Bishop Lauds Bill To Fight Human Trafficking

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2017 / 04:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An upgrade to a key anti-trafficking bill passed the U.S. House on Wednesday, and has been praised by one U.S. bishop as “an important step” in the fight to abolish modern-day slavery.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, called H.R. 2200 “an important step Congress can take to help prevent human trafficking and protect victims as it provides important service provisions that will aid victims.”

The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention, Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2017 makes upgrades to existing legislation, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The new bill is named after Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave in 1818 but escaped to freedom and who spent his time thereafter fighting to abolish the institution of slavery in the U.S.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House global human rights subcommittee, is the author of the act, with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), ranking member on the committee, being the bill’s lead sponsor.

The proposed legislation would increase funding for existing anti-trafficking programs in the U.S. and abroad by over $500 million.

Grants will be given to educational programs for students and teachers on how to detect and avoid the trafficking of young people for work or sex. Also, the U.S. government is encouraged under the bill to have employees stay at hotels that have taken concrete steps to prevent trafficking on their property.

To read the full story by Matt Hadro of Catholic News Agency: Click Here

Brownback Lauds New Law Aiding Fight Against Human Trafficking

Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday signed legislation strengthening laws against child exploitation and sex trafficking. (Katie Moore/The Capital-Journal)

Gov. Sam Brownback described human trafficking as a modern iteration of slavery Monday, affirming his justification for signing legislation to strengthen interdiction and prosecution of people who exploit children in Kansas.

The House and Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 40 to create new crimes of promoting travel for child exploitation and of internet trading in child pornography. Under the law, human trafficking suspects wouldn’t be able to use as a defense lack of knowledge about a victim’s age or that a victim had consented to be oppressed.

“Trafficking victims take many forms — forced labor, sex trafficking, child soldiers and involuntary domestic servitude,” the governor said.

“Trafficking is modern-day slavery. Kansas has rich history of fighting such evils.”

Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, said the 40-0 vote in the Senate and 120-0 vote in the House on the bill demonstrated government reform didn’t have to be affixed to political labels.

To read the full story by Tim Carpenter on The Topeka Capital-Journal: Click Here

New York State Set To Ban Child Marriages

Gov. Cuomo called the child marriage ban a priority. (HANS PENNINK/AP)

ALBANY — New York will soon outlaw child marriages.

As lawmakers head into the final three weeks of the legislative session, the Assembly is expected to pass a bill as soon as this week raising the legal age at which a person in New York can marry.

Under current law, the age of consent in New York for marriage is 18. But someone as young as 14 can wed as long as they have parental and judicial consent.

The bill set to pass the Assembly would prohibit the marriage of minors under 17 years of age and require those 17 and 18 to get court and parental approval to wed.

The Senate passed the measure in March but will have to act again after the Assembly sought some tweaks. Gov. Cuomo has called the issue called it a priority.

The Assembly Democrats twice discussed the measure behind closed doors — including right before beginning a 12-day break that encompassed Memorial Day — and agreed to bring it to the floor for a vote.

“Children who are 14 should be worrying about their math test; they should not be married with marriage responsibilities,” said Assembly bill sponsor Amy Paulin (D-Westchester County). “They are too young. And for girls who are married to much older men, it’s abuse. It is time to change the law.”

To read the full story by Kenneth Lovett on The New York Daily News: Click Here

Maryland Bishops Join Fight Against Human Trafficking

Baltimore, Md., Apr 5, 2017 / 06:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Maryland’s bishops united in voicing their concerns over the evils of human trafficking, announcing their sponsorship of a statewide initiative aimed at raising awareness of the issue.  

“The evil of human trafficking is an international, national and local scourge, and a grave violation of the dignity and freedom of all its victims,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington said in an April 3 statement.

“As people of faith, this grave injustice cries out for a response.”

According to the U.S. State Department, upwards of 800,000 victims of trafficking are brought through the U.S. borders every year. Up to 17,500 individuals are also trafficked into the country annually. Globally, the number spikes into an estimated 20 million victims, according to the International Labor Organization.

The bishops lamented that the state of Maryland also sees a number of trafficked victims, due to Interstate 95, which acts as a hub to other cities, especially with the Baltimore Washington International airport nearby.

The bishops’ statement, titled Proclaiming Liberty to Captives, highlighted the duty of Christians to “break the yoke of modern-day slavery,” by raising awareness and supporting organizations that aid victims.

Many efforts are already in place, which rescue trafficked victims and prosecute the perpetrators, such as Maryland’s Human Trafficking Task Force, who rescued almost 400 victims from trafficking in 2014.

The bishops voiced their support of these initiatives, and also announced their own sponsorship of regional trainings that will raise awareness of human trafficking around the state.

