“Human Trafficking: 6 Solutions that Are Working”…

Following a 14-part global series on labor trafficking, Christian Science Monitor picks six “solutions that are working,” and the Fair Food Program tops the list!

Last Thanksgiving week, Christian Science Monitor published an in-depth article on the exploitation of farmworkers in the US and the unprecedented progress that has taken place in Florida’s fields thanks to the Fair Food Program.  That article was part of a 14-part series taking a look at the many ways communities and governments are working to stem the growing tide of human trafficking across the globe, including efforts to increase supply chain transparency, labor trafficking lawsuits in US courts, and programs to increase government monitoring and enforcement of the illegal recruitment of migrant labor.

This past week, Christian Science Monitor released the conclusion of its series, highlighting “6 solutions that are working” to end the scourge of forced labor.   What, you might ask, was the number one solution on that list?  If you guessed the Fair Food Program, then consider yourself an informed consumer!

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Here’s what Christian Science Monitor wrote about the Fair Food Program and its new consumer label:

1. ‘Fair food’ labeling for US produce
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Farm workers in Immokalee, Fla., have pushed corporations such as Walmart to submit to “clean labor” audits to cut down on the exploitation of largely Mexican, Haitian, and Guatemalan migrants. Their efforts have helped spur the use of “Fair Food” labels for produce that is grown and packed ethically.

“In the past three years, [the tomato fields in Immokalee] have gone from being the worst to the best” in the country, according to Susan Marquis, dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif.

Last fall, Giant and Stop & Shop, two grocery chains in New England, began carrying the label….

… Such sourcing clues tap directly into the portion of the US consumer base that has begun to turn once routine shopping decisions into moral guideposts. Labor experts see a lot of promise in using labels as a tool to spread the reforms seen in Immokalee to other agricultural centers around the US.

For the original story and to follow the series visit the Coalition of Immokalee Workers: Click Here

Federal Law Officer Training To Cover Human Trafficking

Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers will begin to provide human trafficking awareness training as part of their basic training courses, the Department of Homeland Security said this week.

DHS said the courses, which are used to train federal law enforcement officers and agents from cabinet-level departments, will help graduates better recognize signs of human trafficking they may come across as they perform their regular law enforcement duties.

“Through these new training curriculum taught as part of our basic training academies, thousands of frontline federal law enforcement personnel will be able to recognize and help those who are victims of this heinous crime,” FLETC Director Connie Patrick said in announcing the training.

The announcement came during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and is another facet of the department’s unified Blue Campaign, which stresses training, education, and collaboration across DHS agencies, and with other government and private organizations, to fight human trafficking.

Story originally appeared on Federal Soup: Click Here

As Super Bowl 50 Nears, Prosecutors On Alert For Human Trafficking

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley discusses improved housing options for those affected by human trafficking, at a press conference at SFO’s Aviation Museum in San Francisco on Wednesday,

Four prominent Bay Area district attorneys came together Wednesday to once again thrust the issue of human trafficking into the limelight and to implore everyday citizens to keep their eyes open for the subtle signs of what they called “modern-day slavery.”

With Super Bowl 50 as a backdrop and with the Bay Area coming under a national media spotlight, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón called together his counterparts — Nancy O’Malley of Alameda County, Jeff Rosen of Santa Clara County and Steve Wagstaffe of San Mateo County — to highlight their own efforts to combat the scourge, and also to call on the public to play their part.

“The Bay Area happens to be one of the hot spots for human smuggling,” Gascón said at a news conference at San Francisco International Airport. “We all have a responsibility to look for the signs.”

Law enforcement agencies have been holding local training sessions with airport workers, transit drivers and hotel employees on how to spot the telltale signs of human trafficking. Officials said victims often exhibit evidence of neglect or abuse, have few personal possessions and show fearful or anxious behavior.

Wagstaffe pointed to the successful prosecution of a human trafficker in San Mateo who was caught smuggling five young women, two of them minors, after a hotel worker reported his suspicious behavior. In Alameda County, two men were convicted of what O’Malley described as a “robust” trafficking operation after community members tipped off authorities.

“No one agency can or should stand alone to address this issue,” O’Malley said. “It takes a village.”

