clear to him that the 10 U.S. Baptists who tried to take 33 children out of his quake-ravaged country without permission "knew what they were doing was wrong." But Prime Minister Max Bellerive also told The Associated Press his country is open to having the Americans go before courts in the United States because his own nation's judicial system was devastated by the Jan. 12 earthquake. The aborted Baptist "rescue mission" has become a distraction for a crippled government trying to provide basic life support to millions of earthquake survivors. But the prime minister said some legal system needs to determine whether the Americans were acting in good faith – as they claim – or are child traffickers in a nation that has struggled to fight exploitation of children. "It is clear now that they were trying to cross the border without papers. It is clear now that some of the children have live parents," he told the AP. "And it is clear now that they knew what they were doing was wrong." If they were acting in good faith, "perhaps the courts will try to be more lenient with them," he said. Members of the church group, most from Idaho, have insisted they only trying to rescue child victims of the quake. Few if any had any significant experience in international charity. Since their arrest Friday near the border, the church group has been held inside two small concrete rooms in the same judicial police headquarters building where ministers have makeshift offices and give disaster response briefings. They have not yet been charged. One of their lawyers said they were being treated poorly: "There is no air conditioning, no electricity. It is very disturbing," Attorney Jorge Puello told the AP by phone from the Dominican Republic, where the Baptists hoped to shelter the children in a rented beach hotel. One of the Americans, Charisa Coulter of Boise, Idaho, was being treated Monday at the University of Miami's field hospital near the capital's international airport. Looking pale and speaking with difficulty from a green Army cot, the 24-year-old Coulter said she had either severe dehydration or the flu. A diabetic, she initially thought her insulin had gone bad in the heat. Two Haitian police officers stood besides the cot, guarding her. "They're treating me pretty good," she said, adding that Haitian police didn't bring her group any food or water, but that U.S. officials have delivered water and MREs to eat. "I'm not concerned. I'm pretty confident that it will all work out," she said. Investigators have been trying to determine how the Americans got the children, and whether any of the traffickers that have plagued the impoverished country were involved. Their detained spokeswoman, Laura Silsby, conceded that she had not obtained the proper Haitian documents, but told the AP from detention that the group was "just trying to do the right thing" amid the chaos. The 33 kids, ranging in age from 2 months to 12 years and with their names written in tape on their shirts, were being sheltered in a temporary children's home, where some told aid workers that they have surviving parents. Lassegue said the Social Affairs Ministry was trying to find them. "One (9-year-old) girl was crying, and saying, 'I am not an orphan. I still have my parents.' And she thought she was going on a summer camp or a boarding school or something like that," said George Willeit, a spokesman for the SOS Children's Village. Foreigners adopting children from the developing world have grabbed headlines recently – Madonna tried to adopt a girl from Malawi amid criticism from locals, while Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have a burgeoning multicultural brood. But in Haiti, a long tradition of foreign military intervention coupled with the earthquake that destroyed much of the capital and plunged it even deeper into poverty, have made this issue even more emotionally charged. Of 20 Haitian parents interviewed in a tent camp by the AP on Sunday, only one said she would not give up her children to give them a chance at a better life. "Some parents I know have already given their children to foreigners," said Adonis Helman, 44. "I've been thinking how I will choose which one I may give." "My parents died in the earthquake. My husband has gone. Giving up one of my kids would at least give them a chance," said Saintanne Petit-Frere, 40, a mother of six. "My only fear is that they would forget me, but that wouldn't affect my decision." Haiti's overwhelmed government has halted all adoptions unless they were in motion before the earthquake amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to being seized and sold. Sex trafficking has been rampant in Haiti. Prime Minister Max Bellerive's personal authorization is now required for the departure of any child. "For UNICEF, what is important is that for children separated from their parents, we do everything possible to have their families traced and to reunite them," said Kent Page, a spokesman for the group in Haiti. "They have to be protected from traffickers or people who wish to exploit these children." The arrested Americans include members of the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, and the East Side Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. The churches are part of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is America's largest Protestant denomination and has extensive humanitarian programs worldwide, but they decided to mount their own "rescue mission" following the earthquake. ___ Associated Press Writers Carolina Correa in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jessie Bonner and Keith Ridler in Idaho and Rachel Zoll in New York contributed to this story.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tennessee: Split Verdict in Sex Trafficking Case

Tennessee: Split Verdict in Sex Trafficking Case By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: May 4, 2012 A federal jury in Tennessee delivered a split verdict on Friday against nine people, mostly Somali men, who were accused of operating a sex trafficking ring in three states. Three men were convicted, and six were acquitted. The defendants are among 30 who were indicted in the case, which spans from Minnesota to Ohio and Tennessee. The jury of six men and six women deliberated over five days this week before returning the verdict. Van Vincent, an assistant United States attorney, said the government would not stop prosecuting these cases. A Somali witness identified only as Jane Doe No. 2 testified that she was used as a prostitute by gang members starting at the age of 12. She cried in court as she described being taken to several apartments around suburban Minneapolis to have sex with Somali men for money, sometimes as little as $40. Idris Ibrahim Fahra, Andrew Kayachith and Yassin Abdirahman Yusuf were found guilty of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Are you buying slavery-free products?

