Concerned Citizens Take a Stand Against Human Trafficking in Cancun, Mexico

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Human trafficking is the third most lucrative crime on the planet.  Thriving not just in the shadows of third-world countries, but in plain sight in some of the wealthiest nations in the world.

Mexico is the number one supplier of trafficked victims globally.  And Cancun, a city which took in over five million visitors last year, ranks third in the country as a supplier of sex slaves to the United States, Europe, and Canada.  It’s considered a “transient” drop off for victims.

And while human trafficking is a federal crime in Mexico, it’s one that typically goes unpunished for a variety of reasons; corrupt police who look the other way, anti-trafficking laws caught in the tangles of red tape, and journalists who fail to report on the issue.  Either because of confusion of its definition, or fear of exposing the powerful people who continue to profit from it.

But there are those making a difference in Mexico.  Concerned citizens determined to save lives by fighting on the front lines every day.  Making themselves visible so others won’t disappear.

We met four such people while on assignment in Cancun.

Veronica Fajardo 

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Veronica Fajardo

A light rain was falling as we sat in the corner of a small, unremarkable café half-an-hour west of touristy Cancun.   Drinking our lukewarm coffee, we waited for Veronica Farjardo, a local journalist, who despite threats from profiteers and road blocks from her editors, continues to write trafficking and social interest stories for Novedades de Quintana Roo.  We met over the phone the evening before.  The concierge at the hotel helped us contact her newspaper.  And as luck would have it, Mrs. Fajardo answered the phone.

Stepping through the door, Veronica shook her umbrella dry and wiped her feet.  She spotted us immediately and made her way over for proper introductions.

We had a long list of questions.  And before we could start checking the boxes, Veronica began dishing out details in areas we were more than happy to have first-hand knowledge of.   The under-the-radar intricacies of how these crimes continue to thrive; local brothels disguised as massage parlors, and web sites allowing access for those “in the know” to trafficking victims.

“There are fake on-line travel agencies.”  She told us.  “Agencies where you can buy packages and get connected to luxury resorts offering ‘special services.’”

The “special services” she referenced were photobooks.  Catalogs where prospected buyers could browse through a collection of kids’ head shots – some as young as five years old – detailing age, weight, height, and cost.

“Some get passed around to as many as twenty people a day.”  Veronica told us.

She talked about bribery within local law enforcement, and corruption at the highest levels of government.  Trying my best to keep up, I flipped through my notebook in search of blank spaces to take down the details.

“Do you know any victims we can talk to about these things?”  We asked.

Some.”  She answered.  “I just don’t know if they will want to talk to you.  Many are afraid to go on record.  You might have better luck with NGO’s.”

NGO’s are non-governmental organizations.  Typically, nonprofit’s that are independent of governments. They’re usually funded by donations and run by volunteers.  They are grassroots.  They are boots-on-the ground.  And they’re the ones we really wanted to meet.

We finished our coffee and called it a night.  Agreeing to meet the following morning in a government building just around the corner.

“I’ll make some calls and see who we can talk to.”  Veronica promised, as she drove away.

The following morning our taxi dropped us off near the steps of the government building.  We were a half hour early, eager to start our day.  It was nearly 100 degrees, not a cloud in the sky or a hint of any breeze.  So, we stepped into a small patch of shade under the portico of the building and waited on a nearby bench.

Forty-five minutes later…no sign of Veronica.  Our texts, calls, and emails all went unanswered.  Just as we were about to call it quits, our phone rang.

“Sorry I’m late.  I was trying to get us an interview. I’m right here.”      

Breathing a sigh of relief, we looked up to see Veronica with a phone to her ear waving from the entryway.  Joining us on the bench in the shade of the portico, she spent the next ten minutes telling us about all the people she’d reached out to.  None of them willing to talk.

The disappointment was interrupted by a cheerful, musical chime that came from under the bench.  It was Veronica’s phone. Taking it out of her bag, she answered the call and quickly moved to the far corner of the entry way and into the glaring sun.  We tried reading her face for any hint of good news, but she remained expressionless throughout her conversation.

