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
Center of Maryland
.  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



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.

International Organization for Adolescents presents at TedxAlbany



The International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA), a Freedom Network member organization, partnered with the New York Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) in December 2014 to bring a creative presentation to the TEDxAlbany audience. This TED talk was independently organized and hosted at the Overit Creative Agency, and IOFA Project Director Madeline Hannan was proud to share her experiences of working in a group home in New York City and how it inspired her to become involved in the fight against child trafficking. The partnership between IOFA and OCFS encourages a long-term strategy to guide welfare professionals in establishing effective statewide action against child trafficking through the ChildRight New York program.

For more information and video of the conference, visit TedxAlbany here.


Database Established: Legal Advocacy Resources for Human Trafficking Victims

Freedom Network member organization Advocating Opportunity has aligned with various expert organizations in justice and law to form the national Vacatur & Expungement Database.  Advocating Opportunity provides legal services and whole person advocacy for human trafficking victims.


The database provides a centralized resource for attorneys and advocates assisting trafficking victims seeking to vacate criminal convictions for crimes they were forced to commit.

In the past eight years, more than half of the states in the U.S. have adopted laws allowing trafficking victims to vacate or expunge convictions arising from trafficking. The Vacatur & Expungement Database includes cases, articles, redacted court documents, redacted briefs, and news reports pertaining to these laws.

The database encourages submission of relevant materials, including redacted court documents and briefs, to the database.  Please contact Alexandra Levy at to submit materials or with any questions.

Access the original post on Advocating Opportunity’s website.

FN Member Org Safe Horizon Contributes to Huff Post


Ariel Zwang, the CEO of Freedom Network member organization Safe Horizon, has become a regular contributor to the HuffPost media site, sharing her expertise on human trafficking initiatives.  Her most recently published article is entitled In Counting the Homeless This Week, Let’s Count Youth Who Exchange Sex for Shelter.

The article examines the issue of New York City homeless documentation through the nationally coordinated Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, and the increased effort to locate and count homeless youth where they are hanging out, whether at a local store or daytime shelter drop-in center.  More specifically, it addresses the unfortunate neglect in accounting for youth who are couchsurfing or are trading sex for a safe place to sleep (survival sex) in the PIT Count.

Zwang and the Safe Horizon organization are concerned that the final tally of homeless youth will be artificially low, because of the inability to access youth who engage in survival sex, keeping them off the streets but without autonomy or adequate resources.

According to a January 2014 survey, there was an estimated 7,000 homeless youth between the ages of 18 and 24 years old.  Approximately one in four homeless youth is either a victim of human trafficking or engage in survival sex.

About this issue, Zwang writes the following: unnamed

Essentially, sleeping in any home, on a night when they would have been counted, disqualifies a youth from being homeless in the nation’s main estimation of homelessness.

The very regrettable decision comes at a decisive moment in the history of homelessness in the United States, as the federal government aims to end youth homelessness by the year 2020.  With substantial effort, this is an attainable goal.  But we can’t end youth homelessness if we choose to ignore some of our city and nation’s most vulnerable young people.

Continue reading the article on the Safe Horizon website.

Another Panel Announced for the Freedom Network Conference.

We are happy to introduce a sneak peek of another fantastic panel to be featured at the 13th Annual Freedom Network Conference.  These distinguished speakers will be presenting on the intersections between sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking; including discussion around best practices for providers, investigators, and prosecutors.  Register today!

SusSusan French Head shotan French is the Senior Staff Attorney at the International Human Rights Clinic, Anti- Trafficking Project of the George Washington University Law School.  In this role, she investigates and develops labor trafficking cases for civil litigation; prepares and presents human trafficking curriculum for clinic law students; leads human trafficking student team in civil case development, and presents to foreign delegations at training programs and conferences.

Previously, she has served as the Senior Special Counsel and Trial Attorney for Human Trafficking for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), where she investigated and prosecuted labor and sex human trafficking cases on behalf of the United States throughout the 50 states, territories, and possessions. She has also served as a Trial Attorney for the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ. In this position, she investigated and prosecuted hate crime and excessive force cases, in addition to human trafficking cases, on behalf of the United States.