To read the full story from Kale Williams of the San Francisco Chronicle: Click Here

State Sen. Kicked Off Human Trafficking Task Force, Accused Of ‘Victim Blaming’

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Lt. Governor Brad Owen is lashing out at state Senator Pam Roach and has removed her from a task force on human trafficking.

Owen claims Roach behaved badly and was rude to victims of human trafficking. Owen said he’s the one who appointed Roach to this task force and so he has the power to remove her.

The Republican Senator from Sumner has had run-ins with the democratic Lt. Governor in the past. He admonished her last year for what he considers her rude and abusive behavior at hearings. This time he wrote a letter to Roach saying, “Your abusive behavior must stop. Future violations will not be tolerated.”

This all stems from a human trafficking task force meeting in December including the state commerce department and victims of human trafficking.

To read the full story by Keith Eldridge and see the video from KOMO News: Click Here

Inaugural Prayer Breakfast Held For Human Trafficking Awareness

 
An Inaugural prayer breakfast was held to raise awareness about human trafficking. (Cy Boord/WNWO).
The Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition (LCHTC) sponsored the inaugural multi-faith prayer breakfast on Saturday to raise awareness for human trafficking.

The event was held at the UAW Local 12 Hall and featured leaders from throughout the faith community. There were also resource tables from several area agencies to provide information about the issue and the services available to victims.

Read the full story from Jim Nelson on NBC24.com: Click Here

Women On The Front Lines Explain How We Can Better Fight Human Trafficking

January marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Some estimate that human trafficking is the fastest growing and third largest organized criminal activity in the world, just behind the drug and arms trades. Polaris, an anti-trafficking advocacy group, cites a study of the commercial sex industry in eight U.S. municipalities. Trafficking generated between $39.9 million and $290 million depending on the city. The benefactor of these funds earned over $30,000 a week on average. With the potential to earn such sums of money, sex trafficking is considered a low-risk, high-reward venture.

Trafficking happens in every state across the country. According to the Department of Justice, 83 percent of trafficking victims are American and almost 50 percent are children. As Opportunity Lives has previously reported, state and federal governments are boosting efforts to combat trafficking in local communities in part by raising awareness.

For example, a new law took effect in Florida on January 1 that requires rest areas, airports and emergency rooms to post signs that notify trafficking victims of available resources to help them escape. Failure to do comply will result in non-criminal citations for businesses. Advocates hope the new law will help curb activity in massage parlors and strip clubs, which are key businesses where women are often trafficked.

Opportunity Lives spoke with anti-trafficking advocates in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. about their views on areas of improvement to combat trafficking and what ordinary citizens can do to alleviate the problem.

Reverend Becca Stevens is the founder of Thistle Farms in Nashville, a community of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. They employ more than 50 survivors through their social enterprises, which include a natural body care company, Thistle Stop Café, artisan studio, and global marketplace called Shared Trade.

Founded in 1997, Thistle Farms includes a two-year residential program and advocacy services for up to 700 women yearly. Stevens now has over 100 women on the waiting list.

“At Thistle Farms, these women are safe,” she told Opportunity Lives. “No more running from traffickers. They need to understand that there is a way out.”

Read the full story by Cherylyn LeBon on Opportunity Lives: Click Here

Houston Sex Trafficking Ring Leader Gets Life in Federal Prison

A woman behind a 14-defendant sex trafficking ring operating in Houston has been ordered to federal prison for life, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson for the Southern District of Texas along with Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner for the FBI Houston Division, Special Agent in Charge Brian Moskowitz of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) and Special Agent in Charge Richard Goss of IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI).

A federal jury convicted Hortencia Medeles-Arguello aka Raquel Medeles Garcia, Raquel Medeles Garcia or Tencha, 68, on April 24, 2015, following a 10-day trial and approximately four hours of deliberations.  She was convicted on all counts – conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, conspiracy to harbor aliens, aiding and abetting to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

This landmark sex trafficking case is one of the most significant in scope and magnitude to be tried to a verdict of guilty on all counts and one of the few in which as many as 12 victims of an international sex trafficking scheme came forward to testify at trial.  Twelve victims rescued in connection with this case testified at trial regarding the horrors of their ordeals, beginning with being recruited in their home countries, only to be forced into prostitution against their will in the United States.  Some victims were as young as 14 when the traffickers recruited them, using fraud and false pretenses to lure them into the traffickers’ control.

