FN Executive Director, Jean Bruggeman and Board Member, Dan Werner (SPLC) wrote an opinion piece that ran on The Hill’s website this week. They argue that Congress should reject the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act (S. 2225) rider to the 2016 federal spending bill. This legislation calls for changes to the H-2B program, including provisions that would triple the size of the program, reduce protections for workers, and decrease oversight of employers. The Freedom Network USA Education Fund rejects these changes that will undercut wages of U.S. workers and increase the risk of exploitation and trafficking of foreign guest workers and U.S. workers alike.
As Jean and Dan point out, “a bipartisan group of senators wants to expand this flawed program while reducing not only wages and regulatory oversight but also transparency and employer accountability for recruiting abuses. The legislation also would free employers to more easily hire foreign workers without first seeking U.S. workers to fill the same jobs.”
And some Senators agree. Last week a group of Senators submitted a letter to Senate leaders reiterating that the Democratic majority will not allow a spending bill to pass with harmful policy provisions attached. They pointed out that not these changes to the H-2B program are harmful, and instead call for comprehensive immigration reform.
Congress must act by December 11th to avoid a government shutdown. This rollback of worker protections should not be included in any omnibus or stop-gap measures. Call your Senators and Members of Congress today and tell them to say no to the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act.
You can read the full editorial here. Thank you to our allies and advocates working in the immigrant and worker rights’ movements that helped bring this issue to the forefront.
The Freedom Network with pro bono counsel Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., recently submitted an amicus brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in the Adhikari v. Kellog Brown & Root, Inc. (KBR) case. We urge the Court to overturn the district court’s previous decision to dismiss Adhikari’s claim and allow it to proceed to trial.
To read the brief – Adhikari Amicus Brief Fifth Circuit
*Special thanks to our pro bono partners, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
Beyond the Chains: Tuning Into the Full Spectrum of Human Trafficking
A pair of shackled hands. A body branded with a bar code. A woman
behind bars. These are the images I have to walk audiences back from
at every training we lead through the Human Trafficking Program here
at the Worker Justice Center of New York. For as much as global
awareness campaigns have gained on the shock value of this imagery,
and as much as the sensationalism does to galvanize communities, it
has done more to misguide them into stereotypes, myths, and damaging
Although there do exist tragic instances when persons are abducted and
sold for sex, or chained and beaten for labor, click-bait media and
relevance-seeking initiatives have a tendency to over-represent such
scenarios. These “worst of the worst” stories may command attention in
the short term, but only at the long-term expense of desensitizing
audiences to the more nuanced and at times banal reality of the
average human trafficking case.
Chains are much more likely to be psychological than physical. Rather
than brutal violence, trafficked persons more often face a brutal lack
of options. If audiences were to look for real life examples of the
images that come up on a Google search for “human trafficking,” they
might stare off at a neighbor’s darkened basement window while a
trafficked domestic worker walks out the front door, smiles and waves,
undetected, unconsidered in their everydayness. Never mind if that
person’s documents are being withheld, a debt is lorded over them, or
their family is under threat. Those considerations are beyond a
Thought leaders in the field of trafficking have a responsibility to
challenge caricatures of the “victim in distress” and broaden our
expectations of where trafficking may surface: among laborers who
bring harvests to supermarket shelves, or a migrant crew ending a
12-hour shift at the county fairgrounds, or with an out-of-school
child behind the neighborhood restaurant kitchen door.
The outreach team here at the Worker Justice Center of New York has
never needed special access or privileges to approach the spaces where
we know trafficking to take place. We walk up to rural trailer doors
and small town businesses with the same right as every neighbor and
customer. The crucial difference is that we are ready to ask difficult
questions about power and control, personal finances, manipulation and
We are also ready to find answers that may not stand out or shock: a
series of false promises, a deal gone bad, a fear instilled over many
years. Rather than break chains or knock down doors, our staff is
trained to tune into the fine print, follow our intuition, and prepare
for the long-haul. At its best, our team gets to offer perspective and
options to people for whom both have run dry. With more grounded
awareness and media messaging, that could become the everyday work of
Gonzalo is a Human Trafficking Specialist at Worker Justice Center of New York.
The Freedom Network (FN) released a response today to raise concerns about the National Johns Suppression Initiative.The two-month law enforcement led operation targeted individuals promoting or purchasing sexual services across the country, resulting in almost 1,000 arrests across 18 states. FN is concerned with the gaining popularity of such actions, as they increase safety concerns for victims and divert limited resources away from supporting survivors of all forms of human trafficking.
“Time should be spent investigating identified cases of trafficking and supporting victims trying to find support. The resources it takes to conduct these operations could be better spent, and it is victims of trafficking who are going to suffer from this misallocation.”