A few minutes later she came back.  “My friend will talk with you.  She runs a shelter.  But we must leave now.”

Squeezing ourselves into a small taxi, we drove through one nondescript neighborhood after another, in search of Veronica’s friend.

Paola Feregrino

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Paola Feregrino

In 2003, Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho wrote a series of articles about the sexual abuse of minors for Por Esto, a daily Mexican newspaper headquartered in the Yucatán.  With a main office in Cancún, and several other bureaus, Por Esto’s circulation was significant.

In one of the articles Cacho featured a story of a girl who came forward accusing a local businessman, Jean Succar Kuri, of abuse.  The following year, believing local police were failing to follow up on the girl’s accusations, Cacho wrote a book; Demons of Eden.  The book not only accused Succar Kuri of being involved in child pornography and prostitution, it named names.  Important names.  Prominent businessmen and high ranking politicians, who Cacho claimed, were protecting Succar Kuri.

Demons of Eden had spread fear to those unaware the crimes existed in their backyard.  And concern to those who were profiting from it.  In 2006, a tape emerged of a conversation between influential businessman Kamel Nacif Borge and Mario Plutarco Marín Torres, the governor of the state of Puebla.  On the tape, the two conspired to have Cacho beaten and raped for her reporting.

Cacho’s efforts to fight against sex trafficking and violence against women has earned her the distinction, according to Amnesty International, of being, Mexico’s most famous investigative journalist and women’s rights advocate.”  Her reporting has made her famous.  It’s also made her a target.  There have been multiple attempts on her life, and the United Nations Human Rights Council advised she leave the country and seek political asylum elsewhere.  But Lydia Cacho fights on.  In Mexico.

One of Cacho’s earliest achievements was the creation of a shelter called, CIAM – El Centro Integral de Atención a las Mujeres (The Integral Center for Women’s Care).  The Cancún-based organization supports women and children who have been victims of violence, and it’s where Veronica set up our first meeting.

“We’re meeting Paola Feregrino. She took over the shelter from her mentor, Lydia Cacho.”  Veronica said, as we climbed out of the taxi and made our way towards a thick concrete door.  Acknowledging herself to the security camera above, Veronica rang the doorbell and waited.  Seconds later, a buzzer sounded signaling our clearance.

Greeting us on the other side was Paola, the shelter’s Executive Director.  Warm, friendly, and just thirty years young, Paola began our tour of the facility.  Her passion for social causes resonating more and more with each story she told us.

At the end of the hallway was Paola’s office.  Opening the door, she invited us in, took a seat behind a small, black desk and began telling us about her work and the things she’s seen.

A good number of our survivors here have been victims of human trafficking.”  She told us.  “When the shelter started, we didn’t even know what human trafficking was.”

Those coming into the battered women’s shelter to escape physical and sexual violence were suddenly telling stories of being sold to perspective buyers.

“We’d never heard anything like this.”  Paola told us.

Majoring in Clinical Psychology, Paola was the first in her family to get a degree.  And despite the constant threat of physical threats, budget cuts and funding challenges, her approach to educating the community on violence prevention remains both creative and innovative.  One program teaches at-risk kids the importance of gender equality and conflict resolution.  While another, a campaign called, “Yo no estoy en venta!” (“I am not for sale”), teaches young kids to become advocates against human trafficking.

“I think I’ve always been an activist.”  She told us, as that familiar ring tone once again chimed from Veronica’s purse.  Taking the call, she stepped outside while Paola continued.  

Lydia Cacho taught me a lot of things…theoretical and technical.  But above all, she taught me how to develop leadership skills.  To help guide a team in unfavorable circumstances. She gave me confidence. I was afraid to become an Executive Director. I still feel afraid sometimes because it’s a big responsibility.  But this is not about me.  It’s about the lives we can save and the steps we can take to build a better world for all of us.”

Veronica came back into the room, dropped the phone into her purse, and smiled.

I found more people to talk to.”  She said, excitedly.  “They’re waiting for us now.” 

