Freedom Network Supports Farmworker Awareness Week

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Freedom Network USA is proud to support Farmworkers Awareness Week and all member organizations that work tirelessly to defend the rights of laborers.

Courtesy of Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF)

Farmworkers feed the world- 85% of our fruits and vegetables are handpicked. There are an estimated 2-3 million men, women, and children work in the fields in the United States. Farms are in every state, including yours, yet farmworkers remain largely invisible and continue to live and work in horrific conditions.  We demand dignity for farmworkers!

Farm work is the third most dangerous job in the United States. The people who plant and harvest our fruits and vegetables suffer from the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries of any other workers in the nation and have higher incidences of heat stress, dermatitis, urinary tract infections, parasitic infections, and tuberculosis than other wage-earners.  

Farmworkers are treated differently under the law. Overtime, unemployment insurance, and even protection when joining a union are not guaranteed under federal law. Farmworkers were excluded from almost all major federal laws passed in the 1930s. The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1978 to mandate minimum wage for farmworkers on large farms only and it still has not made provisions for overtime.  We demand just living and working conditions for farmworkers and an end to unfair treatment under the law.

Let’s do something about it together to honor the critical contributions that farmworkers make.  

For more information about these issues, visit the SAF website.

Freedom Network will present on labor trafficking and other related issues at this year’s annual conference held April 21-22 in Washington D.C.

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5 Things You Can Do Today To Stop Human Trafficking

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Freedom Network member organization CAST LA has shared five ways to get involved in the fight against human trafficking.  These tips can be applied to CAST LA or any local FN member organization working on the front lines of ending human trafficking. To find a local FN member organization to support, click here.

FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY TO STOP HUMAN TRAFFICKING:

1. Donate

CAST offers our services for free. So any amount you donate will help survivors of modern-day slavery rebuild their lives.

2. Volunteer

Whether you are a professional with expertise in working with trafficking victims, or you just want to be part of the solution, CAST wants to get you involved!

3. Organize

Grow the movement to end modern-day slavery! CAST can help you use your expertise to organize fund raising events, and start your own community or university anti-trafficking group.

4. Start a Chain Store Reaction

As a consumer, you have the power to support fair trade products. Send an email to your favorite brands demanding a guarantee that their products are slave free.

5. Report a Crime

If you suspect a case of human trafficking, don’t put yourself and others in danger by intervening on the spot. Call the professionals!

Image Credit: [Thomas Leuthard]

13th Annual Freedom Network Conference Agenda

The agenda for the 13th Freedom Network Conference has been released.  “TVPA: Past, Present & Future: Elevating the Human in Human Trafficking,” is a two day, advanced anti-trafficking conference that will be taking place April 21st and 22nd in Washington, DC.  The official agenda can be found here.  Registration is still open and can be accessed here. Conference Badge

Freedom Network USA to Hire Director!

We are proud to announce that we are now accepting applications for a Freedom Network Director!  The full job description can be found here.  Please send cover letter and resume as a single document to freedomnetwork@iibuff.org with “Freedom Network Director” in the subject line.

 

Exciting Workshop Announced for the Law Enforcement Track

This year’s Freedom Network Conference, “TVPA: Past, Present, and Future: Elevating the Human in Human Trafficking,” will include a track dedicated solely to law enforcement.  As in previous years, this track will include content and interactive workshops that focus on unique ways law enforcement and service providers can overcome challenges to prosecuting human trafficking cases. Leading the discussion in the first session of the track are two experts from the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (Theresa Segovia and Daniel Weiss) and Detective Megan Bruneau from Homeland Security Investigations based in Seattle. They will discuss the intricacies involved in investigating human trafficking cases including engaging survivors in interviews, unique and successful approaches to contacting alleged human traffickers and evidence collection, and experiences that taught us what does not work.  Read on to learn more about the speakers.  Registration is still open and can be found here.


Theresa Segovia, National Program Manager, Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice. Theresa Segovia is the National Program Manager for the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, within the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice for the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.  Previously, she was the investigator for the Unit, and held collateral duty as the victim-witness specialist for the Criminal Section.  In addition to coordinating investigative efforts for cases involving sex trafficking and forced labor throughout the United States, Ms. Segovia also provides training for law enforcement and NGOs on human trafficking policy, best practices and trends.  She is the liaison to the federally funded human trafficking task forces, and serves on numerous federal anti-trafficking working groups, including the inter-agency committee responsible for the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States.   Before joining DOJ, Ms. Segovia spent eleven years with the Houston Police Department, working first as a senior trainer at the Police Academy, then as a criminal intelligence analyst, in HPD’s Planning and Research Section.   While in Houston, Ms. Segovia served on the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and represented the Department on several anti-human trafficking coalitions, including the Houston Chapter of Rescue and Restore and the Coalition Against Human Trafficking.


