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Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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Tapestri Human Trafficking Forum 2018

IMG_8831Ok, so this is WAY overdue. Like almost six months overdue. This event was actually held at the end of January, which is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. I kept meaning to type these notes and post them, but it just kept getting moved to the back burner.

However, that is in no way a reflection of Tapestri‘s event. This is the second year I’ve attended, and I absolutely plan to go back if they offer it again in 2019. This organization is doing tremendous work here in Atlanta, and throughout Georgia, and I’m grateful for them. And, it’s hard to believe, but this is actually a FREE event!

If you’re in the Atlanta area and care about this issue, be sure to join Tapestri’s email list so you can find out about any future events!

And, now, here are my notes:

  • Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) overview by Alpa Amin of GAIN, Ambassador Susan Coppedge, Alia El-Sawi of ICE and HSI
    • They’re now trying to get moe steep penalties and victim services.
    • It’s up for reauthorization again this year.
    • 14 government agencies deal with the issue of trafficking.
    • There is a Survivor Advisory Council that was appointed by Obama.
    • New laws are trying to keep products made with slave labor out of the country.
  • Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network (GAIN) info presented by Alpa Amin
    • GAIN helps people get T-Visas and legal help for foreign-born people.
    • T-Visa requirements:
      • Victim of severe harm
      • Present in US due to trafficking
      • Would suffer if returned home
    • Age requirement for T-Visa has increased, which is a good thing
    • Less evidence is now needed to prove status, which is also good
    • Transportation is not required, though it is called “trafficking”
    • Continued presence: If someone is VIEWED (meaning potential) as a victim, this is a form of parole that lasts for two years.
      • Allows them to live and work here
      • Helps establish rapport with victim
      • Victim-centered approach
      • Stepping stone to receive T-Visa
      • Gets person a driver’s license and social security card
      • Allows for access to resources
      • Don’t need a successful court case for continued presence or T-Visa, only cooperation
  • Tapestri presentation by Gabriela Leon of Tapestri
    • Works with foreign-born victims
    • Most people do not self-identify as victims, and foreign-born people may not even know that term.
    • Our stricter laws and rhetoric toward victims and immigrants only serves to reinforce traffickers words to victims.
    • Most cases are domestic, but they are also more likely to report because they likely know their rights better.
    • Here in Georgia, most foreign-born victims are from Mexico and Central America.
    • There should be a PR campaign to fight the perception that victims of crimes will be punished.
  • Additional resources:
  • Health Consequences of Trafficking presentation by Dr. Jordan Greenbaum of the Stephanie Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
    • Risk factors:
      • Child
      • Female
      • Missing
      • No skills
      • Prior victimization
      • Marginalized
      • Cognitive delays
      • Homeless
      • Drug/alcohol abuse
      • Family secrecy
      • Violence/abuse
      • Poor
      • Corrupt legal system
      • High tourism area
      • Social intolerance
      • Economic disparity
      • Migration
      • Cultural beliefs
      • Social upheaval
      • Stigma
    • Labor trafficking in the US often involves these industries/professions:
      • Agriculture
      • Hospitality (ex: hotel or restaurant worker)
      • Manufacturing
      • Domestic service
      • Janatorial
      • Construction
      • Landscaping
      • Nail salons
      • Massage parlor
      • Textiles
      • Fishing
      • Most reported cases are foreigners being brought into the US, which is the opposite of sex trafficking.
    • Health consequences of labor trafficking:
      • Untreated chronic medical consitions
      • Work-related injuries
      • Exposure to chemicals
      • Weight loss
      • Infection
      • Breathing
      • Consequences of sexual assault (47% of victims had STD’s)
      • Violence
      • PTSD
      • Mental issues
      • Headaches
      • Fatigue
      • Victims are also often forced to commit crimes for compliance.
    • Consequences of sex trafficking:
      • Drug and alcohol abuse
      • Chronic pain
      • Mental issues (depression, PTSD, suicidal)
      • Malnutrition
      • Work-related injuries
      • Sexual violence
      • Pregnancy, abortion
      • 88% of domestic victims saw health care professionals while this was happening!
    • Challenges to identifying:
      • Don’t self-identify
      • Reluctant to disclose
      • Few clinically-validated quick screening tools
      • Threats
    • Speak using “trauma-informed” care approach
      • Minimizes re-trauma
      • Ensures safety (in all forms)
      • Treat victim with respect (explain what you want to do)
      • Only ask questions you need to know
      • Ask about mental health
      • Respect authonomy
      • Be transparent
      • Listen, explain, negotiate
      • Make appropriate referrals
      • Ask their opinions
  • FBI presentation by Mary Jo Mangrum and Jennifer Towns
    • Has seen an increase in cases in the last decade, but likely because more people are reporting.
  • Polaris presentation on illicit massage parlors by Eliza Carmen
    • New 2018 report
      • Over 9,000 known in the US
      • $2.5 BILLION business
      • Majority of victims are from Southeast Asia
      • Average age is 35-55
      • 37-45% of ads for massage parlor work were illegal
    • Why don’t victims leave?
      • Fear of law enforcement
      • Debt
      • Fear of deportation (may be unsafe to return home)
      • Shame
      • Threats to themselves or family
      • Cultural coercion
    • Only 12% of cities have laws to enforce against illegal massage parlors
      • Usually licenses for therapists only, not the business itself
      • If you see a ILM, report to Polaris via phone, email, or online. Reports can be anonymous.
  • Working with Foreign National Minors presentation by Mersada Mujkanovic of Tapestri, Yamile Morales of Tapestri, and Christina Iturralde Thomas of KIND
    • Much the same tactics as adults, but kids are more naive and vulnerable.
      • Sports are also used as a tactic. Recruiting for traveling teams or initial building of relationships.
    • Victims under 18 do not have to comply or be helpful to gain status or benefits.
    • There is a specific refugee foster care program.
    • The designation of unaccompanied minor affords some protection, but they must also soon after defend themselves from deportation.
    • Common asylum fact patterns for children:
      • Severe child abuse
      • Resistance to or witness to gang activity
      • Family claims (ex: land disputes)
      • Domestic violence (including gang-related)
    • You do not get a court-appointed lawyer for immigration court, unlike criminal law, which again is harmful in them not knowing and understanding their rights.
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Tapestri Human Trafficking Event