Rosa Maria Marquez & Marcos Basilio 

Saying goodbye to Paola, we exchanged emails, promising to keep in touch, and to look for ways to work together in the future.  Jumping into another taxi, our Amazing Race day continued.

“We’re going to see Rosa Maria, a social activist and her lawyer, Marcos.  He’s a commercial and family law attorney.”  Veronica said.

Neither Rosa Maria or Marcos were all that thrilled to sit down with us.  Veronica, a friend of theirs for nearly 20 years had talked them into it.  Promising to be present at the meeting.  Now, nearly ten minutes late, we wondered whether they’d even be there when we arrived.

It was mid-afternoon, and the restaurant was nearly empty.  Except for Rosa Maria and Marcos, who sat at a table in the middle of the restaurant, directly under a slowly rotating fan.

“Traffic!”  Veronica exclaimed, waving in their direction.

We took a seat and ordered a pot of hot tea.  The coolness of the fan was a nice welcome.  As was the greeting from our two new friends.

Rosa Maria started the conversation – taking us back thirty years to when her journey began.  Earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), and a Master’s in Public Administration from American University, Rosa Maria had perfected the profession of a civil society activist.  Today, focusing on the defense and promotion of Human Rights causes, she is a pioneer in group organization and a leader of several causes; women in detention, people with disabilities, HIV positive individuals, and a variety of social causes for both younger and older adults.  She has a full plate.  One, which is refilled daily and without complaint.

Quietly sitting next to her was Marcos Basilio, her attorney, friend, and accompanying activist.  Marcos’s story was just as fascinating.  Having practiced law for the past ten years in Cancun, Marcos has carved a niche for himself representing Guatemalan women and children who are trafficked for labor exploitation, as opposed to sexual abuse.

“Human Trafficking isn’t only about sex.”  Marcos told us, shaking his head.  “People always make that mistake.  It also involves a complex web of other illegal activity.”  He continued.  “There is prostitution and gambling, drugs, organized crime, money laundering, and labor exploitation.”    

What impressed us most was not the stories these four had shared.  Rather, how their passion for justice powers them past their everyday occupations.  Continuously focusing their talents on delivering hope for their country and its citizens.  They work independently, yet each are intrinsically connected.  Intertwined in a cause greater than themselves.

Why would, Marcos, a commercial lawyer care so much about humanitarianism?  What makes someone like Rosa Maria dedicate half her life to do so much for so many?  Why would Veronica continue writing stories of human oppression, despite the threats of violence against her?  Any why would Paola put her life in danger – every day – to protect women and children she doesn’t know?

“Why do you do this?”  I asked each of them.

“Because these stories matter.”

“Because people matter.” 

“We do it…” Paola told us…” because someone has to.”

 

 

 

 


 

Central Florida Public Schools Tackle Human Trafficking

JDSA recently partnered with the Florida Department of Children and Families, coordinating a project designed to create awareness and educate Central Florida teens about the dangers of Human Trafficking.

Just DO Something…Anything! funded and assisted Appleton Creative in the design of the campaign: a series of 4 colorfully designed posters, each depicting the dangers of modern day slavery, and distributed to every middle and high school in Central Florida.

Created with the youth audience in mind, the posters feature strong graphics, bold text and eye-catching call-to-actions. The campaign will effectively help make human trafficking top-of-mind and remind students of their value and where to go for help.

Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) is the 11th largest school district in the United States, where the posters are now being distributed to over 100 schools, reaching nearly 200,000 students in Orange, Osceola and Seminole County.

Last week, Crimeline displayed the posters at a joint forum at Valencia College Criminal Justice Institute.

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While Lake and Brevard County schools were expressing interest in displaying the posters, news of our project reached the Governor’s office in Tallahassee, where the Florida Department of Education has asked to initiate an extension of our campaign: organizing distribution of the posters to all public schools statewide – reaching more than 2 million students in over 4,200 schools.