“The Catholic bishops in Maryland pledge to devote the resources of the Church to support, unify and expand these efforts wherever possible,” the bishops stated.

“To assist in those efforts, the Catholic Church will sponsor regional trainings throughout the state beginning in the spring of 2017, at which we will bring together national, state and local experts who will provide participants with effective tools for combating human trafficking in our local communities.”

As many victims are not aware of their own captivity, the bishops underscored the importance of these new training programs that would help individuals recognize and identify the signs of a trafficked victim.

 

To read the full story on Catholic News Agency: Click Here

Presidential Proclamation — National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, 2017

NATIONAL SLAVERY AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING PREVENTION MONTH, 2017

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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Our Nation wrestled with the issue of slavery in a way that nearly tore us apart — its fundamental notion in direct contradiction with our founding premise that we are all created equal. The courageous individuals who rejected such cruelty helped us overcome one of the most painful chapters in our history as we worked to realize the promise of equality and justice for all. But today, in too many places around the world — including right here in the United States — the injustice of modern slavery and human trafficking still tears at our social fabric. During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we resolve to shine a light on every dark corner where human trafficking still threatens the basic rights and freedoms of others.

From factories and brothels to farms and mines, millions of men, women, and children in the United States and around the world are exploited for their bodies and their labor. Whether through violence, deceit, or the promises of a better life, some of the most vulnerable populations among us — including migrants and refugees fleeing conflict or disaster, homeless LGBT youth, Alaska Native and American Indian women and girls, and children in poverty — are preyed upon by human traffickers. In order to rid the world of modern slavery we must do everything in our power to combat these violations of human decency.

The United States has pursued efforts to address these crimes and lift up individuals who have suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of traffickers. Through the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, we have joined with the private sector, faith communities, law enforcement, and advocates to coordinate efforts to prevent trafficking and protect victims. Focusing on an agenda that prioritizes victim services, the rule of law, procurement of supplies, and increasing public awareness, the Task Force has strengthened Federal efforts to end human trafficking. In 2012, I issued an Executive Order to strengthen protections against human trafficking in Federal contracting, and nearly a year ago, I signed legislation that strengthened our ability to prevent products made with forced labor, including child labor, from entering American markets.

We must address the consequences of human trafficking and work to tackle its root causes. This past fiscal year, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice provided more than $60 million to community-based organizations and task forces to assist human trafficking victims, and since the beginning of my Administration, we have nearly tripled the number of victims connected to services.The Department of Homeland Security has also taken steps to streamline immigration procedures for trafficking victims and ensure their regulations are consistent with existing law. And through new Victims of Crime Act regulations, Federal funds can now be used to help human trafficking victims with their housing. Through the White House Council on Women and Girls, we have worked to address the sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately affects those especially vulnerable to sex trafficking — including young women and girls of color. And the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking — comprised of 11 human trafficking survivors of diverse backgrounds and experiences — recently released its first set of recommendations for combating human trafficking while keeping survivor perspectives in mind.

Every action we take at home, from the clothing we wear to the food we eat, is connected to what happens around the world. As a Nation, we have worked to address the problem of forced labor in our supply chains, and as individuals, we must strive to be conscientious consumers. Working with our friends and allies, we have made this issue an international priority. Just this year we used multilateral fora, including the North American Leaders Summit, the East Asia Summit, and the United Nations, to raise awareness and work with partners around the globe. In addition to urging other countries to develop and expand their anti-trafficking laws and services for victims, we are also stepping up our foreign assistance in this area. Working alongside the international community, we have seen significant increases in trafficking prosecutions and convictions, and we have made great strides in supporting victims.

As leaders in the global undertaking to end the exploitation of human beings for profit, we must always remember that our freedom is bound to the freedom of others. This month, let us find inspiration in America’s progress toward justice, opportunity, and prosperity for all and reaffirm our pledge to continue fighting for human rights around the world.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 2017 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, culminating in the annual celebration of National Freedom Day on February 1. I call upon businesses, national and community organizations, families, and all Americans to recognize the vital role we must play in ending all forms of slavery and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

BARACK OBAMA

Hotel Industry Responds to Human Trafficking Crisis with New Online Training Program

Human trafficking of children and adults continues to be a serious issue for the global hospitality industry, as traffickers sometimes use hotels to carry out their illegal operations. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), in partnership with Marriott International, ECPAT-USA, and the Polaris Project, this month will begin offering an online training program to help hotel employees identify and respond to human trafficking at hotel properties.

Your Role in Preventing Human Trafficking: Recognize the Signs, available through the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI), was developed in response to the growing demand from global hospitality brands for an expansion of the online course, The Role of Hospitality in Preventing and Reacting to Child Trafficking, released by AHLEI and ECPAT-USA in January 2014. The expanded training course provides an overview of the issues of human trafficking, suggested protocols for responding to suspicious activity, and signs of trafficking specific to different hospitality positions (in-room staff, restaurant, lobby, and security).