The Freedom Network is pleased to introduce Jean Bruggeman as its first Director.
Ms. Bruggeman’s deep and multifaceted experience within the anti-trafficking field is an ideal match for the human rights-based coalition of legal and social service providers that comprises the Freedom Network.
Welcomed by Freedom Network Co-Chairs Amy Fleischauer, Kathleen Morris, and Daniel Werner, as well as Founder and Chair Emeritus Florrie Burke, Ms. Bruggeman brings over 15 years of survivor support experience, most recently as a Human Trafficking Fellow with the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) within the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
While at OVC, Ms. Bruggeman supported efforts to improve and expand access to legal and social services for crime victims, provided training and technical assistance to service providers and government agencies nationwide, and supported OVC’s intergovernmental efforts to improve services for survivors of human trafficking.
Ms. Bruggeman provided leadership in the development of the Federal Strategic Action Plan for Services to Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States, the first OVC Human Trafficking Survivor Forum, and the upcoming OVC video series “The Faces of Human Trafficking.”
“The plethora of professional experience Jean brings to the Freedom Network including in-depth analysis and evaluation of government programs, direct line legal and social services, and human rights-based advocacy will elevate the unique voice and perspective of the Freedom Network and its member organizations.
Freedom Network member organizations across the United States have expertise in working with various populations affected by and vulnerable to human trafficking, providing specialized legal, social, and advocacy services to survivors of all forms of human trafficking – including migrant farm workers, sexually exploited youth, those exploited within low-wage industries, sex workers, and others.
“Jean is a leader in the anti-trafficking movement. She is a visionary rooted in in-the-trenches direct work with trafficking survivors. We are incredibly fortunate to have her at the helm of the Freedom Network.”
Daniel Werner, Freedom Network Co-Chair and Senior Supervising Attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project.
Ms. Bruggeman has developed comprehensive legal and social services programs for survivors, provided direct legal representation to survivors, authored training resources, and developed an interpreter services program to ensure access to legal services in the District of Columbia.
“Jean is able to look at all aspects of the human trafficking field and how it intersects with labor, migration, business, and human rights. Her experience in both the non-governmental and governmental sectors brings the knowledge we want in a leader.”
Florrie Burke, Founder and Chair Emeritus of the Freedom Network
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, the Freedom Network believes that a rights-based approach is fundamental to combating human trafficking and ensuring justice for trafficked persons.
“Jean’s experience directly serving survivors, managing and developing organizations, and working on anti-trafficking-in-persons initiatives at many levels make her uniquely qualified to lead the Freedom Network. Jean possesses a deep understanding of human rights and how human trafficking intersects with all forms of injustice — expertise which will be of great value to the Freedom Network’s mission and the anti-trafficking-in-persons field in the years to come.”
Kathleen Morris, Co-Chair and Program Manager, Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network (WARN), International Rescue Committee in Seattle (IRC)
Additional details on the membership, services, and impact of the Freedom Network can be found in the 2014 Impact Report [PDF]
The Freedom Network released an official response today on Amnesty International’s recent policy decision to support decriminalization of the sex industry. FN commends Amnesty International for upholding the values of human rights, self-determination, and empowerment with this decision. Read the full response here.
As one of the nation’s first federally funded grants to support direct services to survivors of human trafficking, the Trafficking Victim Assistance Program (TVAP) program has assisted thousands of foreign-born survivors across the country. On June 19th, the Office of Refugee Resettlement released the 2015 TVAP funding opportunity announcement (FOA), consisting of several significant changes to the program’s structure and eligibility requirements.
Freedom Network (FN) immediately became concerned about the impact these changes will have on foreign-born survivors of human trafficking and their ability to receive the support they so desperately need. FN has a long history of positive collaboration with ORR, both as a network and through the many individual member organizations that receive Rescue and Restore funds, as well as TVAP contracts. With this on-the-ground knowledge, the FN Co-Chairs met with Katherine Chon, Director of the new OTIP office that oversees ORR anti-trafficking programs, to present these concerns. Soon thereafter, FN sent a formal and detailed outline of concerns with the full support of ATEST, recommending that OTIP continue the current funding for one year in order to solicit feedback and collect data from Federal and NGO stakeholders—including survivors—to inform effective programmatic changes that address the very real and nuanced systems-based challenges facing survivors.
To access our official comments, please click here. The Freedom Network would like to thank our colleagues at ATEST for their support and contributions throughout the process.
Freedom Network co-chair Amy Fleischauer recently attended the Blue Campaign’s 5th anniversary event, strengthening the partnerships between government and law enforcement, private and public organizations. The Blue Campaign is presented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in efforts to create a unified front to combat human trafficking. Through the Blue Campaign, the DHS offers trainings to law enforcement, first responders, educators, and others to improve detection and investigation of human trafficking, and to protect victims by bringing suspected traffickers to the justice system efficiently.