JDSA was honored to have worked alongside the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force, their School Awareness Committee and Appleton Creative; an award-winning, full-service advertising agency with long-term ties to supporting community giving and bringing awareness to local causes. Throughout the years, Appleton has worked with many nonprofits such as Kids Beating Cancer, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, shining light on their issues through public service campaigns and advertising.

In a similar fashion, Appleton works closely with the Zebra Coalition, a network of organizations that provides services to LGBT+ ages 13 – 24, creating an annual anti-bullying poster series that gets placed in over 100 Orange County public schools. Appleton is also responsible for Zebra’s branding, website, advertising and video work.

 

3 years – $1 million – & 110 Countries Later

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Three years ago this month Just DO Something…Anything! was created.  At the time JDSA was just a few letters … and Social Discussion was just a blog with a catchy phrase: We have the right to remain silent.  We just choose not to …”

For two months our computer screen sat blank … a blinking black cursor in the middle of an empty white page.  The first piece we posted was an Op/Ed political story I wrote after covering the Republican National Convention in Tampa for NBC News. We thought we were starting a revolution.  But really, we were just beginning an evolution.

We weren’t political writers.  We were social storytellers.  And that’s what we set out to do – tell stories through producing video content: writing commercials and shooting PSAs, developing creative strategies and concept planning for social organizations around the world.

But with nearly 12 million nonprofits, it seemed a daunting – if not impossible task.  So we decided to connect – both ourselves and others – to some of the more unique social organizations in existence.  Everyone knows about The Gates Foundation and Amnesty International.  But how many know about Rebecca Pontius and http://dogoodbus.com? A school bus she “decked out” so as to offer once-a-month community rides to volunteers to and from great causes in her Los Angeles community.

Or Shawn Seipler’s nonprofit, https://cleantheworld.org, who, while on a business trip had an idea for soap recycling after learning the barely used bars of hotel soap he left behind ended up in a landfill.  Today, Clean the World has more than 50 full-time employees in Orlando, Las Vegas, and Hong Kong.  And they’ve distributed more than 25 million bars of soap to over 99 countries.

And we met Shannon O’Donnell, who created http://grassrootsvolunteering.org and built a dual database of organizations all over the world … helping empower travelers to connect to the causes and communities in the places they travel.

JDSA’s evolution is ongoing.  Today, we’re a 501C3 nonprofit who’s helped raise over $1 million for several unique and innovative nonprofits.  And we couldn’t have done it without you – the 30,000+ followers in over 110 countries. Thank you for turning JDSA into a verb – for JDSA’ing in the social causes you’re passionate about, and for telling us about the one’s that are making a difference in your life.

Please keep us posted on those unique organizations you come across!  In the meantime, check out a few we’ve found – from a variety of social causes.

The Pollination Project – https://thepollinationproject.org

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A Gift For Teaching – http://agiftforteaching.org

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Curbside Chronicle – http://thecurbsidechronicle.org/about-us/

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Zebra Coalition – http://zebrayouth.org

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The Prospector Theatre – http://www.prospectortheater.org

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Soaring Paws – http://www.soaringpaws.com

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Wildlife SOS / India – http://wildlifesos.org

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To learn more about those organizations, and some of the others we’ve come across, check out our “Your Connections” tab on our web site: http://www.jdsanything.org/#!your-connections/czy8

MBI Agents “JDSA” in Central Florida Human Trafficking Sting

From WFTV Orlando:

Nearly 30 people were arrested in Orange County over the weekend following an Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation  sting that targeted men who solicited women to work as prostitutes and men who tried to buy sex from them.

Agents told WFTV’s Kenneth Craig that they are constantly arresting prostitutes, but for the first time in more than a year they solely went after the johns, along with the customers, by using undercover decoys listing their services on online sex sites.

That switch in tactic is something one sex trade survivor said she’s been waiting for.

“Simple economics dictate that if you reduce the demand, that the supply will be reduced as well,” said Jesse Maley, an advocate to end sex trafficking in the community.

According to the MBI, last year their operations identified 32 victims of sex trafficking and in the process, they rescued four underage women.