Prior positions include: Assistant Commonwealth Attorney and Special Prosecutor, Winchester, VA; Supervisory Attorney for the Coordination and Review Section, Civil Rights Division U.S. DOJ; Attorney, Presidential Task Force on Sex Discrimination, U.S. DOJ; Attorney of private practice in Newport News, VA, with an emphasis on employment and housing discrimination, and disability rights. Ms. French has also instructed at universities, and trained and presented at many international and national conferences and panels. She has received numerous awards, including the Civil Rights Division Special Achievement Awards. She is a past recipient of the Freedom Network’s  Paul and Sheila Wellstone award.

Nguyen_Khahn head shotKhanh T. Nguyen, Esq. is a Senior Staff Attorney and Interim Supervising Attorney of the East Bay Office at the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO), a community-based legal services agency that provides holistic and comprehensive legal services to underserved communities.  Her practice involves representation of domestic violence and human trafficking survivors in a range of legal issues and their intersections, including human trafficking, immigration law, family law, domestic violence, and advocacy during criminal proceedings.  Khanh co-directs the Anti-Trafficking Project at APILO, and also coordinates the East Bay Naturalization Collaborative, a network of immigration service providers promoting citizenship and comprehensive immigration reform.  Khanh has also worked in the Philippines advocating for the resettlement of stateless Vietnamese refugees.  Khanh is an alumnus of Temple University Beasley School of Law and the University of California, Irvine.  She is also state certified as a mediator and domestic violence counselor.

Founding Members Honor CIW at White House Forum

Freedom Network founding members, Florrie Burke (FB Consulting), Laura Germino (CIW), and Maria Jose Fletcher (VIDA Legal Assistance) at the White House Forum

Freedom Network founding members, Florrie Burke (FB Consulting), Laura Germino (CIW), and Maria Jose Fletcher (VIDA Legal Assistance) at the White House Forum.

To close out Human Trafficking Awareness month, the White House held a Forum on Combating Human Trafficking in Supply Chains. This event brought together leaders from the private sector, NGOs and the federal government to discuss federal contracts, private supply chains and the commitment to the Administration’s focus on human trafficking issues in supply chains. Recently, President Obama said, “ there is a need to keep striving to protect the rights of our workers to make sure that our supply chains are sourced responsibly.”

Secretary Kerry opened the program with a speech that can be found on the DOS website. The most exciting moment of the day was when he said “For its extraordinary efforts to combat human trafficking by pioneering the Fair Food Program. Empowering agricultural workers, and leveraging market forces and consumer awareness to promote supply chain transparency and eradicate modern slavery on participating farms, we award this Presidential Medal 2015 to the CIW.”

Secretary Kerry went on to say, “They’ve helped uncover and investigate several farm slavery operations across the southeastern United States. I hope everybody hears that: farm slavery operations across the southeastern United States. Over the past 15 years, 9 major investigations and federal prosecutions have freed more than 1,200 Florida farmworkers from captivity and forced labor, with the coalition playing a key part in the 7 of those operations. And the Coalition has effectively eradicated human trafficking in the farms that participate in their Fair Food Program.”

White House Forum Program

The first panel featured Private Sector companies. I was most impressed with strategies for looking at supply chains as reported by Patagonia and HP. They reported on their social responsibility programs, audits, payment issues and the challenges of enforcement.

The second panel was a Case Study on Effective Partnerships to Combat Human Trafficking and featured the CIW and their team of Fair Food Program partners. Greg Asbed, a founder of CIW gave the most stirring, provocative speech of the day. Because it is something we all need to read, I print it here in its entirety.

“So, imagine for a moment that we had come together not for the White House Forum on Human Trafficking but for the White House Forum on the Fight against Cancer.
We all know someone with cancer. It is a fight that touches all of us, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our friends and colleagues. Because the stakes are so high, and because the pain is all around us, failure in the fight against cancer is not an option. And because we cannot afford to fail, we do what we do when we take a fight seriously – we invest significant resources in it, we establish strict protocols and standards of evaluation to distinguish effective treatments from those that don’t work, and we implement those cures that do work as widely and with as much discipline as possible. Charlatans exist in the fight against cancer, but only where cures have not yet been found. Where an effective approach has been proven through the scientific method to work better than snake oil, the effective approach is accepted and applied by all reasonable people.

