Freedom Network USA submitted comments and questions to the Judiciary Committee last week for three nominee confirmation hearings. If approved, these appointees will have a significant impact on how human trafficking is addressed in the United States. Our hope is to collaborate with the incoming administration to build on the momentum that has been created in the fight against exploitation and continue our work to protect the rights of all individuals. Hearings begin this week.
After an exciting year of growth, Freedom Network USA is ushering in the new year by welcoming 15 new associate members. With a wide range of experience in the anti-trafficking movement, the group will help carry Freedom Network USA’s vision and momentum into 2017.
Growth in Numbers and Expertise
Freedom Network USA received an unprecedented number of membership applications in 2016. From these applicants, the new class brings a one-third increase to the existing member base, which now totals 52 members. New members represent a balanced blend of nine organizations and six individuals that further deepen and diversify the expertise of Freedom Network USA. Industries represented include employment law, legal and social service, trauma, academia and public health.
“We extend a warm welcome to all incoming associate members,” said Freedom Network USA Co-Chair Maja Hasic. “This group brings a plethora of expertise on serving survivors and the current state of the anti-trafficking movement. We are excited to delve into 2017 and expect it will be a year of learning and growth for all.”
New Application Process
Along with the organization’s steering committee, Hasic assisted in restructuring Freedom Network USA’s new member application program. In 2016, the organization introduced a streamlined process of accepting applications only from July to October, including a probationary period for new members. Applicants are selected by the steering committee in November, then begin their probationary year in January – debuting as associate members. The year-long phase allows associate members to reflect and decide if they want to commit to being a full-time member. It also gives the organization time to reflect on the partnership..
Freedom Network USA proudly welcomes its new associate members:
- LAF Chicago
- Lifeboat Project
- Legal Aid Society of NYC
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice
- International Institute of Minnesota
- University of Maryland SAFE Center
- YWCA Kalamazoo
- YWCA New Hampshire
- Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center
- Janie Chuang
- Tiffany Williams Goetzinger
- Hanni Stoklasa
- Susie Baldwin
- Elisabet Medina
- Lori Stella
During December 2016, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons (SRT), Ms. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, visited four U.S. cities to meet with government and local officials, civil society and grassroots organizations. These meetings addressed the successful progress and challenges towards developing responses to human trafficking in the U.S. From these visits, the SRT is developing an in-depth report regarding U.S. practices against human trafficking. Freedom Network USA represented a strong attendance of members assisting with coordinating and moderating the SRT’s visits to Washington, D.C. and New York City. Within these meetings, Freedom Network USA members voiced concerns regarding human trafficking in the U.S., which were received with encouragement and acknowledgement from the SRT.
“This was an important opportunity to discuss the challenges the U.S. faces in comprehensively addressing human trafficking,“ said Freedom Network USA Executive Director Jean Bruggeman. “Freedom Network USA was honored to be asked to coordinate the meeting in D.C., as well as have a hand in other meetings around the country.”
In the D.C. meeting on December 6, discussion focused on several points of concern including the lack of comprehensive strategy in addressing labor trafficking, decriminalizing sex work and funding for services and support for survivors of human trafficking. During the meeting, each attendee presented points to the SRT within a four-minute period. From there, discussions expanded to include trafficking and immigration policies and criminalization of youths in the sex industry.
On December 9 and 10, the SRT held meetings in New York City. City Bar Justice Center and Freedom Network USA member Suzanne Tomatore assisted in coordinating this meeting with trafficking and human rights advocates, lawyers and sex workers. “Highlights of the meeting included a robust discussion of inequities in the criminal justice system,” said Tomatore. “It addressed reform that is needed to ensure that people are not treated differently based on their race, gender identity, or state, city or neighborhood they live or work in.”