“I do think that this is significant. I do think 29 is a very big number and I do think this sends a strong message to men who are looking to buy sex in our community,” Maley said.

Of the 29 arrests, MBI agents said Anthony Davis was their biggest catch.

They said Davis is a career criminal who switched from violent crime to the sex trafficking business.

“This is a very violent convicted felon with firearms charges in his past, burglary charges in his past,” said Lt. Michael Gibson, an MBI agent with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities said suspects like Davis have been known to beat, drug and force women into the sex trade.

“It shows the character of the kind of people who are forcing these females into prostitution,” Maley said. “Addressing this demand issue, this is a huge switch tactic and a very important one.”

MBI agents said the stings involving the johns are complicated and require a lot of agents.

A justicefilms production: Human Trafficking – In Your Backyard

From Polaris Project:

The following is a list of available statistics estimating the scope of Human Trafficking around the world and within the United States. Actual statistics are often unavailable, and some may be contradictory due to the covert nature of the crime, the invisibility of victims and high levels of under-reporting. Further obstacles include inconsistent definitions, reluctance to share data, and a lack of funding for and standardization of data collection. Particularly lacking are estimates on the number of American citizens trafficked within the U.S.
Human Trafficking Worldwide:
 27 million – Number of people in modern-day slavery across the world. o Source: Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves.
 According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report), estimates vary from 4 to 27 million.
 The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates 2.4 million people were victims of human trafficking from 1995-2005. This estimate uses the UN Protocol definition of human trafficking, and includes both transnational and internal data.
 800,000 – Number of people trafficked across international borders every year. o Source: U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report: 2007.
 Note:
The TIP Report in 2001 and 2002 estimated this figure at 700,000;
The TIP Report of 2003 reported 800,000 to 900,000 victims;
The TIP Reports of 2004 through 2006 reported 600,000 to 800,000 victims.
 1 million – Number of children exploited by the global commercial sex trade, every year. o Source: U.S. Department of State, The Facts About Child Sex Tourism: 2005.
 50% – Percent of transnational victims who are children.
o Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on
U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons in Fiscal Year 2003: 2004.  80% – Percent of transnational victims who are women and girls.
o Source: U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report: 2007.
 70% – Percent of female victims who are trafficked into the commercial sex industry. This means that 30% of female victims are victims of forced labor.
o Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons: 2004.
 161 – Countries identified as affected by human trafficking:
o 127 countries of origin; 98 transit countries; 137 destination countries.
o Note: Countries may be counted multiple times and categories are not mutually exclusive. o Source: UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns: April 2006.
32 billion – Total yearly profits generated by the human trafficking industry.
o $15.5 billion is made in industrialized countries.
o $9.7 billion in Asia
o $13,000 per year generated on average by each “forced laborer.” This number can be as high
as $67,200 per victim per year.
o Source: ILO, A global alliance against forced labor: 2005.
Foreign Nationals Trafficked into the U.S.:
 14,500 – 17,500 – Number of foreign nationals trafficked into the United States every year.
Polaris Project | P.O. Box 77892, Washington, DC 20013 | Tel: 202.745.1001 | http://www.PolarisProject.org | Info@PolarisProject.org