Let’s return now to the fight against forced labor and for fundamental human rights in corporate supply chains. Sadly, failure in this field has not just been an option, but rather, if we are to be honest with ourselves, it has been the norm, and success an all too rare exception. We failed for years to fight modern-day slavery in Florida’s fields, we failed horribly to fight factory fires and building collapses in Bangladesh, and we continue to fail to fight child labor, debt bondage and violence against workers in Mexico’s produce fields, just to name a few glaring examples.

But, as you have just heard, we do, finally, have a proven success story not just to celebrate, but to replicate, and it was designed by workers themselves, the very workers whose wages were stolen for generations, whose bodies were violated by their bosses, who were forced, by violence or the threat of violence, to work against their will. For the workers in Immokalee whose struggle gave birth to the Fair Food Program, the pain – like that of the fight against cancer – was all around them, and failure was never an option, so they constructed a system of education, monitoring, and enforcement so airtight that it was virtually guaranteed to succeed.

And that is perhaps the fundamental lesson that we should all take away from the success of the Fair Food Program: If we are to end modern-day slavery, factory fires, and rape in the fields, then we must start treating the fight for fundamental human rights like we do the fight against cancer — stop accepting failure and start applying real rigor to our social responsibility efforts. That means establishing strict standards of evaluation to distinguish effective practices from those that don’t work, investing in the success of those that do, and implementing those proven approaches as widely and with as much discipline as possible. And to do all that effectively, we must acknowledge that workers themselves have to play a leading role in the protection of their own rights, not as a matter of philosophy, but as a functional necessity.

If we do this, then we will not just fight forced labor, we will eliminate it. We have the proof, and out of the very same laboratory dubbed “ground zero for modern-day slavery” by federal prosecutors just a few years ago. With the Fair Food Program, and in partnership with growers like Jon and corporate leaders like Cheryl, we have eliminated, not just addressed, forced labor, sexual assault, and violence against workers in Florida’s tomato industry. And when lesser but still vexing violations like wage theft or health and safety problems occur, there is a system in place to address them quickly and effectively before they become more serious. We conceived a theory of change, we tested that theory against experiment, and the results are not just encouraging, but frankly astounding. After four years, it is even safe to say that we have a cure to the age-old epidemic of farm labor exploitation.
We have traveled the road from prosecution to prevention, and we can tell you that prevention – a world without victims – is infinitely preferable, for all of us, workers, growers, and buyers alike.

But we should not fool ourselves. If we do this, if we undertake to implement worker-driven social responsibility widely and effectively, it will not be fast, and it will not be free. It will take time and resources. But we have failed, collectively failed, to combat modern-day slavery and other gross human rights violations for generations already, all the while throwing away money in salaries and consulting fees fighting the public relations crises caused by the unrelenting human rights violations. The failure of the traditional CSR approach has many, many externalities, the value of which, when accounted for accurately, would easily fund the implementation of the WSR approach.

The CIW delegation was joined at the White House forum by several of its partners in the Fair Food Program. Picture from left to right: Jon Esformes(Operating Partner, Pacific Tomato Growers), Catalina Ramirez (CIW), Lucas Benitez (CIW), Cheryl Queen (VP, Communications, Compass Group), Laura Germino (CIW), Judge Laura Safer Espinoza (Fair Food Standards Council), and Greg Asbed (CIW).

The CIW delegation was joined at the White House forum by several of its partners in the Fair Food Program. Picture from left to right: Jon Esformes(Operating Partner, Pacific Tomato Growers), Catalina Ramirez (CIW), Lucas Benitez (CIW), Cheryl Queen (VP, Communications, Compass Group), Laura Germino (CIW), Judge Laura Safer Espinoza (Fair Food Standards Council), and Greg Asbed (CIW).

So we have time, and we have money, to lead this fight, and if we direct those precious resources toward their place of highest return – toward support of the proven WSR model and the verifiable protection of human rights and not the support of the failed CSR model and the management of public relations crises – then we can, together, wipe the cancer of forced labor from the face of the earth in our lifetimes.
The CIW’s Fair Food Program and Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) model have transformed Florida’s $650 million tomato industry. The program is the gold standard for human rights in the fields today, including: worker-to-worker education on rights, a 24-hour complaint line and an effective complaint investigation and resolution process — all backed by market consequences for employers who refuse to respect their workers’ rights.

It was an exciting morning-my favorite take away line was- Why should we do this? Because it works. Worker-driven social responsibility does work!