Following her meetings in New York City and D.C., the SRT traveled to San Francisco, Houston and back to D.C. for a final press conference to report on her trip held today. During today’s press conference, Giammarinaro called for efforts to address the imbalance in attention to labor and sex trafficking, increase the commitment to prevention and to expand access to services for survivors. Her recommendations include increasing enforcement in industries with high likelihood of labor exploitation, protecting immigrants rights, and ending the practice of criminalizing and arresting sex workers. Bruggeman explains it is encouraging to hear that the SRT understood and acknowledged the concerns presented by Freedom Network USA. Based on these recommendations it is clear that these discussions and meetings have provided helpful insight for the SRT’s upcoming thematic report.
To learn more about developments on this topic, visit the US Human Rights Network and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Also, follow Freedom Network USA on Twitter and Facebook.
As the latest in a multiyear effort to target third party online advertisers, CEO of advertising website backpage.com Carl Ferrer was arrested in October on felony charges of pimping a minor and conspiracy to commit pimping. Mixed messaging from law enforcement and media have described this raid as an anti-trafficking effort. However, no one was charged with trafficking offenses.
Freedom Network USA’s Executive Director Jean Bruggeman clarified, “There are no trafficking charges against Ferrer. Although minors have been trafficked on internet sites including Backpage.com, it is not clear that the website operators are able to determine which ads are for trafficking victims and which are for consensual sex workers.”
Pimping and prostitution raids which masquerade as trafficking efforts, but fail to identify or protect any victims, can actually jeopardize sex workers. These efforts create barriers for consensual sex workers seeking income to support themselves and their families. Without access to websites for finding customers and negotiating terms, sex workers are forced into street-based work or reliance on pimps– the very arrangements these raids purport to end.
“This is further marginalizing those who are already marginalized,” said Kate D’Adamo, National Policy Advocate at the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center. “This stunt is a disservice to anti-trafficking work and a waste of the limited federal funding dedicated to anti-trafficking efforts.”
Anti-trafficking organizations agree that law enforcement resources should be used to directly prosecute traffickers.
“To invest the limited dollars we have for trafficking investigations, we must first ask the following questions: Are we making people safer? Are identifying victims? Are we prosecuting the actual traffickers?”, notes Bruggeman. “Any efforts that do not accomplish these three objectives are doing a disservice to trafficking survivors.”
Freedom Network USA had a exceptional year. As 2016 comes to a close we are taking time to reflect on our work and the thousands of survivors served by our members. As the largest anti-trafficking coalition of direct service providers, we know the impact that policies can have on those who experience the most severe forms of labor exploitation. This is why we worked diligently behind the scenes to train hundreds of anti-trafficking professionals and advocate for the most comprehensive laws and regulations to protect the rights of all survivors since 2001.
At such an uncertain time in our country, we invite you to join us in our efforts to support survivors across the country and end human trafficking. Your generous support today will enable us to stand with our partners to stop harmful legislation, protect funding for victim services, and ensure federal agencies continue to protect the rights of all victims of trafficking. Follow this link to learn more about how your tax-deductible donation can help in the fight against human trafficking FN USA Year End Letter.
Human trafficking survivors are often convicted of the various crimes that their traffickers force them to commit during their enslavement. The resulting criminal records present on-going barriers to independence and healing as survivors struggle to obtain employment, and free themselves from the stigma and embarrassment of a criminal record. This issue led to the passage of the New York State Vacating Convictions Law in 2010 – the first of its kind in the United States – stating that if one can successfully connect a survivor’s crimes to their experience with trafficking, a motion can be filed to vacate such Following the passage of this legislation, 23 states have passed similar laws.
Human Trafficking Advocacy from The International Institute of Buffalo
The International Institute of Buffalo (IIB) Survivor Support Services Director Amy Fleischauer has been at the forefront of this issue in Western New York – helping to provide long-term support for survivors in, or locating to, the region. In August 2016, Fleischauer’s staff supported a client while a legal team successfully filed a motion to vacate a prostitution-related crime from the survivor’s record. This was the first case of its kind in Buffalo and a huge step forward for trafficking survivors in the area. The team, including University at Buffalo Law School Family Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic, Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo (LABB) and the Legal Aid Society in New York City, worked diligently to submit an exemplary motion given its precedent-setting status. IIB has identified at least 15 other survivors who may benefit from post-conviction relief, aiming to grow legal partnerships to have similar motions filed on their behalf.