Human Trafficking Statistics | Polaris Project
o This is the most recent U.S. government statistic. However, it is constantly being revisited, and a newer statistic is currently under study and review.
o Source: DOJ, HHS, DOS, DOL, DHS, and USAID. Assessment of U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons: June, 2004
 The TIP Report in 2001 estimated this number at 45,000-50,0001  The TIP Report in 2002 estimated 50,000
 The TIP Report in 2003 estimated 18,000 – 20,0002
 1, 379 – Number of foreign national victims of human trafficking certified by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from October 2000 through FY 2007.
o 131 minors, and 1,248 adults
o These victims originate from at least 77 different countries.
o Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Anti-trafficking in Persons Department;
U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report: 2007.
 1,318 – Number of T visas granted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from FY 2000 through November 1, 2008 to human trafficking survivors. 729 visas were issued between FY 2000 and FY 2006.
o Another 1,076 derivative T visas were granted to family members.
o DHS is authorized to issue up to 5,000 T-visas per year.
o Source: USCIS; U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report: 2007.
Human Trafficking of U.S. citizens within the U.S.:
 244,000 – Number of American children and youth estimated to be at risk of child sexual exploitation, including commercial sexual exploitation, in 2000.
o Source: Estes, Richard J. and Neil A. Weiner. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work: 2001. Study funded by the Department of Justice.
 38,600 – Estimated number of an approximate 1.6 million runaway/thrownaway youth at risk of sexual endangerment or exploitation in 1999.
o Source: U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Runaway/Thrownaway Children: National Estimates and Characteristics. NISMART Series: 2002.
 12-14 – Average age of entry into prostitution
o Source: Estes, Richard J. and Neil A. Weiner. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in
the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work: 2001.
Human Trafficking within the U.S. by State
Very little research has been done to determine the extent of human trafficking on the state level. Several state-wide reports have been published however, due to data collection limitations the following statistics should be taken as baseline estimates only. These statistics are not definitive or comprehensive estimates.
California:
 559 – Potential victims identified between Dec. 1, 2005 and March 12, 2007 by five CA Task Forces.  57 – Number of applications for continued presence submitted during the same time period.
o Source: CA Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force, Human Trafficking in California Final Report: October 2007.
Virginia:
 43 – Number of trafficking victims served by 4 organizations in Northern Virginia. o Source: Polaris Project, Fact Sheet on Human Trafficking.
1 Amy O’Neill Richard. International Trafficking in Women to the United States: A Contemporary Manifestation of Slavery and Organized Crime. Center for the Study of Intelligence: November 1999.
2 DOJ, HHS, DOS, DOL, DHS, and USAID. Assessment of U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons: August 2003. Polaris Project | P.O. Box 77892, Washington, DC 20013 | Tel: 202.745.1001 | http://www.PolarisProject.org | Info@PolarisProject.org

Human Trafficking Statistics | Polaris Project
Wisconsin:
 200 – Number of identified cases of sex and labor trafficking.
 85% – Proportion of victims in the 200 identified cases who were adults.
 75% – Proportion of victims in the 200 identified cases who were victims of sex trafficking.
o Data obtained through a survey of over 1,300 sexual assault and domestic violence service providers, law enforcement and district attorney’s offices, with a 30% return rate.
o Source: WI Office of Justice Assistance, Hidden in Plain Sight: A Baseline Survey of Human Trafficking in Wisconsin: February 2008.
U.S. Investigations, Prosecutions, and Convictions
It is likely that the numbers of traffickers convicted are higher than those reported below. Defendants may be charged with other crimes such as kidnapping, immigration violations or money laundering for strategic or technical reasons. Also note that data is not comparable across agencies as a result of the complexity of investigations and the incompatibility and limitations of agency data systems.
Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Civil Rights Unit:
 751 – o  185 – o o o
Number of trafficking cases opened between 2001 and April 5th, 2007.
The numbers of cases opened has increased: from 54 in 2001 to 126 in 2006,
Convictions
The number of convictions has increased: from 15 in 2001 to 70 in 2006.
Includes joint investigations with ICE, and both sex and labor trafficking.
Source: Government Accountability Office, Human Trafficking: A Strategic Framework Could Help Enhance the Interagency Collaboration Needed to Effectively Combat Trafficking Crimes: 2007.
FBI Crimes Against Children Unit – Innocence Lost National Initiative:
 327 – Number of trafficking cases opened from 2004 through June 5th, 2007.
o The number of cases opened has increased every year: from 67 in 2004 to 103 in 2006.
 182 – Number of convictions.
o The number of convictions has also increased: from 22 in 2004 to 43 in 2006.
o Source: GAO, Human Trafficking: A Strategic Framework Could Help Enhance the Interagency
Collaboration Needed to Effectively Combat Trafficking Crimes: 2007. Civil Rights Division/Criminal Section and U.S. Attorney’s Offices (Dept. of Justice):
 139 – Number of trafficking cases prosecuted 2001 – June 14, 2007, under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, (TVPA).
o 100 cases of sex trafficking; 39 cases of labor trafficking.
 19 – Number of trafficking cases prosecuted1995 – 2000, prior to the TVPA.
o 7 cases of sex trafficking; 12 cases of labor trafficking
 302 – Number of defendants convicted 2001 – June 14, 2007, under the TVPA
228 sex trafficking; 74 labor trafficking
 67 – Number of defendants convicted 1995 – 2000, prior to the TVPA.
o 20 sex trafficking; 47 labor trafficking
o Source: GAO, Human Trafficking: A Strategic Framework Could Help Enhance the Interagency
Collaboration Needed to Effectively Combat Trafficking Crimes: 2007. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):
 899 – Number of trafficking cases opened between FY 2005 and May 31st, 2007 o 557 sexual exploitation; 257 forced labor; 85 other
 264 – Number of convictions.
o 129 sexual exploitation; 17 forced labor; 118 other
o Source: GAO, Human Trafficking: A Strategic Framework Could Help Enhance the Interagency
Collaboration Needed to Effectively Combat Trafficking Crimes: 2007.
 61 – Number of arrests for child sex tourism made by ICE Operation Predator from July 2003 through
June 2007.
o Source: DOJ, Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons:
September 2007.
Polaris Project | P.O. Box 77892, Washington, DC 20013 | Tel: 202.745.1001 | http://www.PolarisProject.org | Info@PolarisProject.org