tapestri-trafficking-evenJanuary was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, so there were a number of local and national events in which to attend. It was a goal of mine to be at more slavery and trafficking events in 2017, since I feel that has been lacking from my schedule over the past couple of years. It is a subject near and dear to my heart, and was my first, formal introduction to social justice in 2006.

I was privileged to attend my first event by the local organization, Tapestri. They do outstanding work here in Atlanta, and while I’ve heard of them for a number of years, I’ve never actually participated in any of their events or programs.

This turned out to be rather different than things I’ve attended in the past because I was one of the few people there that wasn’t with the government or other nonprofit. That made it really fun and interesting as I got to know the people around me.

Outside of Tapestri, most of the presenters were with the FBI, so it was also incredible to hear about their involvement. There were also several lawyers speaking, so we were able to hear about their work and the state and national legal system as it pertains to this issue. So, there was a huge focus on the legal and law sectors, and how all those worked together and separately to combat this issue. Those weren’t topics I get to hear a lot, so it made for a really fascinating day.

Here are my notes:

FBI

  • The FBI has 122 victim specialists in 56 field offices, and works with 41 Indian reservations, across the US.
  • The Trafficking Victims in Persons Act (TVPA) passed it 2000. It provides protection, prevention and prosecution. It also includes both sex and labor trafficking.
  • One of the new trends is that victims could be the kind of kids that you see selling candy in public places. This is another form of revenue.
  • Exploiting transgender kids and adults is also a new trend.
  • The T-Visa (trafficking visa) is only one year to start. Their the victim’s lawyers and reps petition for them to stay.
  • Proactive: federal, state and local partners working together.
    • Task forces and working groups
    • Non-governmental meetings
    • Events and partnerships
  • The FBI has special people trained to work with youth and get their testimony so they don’t have to be in court.
  • The FBI has to follow the legal definition rather than how a victim self-identifies with the issue. (Sometimes they don’t even see themselves as victims.)

Homeland Security Investigations

  • They fall under ICE.
  • They are an investigative department of Homeland Security.
  • They are similar to the FBI but it involves immigration as well.
  • Trafficking effects every people group.
  • HSI also puts victims in touch with resources like Tapestri.
  • Referrals come from raids, partners, civilians and professionals like doctors who come in contact with victims, schools, other NGOs, and hotlines like Polaris.
  • There are not enough beds, so sometimes HSI has to rely on domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters, especially for men. There are no places for men or labor trafficking victims, in particular.
  • They also provide training for law enforcement at all levels.

US Department of Labor

  • Enforces legal compliance for welfare of citizens, and includes some immigration. (ex: migrant workers)
  • Priorities include agriculture workers, food services, hospitality industry, construction, etc.
  • Doesn’t investigate but protects and refers to other agencies and service providers.
  • Also provides back wages owed to victims.
  • Participates in task forces.
  • Can also issue U (abuse victims) and T (trafficking victims) Visas.
  • Usually dealing with labor victims (including seasonal workers) that are recruited under fraudulent circumstances.
  • Often the victim’s families are threatened to keep them in line.
  • Provides training for industry groups like hospitality, nurses, etc.