“The most exciting aspect of the event was the opportunity to share FN’ on the ground concerns about DHS processes and procedures directly with Blue Campaign leaders and underscore our commitment to partnering with them to improve support and safety for survivors.”
The event featured the following break-out sessions, inviting experts like Amy to share their expertise and experiences in collaboration for the success of the Blue Campaign:
- Private Sector Outreach: Expanding collaboration with private sector to focus on prevention
- Law Enforcement Training: Development and targeting of training materials
- Public Awareness: Impacts of the awareness campaign and future plans
- Research and Technology: How to best utilize research and technologies
- Interagency Collaboration: How to best support interagency partners in achieving common goals
In Amy’s attendance of the Law Enforcement training session, she participated with facilitators Scot Santoro and Sharon Peyus of HSI, regarding current training gaps and best practices regarding training methods. Amy was able to share many of the ideas and suggestions that Freedom Network has identified as on-the-ground practices that clearly identify a need for increased training.
Amy notes that while sharing her expertise in the Law Enforcement Training break-out session, there is also much knowledge that Freedom Network can impart in each of the five brainstorming session areas. The policy committee and social services committee are collaborating to create a document for DHS with additional information and recommendations for future success.
The Blue Campaign is a unified effort between various components of DHS including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).
The anniversary event, hosted on July 22, 2015 marked a five-year collective effort to end human trafficking in the United States. The event focused on previous successes, including training of more than 10,000 state, local and campus law enforcement professionals, over 2.000 foreign law enforcement partners and approximately 50,000 airline employees.
Information on human trafficking has been displayed throughout the country through a nationwide awareness campaign in 13 major U.S. airports, on highways, and at large-scale events like the Superbowl. The event not only recognized these successes, but provided opportunity for discussion of next steps and connections for strengthening cross-sector partnerships.
Freedom Network member The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and their Fair Food Program on CBS news on Sunday! Watch the segment below, and connect with the CIW on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word!
About the The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)
The CIW is a worker-led human rights organization and pioneer in the fight to end modern slavery. Creator of the Fair Food Program & the Campaign for Fair Food.
About the Freedom Network
The Freedom Network USA is a network of service providers and advocates fighting all forms of human trafficking in the United States. With over 40 member organizations across the nation, 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. The work of our members is focused on Criminal and Civil Justice Advocacy, Social Justice Advocacy, and Training. The Freedom Network is committed to human rights, empowerment-based approach to combating human trafficking.
Labor trafficking is finally getting media coverage, as a recent New York Times exposé on labor trafficking in New York City nail salons outed illegal practices taking place in majority within the industry.
Freedom Network members Griselda Vega and Shandra Wowonruntu recently contributed to CNN, calling on the need for greater enforcement of current labor laws, as well as establishment of foreign labor recruitment legislation.
A lack of regulation on foreign labor recruitment has perpetuated a system of entrapment and coercion where agencies and employers reign over the lives of workers. These workers are often threatened, blackmailed, or are receiving so little pay that they can barely afford to live, let alone to leave.
Vega recounts that according to the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, the United States has a Tier 1 ranking based on efforts to eradicate human trafficking. But as she implores, this top ranking should not be seen as a success unto itself. Instead, the country must continue to improve in its efforts to eradicate modern slavery, specifically through the support of Congress in implementation of foreign labor recruitment legislation.
This legislation would not only prevent workers from being trafficked across the border into the United States, but also provide support for victims through economic empowerment programs, scholarship programs, and other support services.
Human trafficking survivor and activist Shandra Woworunti, right, with Victims’ Rights Representative Ted Poe and Representative Carolyn Maloney at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol last year.
The Fraudulent Overseas Recruitment and Trafficking Elimination (FORTE) Act (HR 3344) was introduced into the last Congress to address this gap in policy, but it did not pass. The FORTE Act would deter human trafficking by increasing information access to overseas workers regarding prospective jobs, visas and other conditions of work in the United States, as well as requiring registration of foreign labor recruitment agencies at the Department of Labor, while prohibiting recruitment fees paid by workers.
Passage of the FORTE Act, and improve enforcement of human labor trafficking violations is of the utmost importance. As the article states,
‘We should demand no less from a Tier 1 country and a leader in the global battle to end modern slavery.’
Shandra, a survivor of human trafficking and a speaker at this year’s annual Freedom Network Conference, is the founder of Mentari, a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing training and economic empowerment support to victims of human trafficking. Griselda Vega is the Senior Director at the Anti-Trafficking Program at Safe Horizon, an organization that assists more than 250,000 people affected by crime and abuse each year.