“The importance of this case cannot be underscored,” said U.S. Attorney Magidson.  “These were human beings – women and children – who were treated as a commodity.  They came from their home countries hoping for a better life, only to be enslaved and forced into unspeakable acts.  This is a local, national and international issue, but also a humanitarian issue.  We will continue to take action against these egregious offenders and seek to obtain the stiffest penalties in order to send a clear message that human trafficking will not be tolerated in this district.”

Today, U.S. District Judge David Hittner for the Southern District of Texas, who presided over the trial, handed Tencha a sentence of life in federal prison.  At the hearing, additional testimony from six of the victims was also presented.  They asked the judge to punish the defendant for the impact she had on their lives.

In addition, 15 real properties and other assets for a value of about $2.5 million will be forfeited to the United States having been found to have been purchased with sex trafficking proceeds.  The funds will be used to make restitution to the victims of this horrible crime.

“Let this sentence send a message that lives are not to be bought and sold,” said Special Agent in Charge Turner.  “The Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) seeks to rescue those forced into this modern day slavery and hold accountable those who wish to profit from the abuse of others.  If you have information about human trafficking, we urge you to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.”

Read the full story from the United States Department of Justice: Click Here

Vatican Commits To Slavery-Proofing Its Own Supply Chains

Pope Francis shakes hands with Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde during their meeting at the Vatican, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (L'Osservatore Romano/pool photo via AP)
Pope Francis shakes hands with Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde during their meeting at the Vatican, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (L’Osservatore Romano/pool photo via AP)

ROME (AP) — The Vatican says it will ensure that its supply chains don’t use forced labor after a forum of some of the world’s biggest supermarket chains and food manufacturers announced new efforts to slave-proof their own supply chains.

Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s top finance official, unveiled the new policy at a gathering Sunday of The Global Foundation, an Australia-based organization that seeks to encourage dialogue about global governance, sustainability and other issues. International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde attended the forum and met with Pope Francis on Monday.

Francis has sought to shine the spotlight on the scourge of human trafficking and modern-day slavery and has enlisted Christian and Muslim and other faith leaders to do the same.

Read the full story by by Nicole Winfield on AP: Click Here

DoD: Training, Awareness Critical in Human Trafficking Fight

WASHINGTON, January 15, 2016 — The signs of human trafficking could be all around Defense Department personnel: A subcontractor withholds passports and delays payment to its employees, or a company forces potential workers to pay a large fee to obtain a contract job on a DoD installation.

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and DoD is highlighting the issue and its efforts to fight trafficking, said Army Col. Joshua Burris, deputy chief of staff for Mission and Installation Contracting Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Sam Houston, Texas, and the executive director for DoD’s Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2016.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, Burris said, adding that DoD has zero tolerance for violations.

DoD wants its service members, civilians, contractors and others associated with the agency to be able to recognize the signs of human trafficking and know how to report suspected violations, he said.

Worldwide Problem, Violates Basic Human Rights

Human trafficking includes using force, fraud or coercion to compel a person to provide labor, services, or sex, Burris said. It is a violation of basic human rights, he said. It is a global problem; it happens in the United States and around the world.

“This is a heinous, awful thing that happens. It’s very important that we eradicate it,” he said.

Read the full story by  Lisa Ferdinando at DoD News, Defense Media Activity: Click Here

Less Than A Quarter Of Companies Fully Open On Fighting Forced Labor – Study

NEW YORK, Jan 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Less than a quarter of companies earned high marks for disclosing anti-trafficking and forced labor corporate practices in a pilot study released on Thursday to highlight efforts by companies to be open about their supply chains.

The study by KnowTheChain, founded by San Francisco-based Humanity United, found only four of 20 companies were fully open about disclosure and the way they track and deal with forced labor in their supply chains.

The number of people globally living as slaves, trafficked into brothels or forced labor, is estimated at nearly 36 million by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation with the slavery business estimated to be worth $150 billion a year.

Anti-slavery campaigners have called for companies to be more transparent over their supply chains and for consumers to insist on knowing where goods come from and who makes them.

KnowTheChain said it plans to publish benchmark reports this year comparing corporate policies and practices on keeping forced labor out of supply chains and the pilot study was conducted to test its methodology.

Read the full story by Ellen Wulfhorst on Reuters: Click Here