Breakout: FBI Advanced Training for Working with Victims

  • Mostly works with sex trafficking girls from other countries.
  • First case study is in Suwanee, GA, a suburb about an hour north of Atlanta.
    • The woman perpetrator was wealthy and connected.
    • She was from Nigeria, and went back there to find a girl to come back with her. The pretense was as a nanny, and she said she’d also put the girl in school.
    • The girl was mistreated every day: beaten, made to cut the grass with scissors, bleach the fence. Wasn’t given a proper bathroom, just a bucket to go to the bathroom in, despite the large house.
    • The first girl ran away, and the woman did the same thing to a second girl.
    • The woman told her friends the girls were her slave and she could do whatever she wanted with them. The friends sometimes gave the girls gifts behind the woman’s back. Neighbors sometimes saw the girls being mistreated, and so did people, including government officials, who attended her parties. Finally, her best friend turned her in because she couldn’t take it anymore. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE!!!
  • Second case study is an international sex trafficking victim.
    • Started in Tenancingo, Mexico, which is notorious for this crime. Families are raised to be victims and perpetrators. Kids even aspire to run these types of businesses because they see that money can be made.
    • A guy made a girl (“Tere”) believe that he was her boyfriend. Bought her things she’d never had, acted innocent for her, and convinced her to come to the US with him on a fun trip. There, he trapped her in a brothel.
    • The perp family had brothels in Marietta and Norcross, Georgia, suburbs outside of Atlanta..
    • Typically girls work in the brothel or are driven to the John.
    • Charged $30 for 15 minutes with the girls, and they may see up to 50 Johns per day.
    • Tere worked for two years and was forced into almost 1,700 sex acts.
    • She was beaten, threatened, put into deprivation, etc.
  • Sometimes victims families are brought to the US and protected if it looks like the family in another country will be threatened or harmed.
  • They return to a lot of the same places. Gwinnett County is big and growing.

Prosecuting Trafficking Cases

  • Federal case study:
    • Found girls with similar tattoos on Backpage.com
    • These girls were recruited by pimps because they already had Backpage profiles.
    • The pimps also recruited  girls that were down on their luck. (ex: abused, poor, bad home life, addiction – all teens and young adults, various races)
    • Guy said he was a party promoter.
    • Bought things for them, and then later said they owed him for these things, and that he owned them.
    • Also recruited girls on Instagram and Facebook through long-term cons.
  • Sex trafficking of a minor is one of the easiest charges to prove, and it carries a 10-year minimum sentence.
  • Second federal case study is international:
    • Mexican men recruited women to come to the US.
    • Only the main guy was tried and sentenced to 40 years.
  • Third case study pertains to the state:
    • Georgia doesn’t have to prove knowledge of age. A perp doesn’t have to know she/he is underaged. If she/he is, then that punishment is carried.
    • Prosecuting pimps: 10-year minimum for adult victims and 20-year minimum if victims are juvenile
    • Georgia has good prosecuting laws. Teams try to work together to see if state or federal has the strongest conviction changes, and the one with the harshest convictions takes the lead.
  • Had another case of a pimp who got life + life + 114 years. Sadly, this is rare.
  • There are apps that allow pimps to track ALL phone usage on his account without the girls’ knowledge so they are tightly monitored.
  • Victims stay with them out of shame, personal threat, violence, family issues, threats to families, they don’t feel like they have other options, money, “love,” legal threats, drugs, blackmail, and loss of freedom. And younger victims just have less knowledge about the world and legal systems to understand how things work.
  • Victims are usually young, come from a dysfunctional family, have a history of abuse, etc.
  • Trauma victims often form bonds like Stockholm Syndrome.
  • Georgia also has an added mental disability clause for harsher sentences.
  • There are international treaties for gathering evidence and seizing assets abroad.

Legal Remedies

  • Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network (GAIN) referrals come from law enforcement, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and sometimes people inform them directly.
    • Free for clients.
    • Represent immigrants and trafficking victims who have little ties to their current location or families.
    • Work in partnership with others to make sure all services are covered.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) works for the rights of vulnerable populations, mostly hate crimes.
    • Distributes free education and literature.
    • Fights for justice in legal system.
    • Have now worked with a number of trafficked victims.
    • Civil litigation can also prosecute for pain and suffering, unlike criminal law, for higher victim payouts. Restitution is tax-free money.
  • Visas are non-immigrant status that allow you to stay in the US. They can also sometimes apply to families.
  • T-Visa: Only 5,000 per year allowed
  • U-Visa: Only 10,000 per year allowed
  • Trafficking victims must be willing to cooperate with the law/investigators.
  • U victims must also be helpful to law enforcement during cases and suffered in some way.
  • No statue of limitations on trafficking crimes, but not enough people come forward.
  • People coming from other countries, especially third-world countries, often mistrust law enforcement and don’t come for them for help because their own legal systems are corrupt.
  • Can take up to five years to obtain a T- or U-Visa. But victims can apply for work authorization in the meantime, but that can also take one or two years. Minors, however, can work regardless.