Thank You and Happy 2013 From Social Discussion!

Happy-New-Year-Quotes-Wallpaper1-600x450My grandfather told me, “There are two kinds of people in this world.  Those      who talk about doing things.  And those who do them.”

For years my best friend and I have wanted to change the world.  The only way to do it, we decided, was to stop talking about it.  

We created a forum, “Social Discussion” for anything and everything that deals with social change and injustice.  As important as writing, sharing articles and re-tweeting video is, we wanted to do more.  We felt we needed to get out in the world and meet the people we would write about – hear from them so we can tell their stories to you!  So, despite the fact we both have “day jobs,” we decided Nike had the right approach; we’d “Just Do It.”    

For the past three months we’ve gotten our hands dirty by helping tell stories that matter.  Meeting people, writing and creating our own video content on issues from human trafficking and women’s equality, to domestic violence and clean water possibilities in African villages. We wrote about the conflict in the Middle East (my old home) and homelessness (one of my best friend’s many passions).  We’ve met proponents of gay rights and human rights, animal rights and the rights children have been stripped of, being used for slave labor.  We covered politics first-hand; the presidential debates and the conventions.  And although, we’re not experts on these issues, we care…we have opinions…and there’s nothing wrong with a little “Social Discussion” on matters of humanity.     

Nearly 3,300 Tweets and 1,500 Followers later, @Sawworldwide (our Twitter Account) is helping make a difference.  Our blog (thesocialdiscussion.wordpress.com) is making an impact, as well. Having been viewed nearly 10,000 times, we’re now followed on five continents and in over 60 countries; Bulgaria, Gambia, Sudan, Pakistan and India.  Hong Kong, Morocco, Greece and Korea.  Qatar, Norway, Haiti and Sri Lanka.  Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Israel, to name a few.   

Thank you, all of you!  For following. For caring. For joining in Social Discussion.  Most importantly, thank you, for helping us change the world!  We’ve come a long way in a short period of time – and we have a lot more to do.  So here’s to a 2013 of not only making the world a better place, but doing it together.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Peace and Love,

Social Discussion 

                 “To change the world, start with one step.  However small, the first step is hardest of all.” – Dave Matthews

Ugliness of human trafficking is coming out of the shadows

Human trafficking was, until recently, the biggest nonconversation we had. Hushed-toned talk, relegated to dark corners and dingy alleyways, helped this human-rights crisis flourish below the radar. But dialogue about the fastest-growing crime on the planet, with more people enslaved now than any time in human history, is finally beginning to resonate.