“Training employees in a variety of roles in hotels is critical, so they can be the eyes and ears of identifying potential survivors in one of the most frequently documented human trafficking venues,” said Courtney Walsh, Advisory Services, Polaris.

Features of the expanded program include:

  • Information on human trafficking of both children and adults for the purposes of both sex and labor
  • Globalized information to make the program relevant at properties around the world, not just in the United States—currently available in English, the training will eventually be available in 14 additional languages
  • Content that is compliant with many new city ordinances and state laws requiring hotels to train their employees on human trafficking.

“We are so excited that the update not only broadens training to include both labor and sex trafficking but it is also now relevant on a global level,” said Michelle Guelbart, Director of Private Sector Engagement for ECPAT-USA. “The hospitality industry has made such headway in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children and we know that with this re-launch, we will see even more progress.”

To read the full story on HospitalityNet: Click Here

LifeWay Network Opens New Safe House For Trafficking Survivors

April 27, 2016 (New York, NY): LifeWay Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to combating human trafficking through housing and public education, announces the opening of a new safe house in the New York City metro area dedicated to women survivors of human trafficking. This facility, which welcomed its first resident this week, will provide urgently needed long-term transitional housing and services for up to seven women.

Though New York City is a known hub of human trafficking activity, safe housing for women survivors is limited. Currently, LifeWay Network is the only organization in the New York City metro area to offer safe housing for both domestic and foreign-born survivors of labor and sex trafficking. The new facility, LifeWay House 2, joins the original LifeWay Network safe house, established in 2012, as well as its ongoing Emergency Safe Spaces beds program, and the Aspire House opened in 2015 in partnership with Covenant House NY. Together, these facilities will offer safe housing for over 20 women survivors.
“The opening of LifeWay House 2 further advances our mission to directly support survivors of human trafficking,” said Sister Joan Dawber, Founder and Executive Director of LifeWay Network. “Since its beginnings, LifeWay Network has understood the vital need for safe housing and other services to help women survivors rebuild their lives. The expansion of our Safe Housing Program over the last two years fills a critical need in the New York area.”
City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley states “Human trafficking remains an issue of real concern all over New York City, and especially in Queens. LifeWay Network’s commitment to ending this injustice and expanding its services is critical to the safety of trafficking victims.”
Other local officials have also acknowledged that human trafficking is a serious challenge for New York City. Public Advocate Letitia James has said that “human trafficking and sexual exploitation is not only a global issue, but an issue right here in New York City,” while New York State Senator Jose Peralta has noted that “Roosevelt Avenue is a mecca of human trafficking in Queens and throughout the five boroughs.”

Over the next few weeks, LifeWay House 2 will welcome up to seven women survivors – providing them with a safe, supportive home for up to 12 months while they transition to a life of independence. LifeWay Network connects each resident with an array of services such as legal assistance, medical and mental health care, education and job skills training. LifeWay staff and volunteers provide companionship, mentoring and tutoring, along with creative and cultural activities for personal expression and enrichment. LifeWay Network’s Education Program also works to raise public awareness of the crime of trafficking.

About LifeWay Network: LifeWay Network works against human trafficking in the NYC metro area by providing safe housing for survivors of trafficking, and raising public awareness of this crime.

www.LifeWayNetwork.org
www.Facebook.com/LifeWayNetwork

LifeWay Network  ­  PO Box 754215, Forest Hills NY 11375  ­  718.779.8075

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Senate Cracks Down On Human Trafficking Website Which Has Stricter Rules For ‘Selling Hamsters Than Children’

Backpage.com has been found to encourage outsourced employees in India to allow the posting of adverts even if they are unsure whether the advert might be selling children for sex

Senators have voted to crack down on a website which serves as a huge network hub for human traffickers and which imposes stricter rules on clients selling a “hamster” than it does a child for sex.

The Senators found that Backpage.com, which generates money by posting adverts, outsourced its screening process to workers in India, insisting that they put up adverts selling sex even if they are unsure whether the adverts involve the sale of minors.

The bipartisan probe, led by Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Rob Portman, announced that the Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to hold the website Backpage.com in civil contempt of Congress after it refused to reveal details as to how it checks its adverts before posting them.

“The company essentially told us to get lost,” Senator Portman said in Congress.

Investigators obtained emails from executives in California which showed that its employees in India were often found to simply remove a word, phrase or image to “sanitize” the advert rather than remove it, covering up any suggestion of illegality, said Senator Portman.