Megan Bruneau, Detective, Seattle Police Department, VICE/High Risk Victims Unit – Human Trafficking; Task Force Officer – Homeland Security Investigations – Seattle. Detective Megan Bruneau has been with the Seattle Police Department for over 15 years. She has been assigned as SPD’s Human Trafficking Detective for 4 years and is a Task Force Officer with Homeland Security Investigations (Seattle office). Megan is dedicated to a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach to human trafficking cases and works to bring creativity and diligence to all investigations. This has allowed her to develop excellent relationships with fellow investigators, prosecutors, and NGO service providers. Megan has provided professional training on human trafficking investigations to law enforcement agencies locally, nationally, and internationally at the request of the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and other law enforcement agencies. As a patrol officer Megan worked in downtown Seattle and assisted the VICE/High Risk Victims Unit, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Unit, multiple precinct Anti-Crime Team (ACT) Units, and the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force (CETF) on various operations. Prior to becoming a sworn police officer in 2006, Megan spent her first five years with SPD as a civilian employee with the Victim Support Team (VST), an on-scene crisis intervention advocacy program for domestic violence victims and their children. After starting as a volunteer and working in the office through the AmeriCorps program, Megan became the VST Supervisor from 2003 to 2005. Megan is a graduate of the University of Washington.


Daniel Weiss, Senior Trial Attorney, Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice. Daniel H. Weiss is a Senior Trial Attorney in the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit of the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.  Mr. Weiss is a federal prosecutor who focuses on forced labor and sex trafficking prosecutions.  Mr. Weiss has prosecuted cases throughout the United States and has received numerous awards from the Department of Justice, including three special commendations from the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.  Mr. Weiss is a frequent presenter at civil rights conferences and has trained prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officers in the United States and abroad on the victim-centered approach to human trafficking investigation and prosecution.  Mr. Weiss graduated with honors from the University of Maryland School of Law and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Federal Jury Awards $14 Million to Indian Workers

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Freedom Network partner Southern Poverty Law Center was part of a successful case that awarded $14 million in punitive and compensatory damages to Indian workers of a Gulf Coast marine services company.  These workers were found to be lured by an immigration lawyer and an Indian labor recruiter to work in a Mississippi shipyard with false hopes of attaining U.S. residency.

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The men were hired in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and paid high fees to obtain the jobs initially.  Upon arrival, the company, Signal, forced each person to pay $1050 per month to live in a cramped, isolated labor camp.  None of the non-indian workers for the company were required to live in these conditions.

This incident is a step forward in guest workers’ rights, and shows that this type of treatment will not be tolerated and is absolutely will in fact be prosecuted with success.

For more information on this case, follow this link to SPLC’s website.

*The SPLC’s co-counsel in this case are Crowell & Moring, LLP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sahn Ward Coschignano & Baker, and the Louisiana Justice Institute.

To get involved in the flight against human trafficking, please join Freedom Network USA at their 13th annual conference in Washington D.C. on April 21 and 22.

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Worker Justice Center of New York fights for Workers Stolen Wages

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Freedom Network member organization Worker Justice Center of New York was successful in efforts to receive legal compensation for wages on behalf of worker Marco Lino.  Lino worked at a Queens greenmarket and was owed and awarded $51,025.20 in unpaid wages.  Lino and 34 other workers at three restaurants in Upper Manhattan were found to be owed $385,364.34 in unpaid wages from one ownership.  Yet, none of the workers have collected on their awards.  20ABOUT-superJumbo

While these rulings are a positive step forward, the actual collection of unpaid wages is still an arduous process for workers.  While legal documentation is helpful, owners have been known to move assets and to hide money to prevent payment and retribution. For more information about this case, read this article in the New York Times.

To learn more about this issue, please join five Freedom Network members in Civil Litigation Roundtable panel discussion at the 13th Annual Freedom Network Conference as they discuss strategies and benefits to pursing civil damages for human trafficking survivors.  For more information on the featured roundtable, click here.