To see if you're buying products that are tied to child/human trafficking, you can go to for an app.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Finally! Prosecutors Focus on Pimps and Clients, Instead of Prostitutes

Men accused of soliciting prostitutes were taken to be arraigned in Manhattan on Monday. A law has increased penalties for convicted clients: one year in jail, instead of 90 days. By RUSS BUETTNER It was not exactly a run-of-the-mill prostitution case: the men accused as ringleaders were a father and his son, a pimp team coercing women to push their trade like traveling sex saleswomen, handing out business cards at hotels and strip clubs. Manhattan District Attorney’s Office An example of a business card a prostitute was told to hand out. The women were branded, tattooed with the pimps’ monikers, Mr. Vee for the father and King Koby for the son, Manhattan prosecutors said. One woman was even tattooed with a bar code. But what makes the case noteworthy is not how the operation was run, but how the men are being prosecuted. The Manhattan district attorney’s office is employing a sex trafficking charge, added to the New York State penal code five years ago, that is helping to redefine how law enforcement agencies approach organized prostitution. In a stark departure from decades of such prosecutions, the women who were working as prostitutes are not facing criminal charges but are instead being treated as their pimps’ victims, and offered services to help them build new lives. Under the old charges, pimps typically faced up to 15 years in prison for promoting prostitution with an adult. The newer sex trafficking charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years. Also under the new law, the customers who pay adult prostitutes for sex face up to one year in jail, up from 90 days. On Monday, 14 men, including a physician, an owner of an online ticket sales company and a concierge for a film-production company, were arraigned on charges of patronizing a prostitute. Most were offered a chance to plead guilty to disorderly conduct, a violation; two accepted the plea offer. Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said his office had embraced the new approach, long advocated by those who see brutal oppression of women as the defining component of the commercial sex trade. “They basically live as slaves of the pimps,” Mr. Vance said. “These are sad cases. These are women who need help.” A federal law that went into effect in 2000 cracked down on sex trafficking. But in general, someone must be moved across state borders for the purpose of prostitution before federal prosecutors have jurisdiction. The law that Albany passed in 2007 has no such limitation. It broadly defines sex trafficking by the methods a pimp uses to control a prostitute. The threshold can be met if the pimp instills fear of a beating, but also by more subtle intimidation, like spreading a secret that might subject the person to ridicule, or doing anything “calculated to harm” the health, safety or immigration status of the prostitute. “One thing we’ve learned from women who have been prostituted is that it is very easy to get into, but very difficult to get out of,” said Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. Statewide, there have been 150 arrests on the new sex trafficking charge since the law took effect on Nov. 1, 2007, according to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services; all but 13 were in New York City. Seventy of the 150 cases remain open. Of the 80 that have been completed, there have been 13 convictions on the sex trafficking charge; other outcomes include 33 convictions on charges other than sex trafficking, and the dismissal of charges against 21 defendants. The office of the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, has brought 52 sex trafficking cases, the most of any district attorney in the state in that period. (One of those cases was recently thrown into uncertainty when questions were raised about the credibility of the accuser, a woman who said she had been raped and forced into prostitution at age 13.) Mr. Hynes said the law and the changed approach were having important effects. “It has enabled us to rescue young women, girls really, from the grip of traffickers, who in the past have been able to avoid prosecution,” he said. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has also begun to shift his department’s enforcement efforts from prostitutes to their customers in a crackdown called Operation Losing Proposition. The effects of the changes can be seen in arrest numbers in Manhattan. Arrests for prostitution fell by about a quarter from 2010 to 2011, while arrests of their customers jumped by about a third. And in the first three months of this year, there were 90 arrests in Manhattan on charges of patronizing a prostitute, nearly the total of 107 in all of 2011. Bridgette Carr, director of the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, said the trafficking law was part of a “paradigm shift” slowly taking hold across the country — one that will require a lot of training and planning by law enforcement agencies. “We know what to do with criminals at 2 a.m. on a Friday night if we pick them up for selling sex. We have places to put them,” she said. “But what do you do at 2 a.m. if they are not a criminal? Where do you house them? How do you keep them safe? This is not easy stuff.” The case brought last month by Mr. Vance’s office is different from many others brought under the new law in that the women working as prostitutes were not children and did not identify themselves as victims of sex trafficking. Mr. Vance’s office determined, by listening to telephone conversations between the pimps and the prostitutes, that the women had been coerced into working for them. According to Mr. Vance’s office, the father and son team found customers through livery drivers acting as middlemen: Vincent George Sr., 55, had run a prostitution ring for at least two decades and brought his 33-year-old son, Vincent George Jr., into the business. The Georges required the women to meet a quota each night or face harsh consequences, and took most of the money the women were paid — $200 to $500 for each customer, prosecutors said. They brought women into Manhattan from Queens and Allentown, Pa., where the Georges had homes. A ledger recovered from the son’s home showed that one woman had generated about $500,000 in 2011, prosecutors said. The father and son pleaded not guilty and have been held without bail since they were arrested in Pennsylvania with a woman they were said to have recruited in Buffalo.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sex Trafficking in the Americas