“We discuss this process with survivors from the very beginning and make sure they know that IIB will be supporting them for the long-haul, not just a few days,” explained Fleischauer.
Though vacatur laws have the potential to help many survivors, there are several challenges within the process. Fleischauer explains that some survivors are reticent to engage in this process and utilize this service. After years of involvement with the criminal justice system, as a witness against their trafficker or defendant based on being arrested on trafficking-related crimes, survivors are fatigued, traumatized and cautious of engaging with the justice system again. For most, , this would entails reliving the trauma of their victimization, Fleischauer explains that due to survivors’ skepticism of the service, many do not believe that successfully vacating a long list of convictions is even a possibility. In response, IIB and their legal partners provide intense education around the legislation and the process.
This service also presents the challenge of acquiring a probono or public interest legal team. Attorneys are identified based on their interest, resources, capacity, and preparedness for a time-consuming and sensitive process. Fleischauer explains that the Legal Aid Society in New York City continues to educate local attorneys on this legislation, pinpointing those who are able to take on these challenging, yet life-changing cases across the state and throughout the country.
Despite common challenges, IIB is committed to continue supporting survivors through this process. Fleischauer notes that survivors are enduring the fight for their independence and this legislation is changing that battle drastically. “We’re focused and committed to the persistence of evaluating survivors’ long-term needs. We continue to be proactive and constantly assess our clients for safety and stability,” she said.
On June 30, as part of the US Government’s ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking, the US State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The Report is an important barometer that provides global insights and evaluates countries’ efforts to combat human trafficking in terms of protection, prevention, prosecution, and partnerships.
The 2016 report cites several victories that show great improvement in the US approach to human trafficking. The government enhanced outreach and training programs, increased engagement with survivors, and bolstered policies on human trafficking. One example is the enactment of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which eliminated an exception of allowing imports into the US of goods produced by forced labor. The report also noted that adult survivors of human trafficking are no longer required to cooperate with law enforcement, as forced collaboration could be negative and detrimental to their development progress. As of March 2016, adult survivors can now choose when or if they work with law enforcement.
Despite the year’s numerous successes, many areas still need improvement. Report findings indicate that the US Government disproportionately focuses on sex trafficking cases – with prosecution of labor trafficking cases decreasing from eight percent in 2014 to two percent in 2015. This is symptomatic of a broader issue where the focus on sex trafficking far exceeds that on labor trafficking. Freedom Network USA aims to change this, advocating that all survivors of human trafficking deserve justice.
The report also cites the low utilization of Continued Presence (CP) for human trafficking survivors. This form of immigration relief gives foreign national survivors benefits and temporary status to live and work legally in the US while the trafficking investigation or prosecution proceeds. This was implemented to bridge the gap for survivors who leave a trafficking situation and apply for immigration support, such as a T-Visa. Freedom Network USA will continue to advocate for more oversight and consistent implementation efforts.
Overall, the TIP Report is an important window into global progress and setbacks in eradicating human trafficking. Freedom Network USA Policy Committee Co-Chair Erin Albright explains that Freedom Network USA can tailor its advocacy efforts to specific agencies and move forward on working towards enhancing problem areas from the TIP Report. “It provides a good springboard for our advocacy efforts because it highlights what has been done over the year, as well as what areas need work,” she said. The Freedom Network USA has submitted a brief written response to the State Department, which can be accessed here.