Civil Litigation Roundtable Workshop Announced for Conference

We are happy to announce another exciting panel for the 13th Annual Freedom Network Conference.  Please join five Freedom Network members as they discuss strategies and benefits to pursing civil damages for human trafficking survivors. Conference Badge

Workshop Abstract: Since 2003, trafficking victims have been able to sue their traffickers in federal court for damages.  Sadly, in the twelve years since passage of this civil remedy, trafficking victims have filed just 147 cases.  As the Urban Institute report points out, almost all of those cases are for forced labor.  In 2008, Congress expanded the civil litigation law to permit lawsuits against those who knowingly benefit financially from trafficking.  Only a tiny handful of trafficking suits have used this theory.

The Civil Litigation Roundtable will bring together lawyers and victim advocates to discuss the benefits of civil litigation and efforts to make civil litigation more accessible to trafficking survivors.  Topics to be covered include: recent successful cases, possible damages awards, working with pro bono attorneys, expert witnesses, and best practices for supporting survivors engaged in litigation.  This roundtable provides an opportunity for cross-cutting communication between some of the country’s most experienced trafficking litigators and leading victim advocates to discuss the benefits and challenges of trafficking litigation.

To register for the 13th Annual Freedom Network Conference click here.  Check back for more updates on the agenda, speakers, and Conference event

Criminal Re-Entry Work Workshop Announced for Conference

The Freedom Network is pleased to announce the Criminal Re-Entry workshop, an offering  in the Civil Legal track at this year’s Freedom Network Conference.  The workshop will be facilitated by Freedom Network Co-Chair, Ivy Suriyopas, and will be include distinguished presenters Nadia Vali and Jessica Emerson.

Presenter Bios:

Nadia Vali

Ms. Vali is a Staff Attorney for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.  Ms. Vali is in charge of the U.S. Citizen program serving domestic survivors of human trafficking with criminal and civil relief.  She has been working in anti-trafficking work for eight years.

Ms. Vali has consulted for the United Nations, The Special Court for Sierra Leone, War Crimes Prosecution Watch, the Zimbabwe Women Lawyer’s Association, and the State Human Rights Commission of India.  Prior to this, she worked in state politics for an Assembly member in the California Legislature.

Ms. Vali is the recipient of the Cox Center for International Law Award and the Emmerich de Vattel Human Rights Law Award.  Ms. Vali was selected for the Klatsky Human Rights Watch Fellowship in New York in which she assisted in the publication of Unbearable Pain: India’s Obligation to Ensure Palliative Care, 2009, Health and Human Rights, Human Rights Watch.

Prior to joining CAST, Ms. Vali practiced law in the Northern Mariana Islands where she represented survivors of human trafficking with immigration, criminal, and civil relief.  Ms. Vali is a member of the bar in California and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Jessica Emerson

Headshot - Jessica Emerson small Jessica Emerson is a staff attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Women’s Law
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.  In September of 2013 she began the innovative Trafficking Victims Post-Conviction Advocacy Project, which focuses on implementation of a 2011 Maryland law allowing survivors of sex trafficking to vacate their prostitution convictions, thereby reducing barriers to safe housing and employment.  She is a member of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, and co-chairs the group’s Legislative Subcommittee, where she partners with legislators and other advocates to determine changes that would improve Maryland’s human trafficking laws.

Jessica is a 2013 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law.  Prior to attending law school, Jessica was a social worker at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York City, where she provided intensive individual mental health counseling and case management services to HIV-positive and sexually high-risk adolescents, as well as group counseling and HIV testing services to adolescent survivors of domestic sex trafficking and LGBTQ youth at partnering community agencies.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Rhode Island, and her Master of Science in Social Work degree from Columbia University, with a focus on health, mental health, and disabilities.  She is a barred attorney in Maryland and a licensed social worker in New York State.

 

New Orleans makes “Historic Verdict” in Human Trafficking of Workers

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Southern Poverty Law Center and Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AAALDEF), both Freedom Network partners, were successful in winning a landmark case against human trafficking in New Orleans this week.  The lawsuit was filed against a shipbuilding company, Signal International Shipyard, located in Pascagoula, Miss.  This has been named a ‘historic verdict’ in the field of human trafficking.

The five plaintiffs, skilled labor worker who were recruited from India, were brought to the U.S. under recruiters’ false promises of green cards and U.S. residency.  Upon arrival, the men were instead made to live in cramped “man camps” near the shipyard, and could not take other jobs in the U.S., faced with debt as the threat of leaving their position.

The jury awarded nearly $5 million in compensatory damages and another $9 million in punitive damages against Signal specifically.

Read more about the case here.

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