A RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH TO COMBATING HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The Freedom Network was established in 2001 by a group of organizations and individuals who bring decades of experience from a diverse set of backgrounds, such as immigrant women and children’s rights, victim and social services, migrant farm worker advocacy, and human rights activism. We currently have 30 members (25 organizations and 5 individual experts) in ten different states across the US.
The Freedom Network recognizes that human trafficking is fueled by complex and interconnected factors, including poverty and economic injustice, racism, gender-based discrimination, and political strife. At its core, the crime of trafficking is a violation of an individual’s basic human rights and personal freedom. Thus, we believe that a rights-based approach is fundamental to combating human trafficking and ensuring justice for trafficked persons.The work of our members is focused on: Client-Centered Service Provision, Criminal and Civil Justice Advocacy, Social Justice Advocacy, and Training
Client-Centered Service Provision
The Freedom Network’s rights-based approach to anti-trafficking service provision is characterized by:
- A safe environment staffed by professionals who emphasize self-determination;
- Case confidentiality & privacy given the complex and highly publicized nature of trafficking
- Long-term case management services that are culturally competent, linguistically-appropriate
- Comprehensive legal assistance, such as applying for appropriate immigration relief, providing criminal justice advocacy, filing civil claims on behalf of trafficked persons
- Opportunities for client leadership in anti-trafficking efforts.
Criminal Justice Advocacy and Civil Litigation
Benefits and immigration relief options of trafficked persons are largely conditioned on victims’ willingness to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of their trafficker. We believe that a person’s participation in criminal justice process can play a positive role in his or her recovery, but we also know how difficult cooperation can be. The Freedom Network members have earned a reputation for being zealous advocates on behalf of their clients during the criminal justice process, by ensuring that witnesses are educated on their role, are kept informed of case developments, are treated with fairness and respect, and that their fears and concerns are addressed.
In a number of important cases, ranging from domestic servitude at the hands of diplomats to debt bondage in the agricultural industry, Freedom Network providers have represented survivors in civil litigation against their traffickers. Civil representation offers justice to clients whose trafficker otherwise might not face criminal charges or be held accountable for the egregious theft of wages and deprivation of liberty. In 2009, a Freedom Network member’s representation of five survivors led to the largest U.S. judgment to date awarded to a group of trafficked persons.
Social Justice Advocacy
The Freedom Network members promote policies that address the root causes of trafficking, guarantee the protections and rights of trafficked persons, and encourage the leadership of clients in efforts to combat modern day slavery. Recent examples of the Freedom Network‘s advocacy work are:
- Participating in collaborative advocacy around domestic workers, temporary workers, and students (A-3/G-5/B-1, H-2A/H-2B and J-1 visa holders), such as the drafting and release of the State Department’s Nonimmigrant Temporary Worker’s Rights, Protections and Resources Pamphlet;
- Advocating with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to encourage the issuing of adjustment regulations, allowing T-visa holders to obtain legal permanent residence;
- Forging worker-led campaigns to improve working conditions and wages for agricultural workers, resulting in crucial victories for workers in the food production industry;
- Establishing a Leadership Development Training and a Survivor Advisory Caucus, two programs that empower trafficked persons to set their own advocacy priorities and to lend their voices to the realities of trafficking.
The Freedom Network Training Institute is the training arm of the Freedom Network. Our trainings feature facilitators from around the country who are social service and legal service providers and have worked with multi-disciplinary teams to uncover slavery operations, and provide assistance throughout the life of a case. This first hand experience coupled with a firm grasp of the issues of immigration, migration, labor, trauma and the law results in a dynamic, informative and useful one or two day program that meets the needs of all first responders and the community at large.