Sex Trafficking in the Americas Published: May 1, 2012 To the Editor: “Prostitutes Perplexed as Global Glare Falls on City’s Brothels” (Cartagena Journal, April 26) doesn’t capture the complex realities of women’s lives amid armed violence and international criminal networks that profit from the economic plight and abuse of women. Colombia is a major source country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking in the Americas. The State Department has identified Cartagena and other coastal towns as a haven for sex trafficking and a popular sex tourism destination for United States nationals. Most of the women, as you note, “came from other parts of the country, like Medellín or Cali,” because the continued armed violence there has resulted in population displacement and criminal networks, including pimps and traffickers, forcing women and children into sex trafficking to meet the demand from sex tourists. The only thing “perplexing” about that is the lack of coverage and action to end demand-driven commercial sexual exploitation. TZILI MOR New York Director, Equality Now

I obviously am not posting enough about nuns

In Deeds, Nuns Answer Call of Duty By JIM DWYER Tesa Fitzgerald began her day on Tuesday by welcoming a new resident to the house that she runs in Long Island City, Queens, for women who are getting out of prison and have nowhere to go. Joan Dawber, in Brooklyn, spent Monday evening with three women who had just moved into the new safe house that she helped build for victims of human trafficking. In the Bronx, Lauria Fitzgerald was organizing evening meals that she serves to drug addicts and prostitutes who work under the Major Deegan Expressway and other dim elbows of the city. Related These three women, who work and live in New York City, are members of Roman Catholic religious orders. The old-fashioned word is nun, a noun. They are verbs. “Do what you can, with the life you have,” Sister Tesa said. Last month, the Vatican said it was time to overhaul an organization that represented about 80 percent of religious women in the United States. An investigation had found “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in Consecrated Life.” It acknowledged that the sisters showed great vigor on matters of social justice, but said they were “silent” on the right to life from conception to natural death, and did not promote church teaching on sexuality and family life. The investigative technique outlined in the Vatican report seemed to lean heavily on reading speeches and documents, finding occasional fault with what was said, but more serious problems with what wasn’t. To read the report here in New York is to feel that somewhere along the alleys and switchbacks of power in Rome, the actuality of life as lived by religious women in much of the United States was lost. The pews in the churches may be empty, but they have turned the lowest places into cathedrals. “We had a woman come in this morning from prison who was pregnant,” Sister Tesa said. “Sister Eileen went to pick her up. We always give a ride home, and take them out to lunch. She had been in for three months. Another woman came in last week; she had been away for 25 years.” In 1986, Sister Tesa began offering a few women who had just been released from prison a place to stay in a convent. Now, the organization she and others founded, Hour Children, has five buildings that give 60 women and about 80 children a place to live when the mothers return to society. “Sister Kitty, who is the principal of an elementary school, and Sister Carol, who teaches at St. Joseph College, live in My Mother’s House with 12 women and their children,” Sister Tesa said. “The women are out to classes and programs during the day; they pick up their children, one of them had to make dinner, and we eat communally. Then there’s homework. Cleaning. The usual stuff that you and I take for granted but many of the women never had in their lives.” TWENTY years ago, two students were killed in separate attacks at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, just as the mayor was arriving for a visit. Sister Mary Burns and Sister Kathy Maire, who were working with poor and immigrant women in Bushwick, became leading forces in a movement to break up many of the enormous high schools that, like Jefferson, were more warehouse than school. “I got multiple sclerosis and downshifted a little,” Sister Mary said. She now works at a girls high school in Downtown Brooklyn. A friend in her house, Sister Frances Gritte, who gives her age as 85 two weeks prematurely, works in a mobile soup kitchen operated by St. John’s Bread and Life. “I help out, preparing the meal then going around to Coney Island and Brownsville,” Sister Frances said. Sister Joan, the head of the safe house for women who have been trafficked, spent the better part of seven years planning and building it. “When I first heard about it,” she said, “I thought, this isn’t for me.” But 33 religious congregations got together and created Lifeway Network to help people who were being exploited for farm work and in the sex trade. On Long Island, religious women run Mercy House for the severely mentally ill, and in the Bronx, others run the Mercy Center for immigrants and poor people. Different places, same old mercy. “No bishop or anyone told them what to do,” said Sister Camille D’Arienzo, a leader among religious women and an author. “It’s the conscience element. The gospel call. The solidarity among ourselves. It can’t be shattered. We’ve been around too long.” Twitter: @jimdwyernyt