So why the long silence?

Human trafficking is uncomfortable and uncomprehended. “Stranger danger” is a devil we know. A phrase we understand. We talk to our kids about kidnapping and date rape, thinking of the villain as singular — a lone anomaly that strikes — an incident to be avoided. Not the beginning of a nightmare to a life of bondage.

But if we realized our kids were being exported, while others were being imported, we would have cried foul sooner and much louder. It’s a difficult concept to wrap our heads around. How do you explain to the concerned volunteer who canvasses neighborhoods, lakes and wooded areas for a missing person to consider searching shipping containers instead?

Domestic abuse and homelessness are easier stories for the media to tell. Human trafficking? Not so simple.

It’s modern-day slavery manifested into forced labor, with prostitution, immigration, child abuse, smuggling, drugs, money laundering and organized crime all thrown together. A local reporter recently told me, “It’s a complicated, time-consuming topic. It would take an entire newscast just to explain what it is.”

Think it doesn’t happen here? Think again. All 50 states have reported incidents, and Florida is one of the top three destination points for trafficking worldwide. More than 20 million people are trafficked across the world with almost a quarter of them enslaved for sex.

It’s a $30 billion a year corruption that touches every one of us whether we know it or not. Get your nails done and it may be from a technician who’s not there by choice. The bracelet you just bought may have been made using a 10-year-old boy with little to no hope for tomorrow. Recently, a 14-year-old girl from Cocoa Beach was discovered, drugged and held captive by a man advertising her online as an escort.

We live in a celebrity-obsessed society that dominates what’s relevant. If there’s not a pretty face telling us we should worry, then there must not be anything to worry about.

Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and George Clooney are all well-known advocates for familiar social causes. But human trafficking is so buried most aren’t aware of the celebrities who help give it a voice: Mira Sorvino and Jada Pinkett Smith.

We know more about abused animals, thanks to Sara McLaughlin’s commercials, than we do about Ricky Martin’s testimony on human trafficking in front of Congress. And while it’s helpful for big names to bring insight to big problems we may not otherwise notice, it’s troubling so many wait for their favorite famous face to tell them where to focus.

It’s good news this discussion is becoming broader. Nonetheless, I’m concerned about our notorious short-mindedness. Our intolerance is often too temporary. Outraged one minute, apathetic the next. We jump on bandwagons because it’s cool to be part of a trendy subject.

But this is not merely a hot topic. It’s human beings entangled in daily horror.

Consider this well-known quotation: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” So what can you do? Talk about it. Your voice, added to others, helps bring human trafficking out of the shadows and into the light.

Welcome to the conversation. It will save lives. It will give voice to the voiceless and our collective persistence will bring freedom — one life at a time.

Next Post

HUMAN RIGHTS SOCIETY

USA by Petula Dvorak of the Washington Post (9/10/12) — No parent should be shocked that five high school football players hired prostitutes while on a road trip to North Carolina last week.

Nor is it especially surprising that the little johns were from football powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville. Religion and prestige are rarely shields from temptation and stupidity.

What’s new in this old-as-time story is that today, thanks to smartphones and the nearly complete submersion of the sex trade into the digital swamp, ordering three prostitutes to your hotel room is as easy as ordering a pizza.

Read more here

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Human trafficking-Are you aware?

 Human trafficking – Are you aware?

Are you aware that nearly 150,000 children are “sold” into this country every year?

Are you aware it isn’t just girls?  And the average age of human trafficked boys is 11?

Are you aware trafficking victims come from EVERY type of economic situation?  Not just the poor.

Are you aware all 50 states have reported cases of human trafficking?

Are you aware our country is 1 of the top 3 worldwide destination points for human trafficking?

Are you aware Florida has the 2nd highest human trafficking incidents in the United States?

Are you aware human trafficking is a $30 Billion a year industry?

If you’re not – don’t feel bad.  We don’t see it on the news either…

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