To read the full story by Rachael Revesz of INDEPENDENT: Click Here

In Historic Vote, U.S. Senate Unanimously Backs McCaskill-Portman Measure to Hold ‘Backpage’ Website in Contempt of Congress

WASHINGTON – In an historic vote, the Senate today unanimously approved a bipartisan resolution from U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill and Rob Portman to launch civil contempt proceedings against the website Backpage, as part of the duo’s bipartisan investigation into online sex trafficking.

“The contempt that Backpage has shown for our bipartisan investigation has now been met with the unanimous contempt of the full U.S. Senate,” said McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor who is the top-ranking Democrat on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. “This historic vote makes a clear statement—we are fully committed to getting to the bottom of this company’s business practices and policies for preventing the trafficking of children, and we will get these answers.”

The last time the Senate approved civil contempt proceedings was 1995. Today’s Senate vote was 96-0. The Senate’s Legal Counsel can now bring a suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to ask the court to directly order compliance with the subpoena. The measure also cleared the Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs by a unanimous vote last month. Click HERE to read more on the contempt proceedings and what happens next.

Today’s resolution had the support of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children—whose President and CEO, in a letter to McCaskill and Portman, wrote: “…I am writing to express our strong support for your resolution… We commend you for your leadership on this investigation and your dedication to assisting victims of child sex trafficking and their families… More than seventy-one percent (71%) of all child sex trafficking reports submitted by members of the public to NCMEC relate to Backpage ads… The work of your Subcommittee to investigate these practices and to demand answers is to be widely commended. NCMEC is proud to lend our support to this important resolution…”

McCaskill and Portman, the panel’s Republican Chairman, led a Senate hearing in November to target online sex trafficking, particularly trafficking of children, and demand answers from Backpage. Carl Ferrer, Chief Executive Officer of Backpage, failed to obey a subpoena compelling his attendance at that hearing, a failure which Portman called “truly extraordinary.”

McCaskill also used that hearing to tell the story of a 15-year-old girl rescued from sex traffickers in St. Louis, Mo.: “Four months ago, a 15-year-old girl walked into Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, and asked for help. Along with four other girls between the ages of 12 and 18, she had been sold for sex at truck stops across Missouri, Florida, Texas, and New Mexico for almost two months. She was lucky to be alive. According to her police report, another girl traveling with her during those months had died in her arms. The 15-year-old girl who walked into Cardinal Glennon, like the majority of children who are sold for sex in the United States today, was trafficked using Backpage.”

McCaskill is the top-ranking Democrat on the subcommittee—which was formerly the “Truman Committee.” It is the Senate’s most powerful body for investigations and oversight and includes broad subpoena power. Relying on her experience as a courtroom prosecutor, McCaskill led the successful effort to reform the military justice system to curb sexual assaults in the U.S. military, and is helping lead a bipartisan effort to curb sexual violence on college and university campuses.

Visit mccaskill.senate.gov/violence to see more about McCaskill’s work to curb domestic and sexual violence.

Press release from Senator McCaskill’s Page: Click Here

Six Years of Illinois Laws to Hold Sex Traffickers Accountable and Create Resources for Survivors

End Demand Illinois is a campaign to shift law enforcement’s attention to sex traffickers and people who buy sex, while proposing a network of support for survivors of the sex trade. Rose Mary Meyer, BVM, the director of Project IRENE, was a part of the legislative team for these actions.

Illinois Safe Children Act  2010

This law is the first in the United States to make minors immune from prosecution for prostitution.  This law gives police and prosecutors new tools to go after pimps, traffickers and people who buy sex; therefore, the law is quoted in handbooks of procedure for law enforcement personnel.

Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act  2011

This law offers survivors of sex trafficking the opportunity to have prostitution convictions removed from their records.  Illinois was the third state in the nation to pass a law like this.

Reforming the Illinois Human Trafficking Code  2012

This law expands the scope of the state involuntary servitude law by including additional means by which a trafficker can obtain or maintain a victim.  The bill removes confusing language from the statute and lessens the emphasis placed on force, which will help prosecutors more effectively use the statute.  The bill also extends the time limit for prosecutors to bring charges against traffickers in cases involving minors.

Eliminating Felony Prostitution in Illinois  2013

Upgrading prostitution to a felony is no longer allowed in Illinois.

Creating Funding Streams for Specialized Services  2014

New funding streams for specialized services for survivors of prostitution and trafficking are created by this law.   Note:  No funds from the state are requested in this law because of the fiscal situation in Illinois.

Affirmative Defense for Survivors of Human Trafficking  2015

This law creates an affirmative defense for people charged with prostitution.  This allows them to prove that they engaged in prostitution as a result of human trafficking.  In camera defense is also provided in this bill; Illinois is the first state in the nation to provide this safety procedure.

I would like to give credit to countless hours of pro bono work by lawyers engaging in support of those taking advantage of these new laws as well as educating law enforcement regarding these new laws.

—Rose Mary Meyer, BVM
2015