To learn more, contact Freedom Network USA National Coordinator Melinda Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
With a successful career dedicated to ending human trafficking, Susan French is an advocate for strategic victim-centered prosecutions. French is a human trafficking civil attorney and expert, formerly a federal prosecutor for 14 years with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). During the early 2000s, she worked as a prosecutor in the United States v. Kil Soo Lee – the largest human trafficking case ever prosecuted by the DOJ. Now, 15 years later, individuals who worked on this case and survivors reunited in Hawaii to commemorate their escape from their oppressive situation. This massive undertaking changed how human trafficking is addressed in the U.S. The following is a recap of the landmark case and French’s involvement.
United States v. Kil Soo Lee
Beginning in late 1998 in American Samoa, former owner of the Daewoosa garment factory, Kil Soo Lee, was recruiting workers from China and Vietnam to pay between $3500-$7000 in exchange for employment. Approximately 250 employees were hired to work in poor conditions with minimal pay and food. In the following months, the laborers worked long hours and were subjected by Lee to countless acts of abuse, confiscation of their documents, and actual restraint in the factory compound where they lived and worked. On November 28, 2000, the oppressive exploitation culminated with Lee directing the Samoan factory workers to beat the Vietnamese and Chinese workers stating that if anyone died “no problem.” A 20 year old Vietnamese woman was beaten so badly that she lost an eye. The High Court of American Samoa removed Lee from the factory in November 2000, yet the workers remained with no money or means to leave. The DOJ soon interceded, prompting French and her team to travel to American Samoa to facilitate emergency services for the victims and to set up an exit plan.
French describes the early stages of the investigation as challenging and extremely demanding. With no money to transport the victims off the island, she and DOJ prosecutors coordinated with U.S.-based nonprofits and Vietnamese churches that provided plane tickets and sponsors for victims. Of the 250 victims, 206 were provided immigration relief and sponsors in the U.S. This included 16 who had been deported to Vietnam as a result of Lee’s actions but brought back to the U.S. for trial and provided immigration relief and allowed to stay. FBI agents and the federal prosecution team traveled around the U.S. to conduct full interviews with the 206 survivors. Approximately 16 testified at the federal jury trial in Honolulu.
The case lasted nearly two years, including a four-month jury trial . Lee was charged with compelling the work and services of approximately 250 Vietnamese and Chinese garment workers through threats of force and the actual use of force under the involuntary servitude statute in addition to multiple other criminal violations.. In 2003, Lee was found guilty on most all counts and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Two co-conspirators pled guilty, cooperated, and also served time.
French expressed that the case did not end with the verdict. This investigation put the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 to the test. The legislation criminalized human trafficking in the U.S. and is dedicated to restitution, covering unpaid wages, value of work provided and medical costs. French, along with the DOJ and agents working on this investigation, continued to reach out to survivors – doing everything in their power to ensure they had the resources enabling them to move on.
Susan participated in the reunion last week and reported, “The reunion was a celebration. I loved that although some of the Hawaii organizers said dress casually, everyone was dressed up. I believe the reason is we want to present at our best for our friends. That is how I see this group – proud, dignified, speakers of the truth who knew they were being wronged and decided to speak up. When they tell me thank you for all you have done and all that you have made possible for me and my children, I simply say it is you who honor me and those who have known you because you each have made change possible in your own lives.”
For more information on victim-centered prosecutions, read Susan’s article in the most recent publication of the Anti-Trafficking Review.
The Freedom Network USA is offering a practical 4-part training and technical assistance series to case managers and social workers working with trafficking survivors. The series will provide an overview of trauma-informed care and explore areas for implementation throughout the service delivery cycle.
Trauma-informed services are those in which every aspect of direct service delivery, as well as the formal organizational policies and informal organizational practices that affect that direct work, are influenced by an understanding of the impact that past and current trauma has on a client’s experience of services. It follows that a client’s approach to services significantly influences their investment in, commitment to, and goals achieved throughout service delivery.
This webinar is made possible by OVC TTAC. More information on the schedule, presenters and individual session topics can be found here.