This post was authored by founding member and Chair Emeritus of the Freedom Network, Florrie Burke.

First of Panel Speakers Announced!

We are happy to announce the first of a long list of experts who will be speaking at the 13th Annual Freedom Network Conference in Washington, DC.  Stay tuned for more announcements in the coming weeks!

SuzanSuzanne Tomotore Head Shotne Tomatore, Esq. is the Director of the Immigrant Women and Children Project at the New York City Bar Association’s City Bar Justice Center.  Ms. Tomatore represents survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, child abuse and gender-based crimes in immigration matters and trains and mentors other attorneys to do so.  She has trained community-based organizations, health-care providers, law enforcement and government officials, including international delegates from the U.S. Department of State International Visitors Program, on human trafficking.  She has lectured on this topic across the United States and abroad, including Canada, Venezuela, Mongolia and the Philippines.

Ms. Tomatore has participated in international delegations at the request at the U.S. Department of State to Warsaw and Brussels. She was the co-chair of the Freedom Network, a coalition of thirty-five non-governmental organizations and individuals that provide services to, and advocate for the rights of, trafficking survivors in the United States from 2011-2013. She currently sits on the Freedom Network’s Steering Committee. She is an active participant of multiple anti-trafficking task forces including the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Human Trafficking Task Force. She is a founding member of the New York Anti-trafficking Network.

Ms. Tomatore was an instructor in immigration law at the City University of New York Graduate Center School of Professional Studies and she currently is a regular trainer at the New York Immigration Coalition. Prior to joining the City Bar, Ms. Tomatore was a recipient of the Open Society Institute Community Fellowship for implementing and directing the Immigrant Community Domestic Violence Project, hosted by CUNY School of Law Immigrant Initiatives in New York City.

Juhu ThukraJuhu Thukral Head shotl is a leading advocate on the rights of women, girls, and LGBTQ people in the areas of sexual health and rights, gender-based violence, economic opportunity, and criminal justice. She is a founder of numerous ventures supporting women and LGBTQ people, and has been recognized as one of 21 Leaders for the 21st Century (2012) by Women’s eNews, a 2013 Trailblazer by Re:Gender, and an Everyday Shero by NAPAWF. Juhu was also selected to give the inaugural talk for the Anita Hill Lecture Series.

Juhu is the Director of Law and Advocacy at The Opportunity Agenda, where she is on the senior management team and leads strategic communications and policy initiatives on economic, immigrant, and gender and sexuality concerns. Prior to this, Juhu was the founder and Director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York City, where she continues to act as a Senior Advisor. She founded the Sex Workers Project in 2001, after recognizing the strong need for an organization that protects the legal and human rights of sex workers. Juhu is also a founding Steering Committee member of the NY Anti-Trafficking Network. In 2010, she co-founded the NYYC Women’s Salon.

Juhu has spoken widely on issues of gender, sexuality, and human rights; has authored numerous articles on these subjects; and has served as an expert source for a wide range of media outlets.

She obtained her J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she was awarded the Elaine Osborne Jacobson Award for Women in Health Care Law, and her B.A. from Rice University. You can follow her at


Last Chance for Early Bird Rate for the 13th Annual Conference

This is the last chance to register at the early bird rate for the 13th Annual Freedom Network Conference.  This year’s conference entitled, “TVPA Past, Present & Future: Elevating the “Human” in Human Trafficking,” will reflect on the successes of the past in the anti-trafficking field, current trends and issues, and work to devise recommendations for the future work. We aim to incorporate the values of the Freedom Network and the vision that makes us a unique voice within the anti-trafficking movement. The Conference will be held in Washington DC on April 21st and 22nd.  Register now to receive the best rate!  Time is running out….REGISTER TODAY!

CIW accepts Presidential Award

IMG_0551Freedom Network member, Coalition of Immokalee Workers accepted the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts To Combating Trafficking in Persons today.  Secretary of State, John Kerry, presented the organization the award at the White House Forum on Combating Human Trafficking in Supply Chains. This is the third consecutive year that a Freedom Network member has received the honor. Congratulations to CIW for on this amazing recognition.  The members of the Freedom Network are proud to call you colleagues and are inspired by the tireless work you do every day to advocate for the rights of survivors!  You can read the transcript of Secretary Kerry’s remarks here.
CIW Presidential Award IMG_0514 (2)

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