Shine a Light on Human Trafficking

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Many people believe that slavery ended in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  While this is of course true and helped to close the door on a dark period in American history, slavery is in fact still a harsh reality in today’s world.  Regarded as a form of modern day slavery, human trafficking, the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of individuals for the purpose of exploitation, is the fastest growing and most profitable area of organized crime in the world.  With approximately 20.9 million victims, human trafficking impacts children and adults alike in cities, countries, and continents all around the world.

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The severity and continued growth of the human trafficking industry caught the attention of Congress and in 2000 they passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which declared all types of human trafficking a federal crime.  The TVPA wasn’t enacted for only prosecutorial reasons, but is also aimed at prevention through public awareness programs.  In 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2011, increasing knowledge and awareness of the issue led to developments in the act and in 2013, President Obama signed the reauthorization of the TVPA, recognizing the magnitude of the international human trafficking problem and reestablishing the important role the TVPA plays in combating it.

While the U.S. government has taken a stance against the human trafficking problem through legislation, campaigns for public awareness and educating citizens on reporting tips can urge individuals to take a stance as well. One such initiative is underway in the city of Houston, one of the principal supply and transport sites for children and adult trafficking victims due to its proximity, demographics, substantial immigrant labor force, and easy access to I-10, the number one route for human trafficking in the United States.  During the month of September, Houston’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Mayor Annise Parker vows to provide the pubic with informative facts about the global dilemma as well as educate individuals about ways they can help combat the problem.  Houston’s public awareness campaign, “Shine a Light on Human Trafficking,” is aimed at educating the public on how to recognize signs of human trafficking and encouraging them to report suspicious situations to the appropriate authorities.  Other states, such as Ohio, have recently pledged resources and manpower to establish public awareness campaigns in order to educate the public on the problem of human trafficking.

Long-term education and awareness campaigns like “Shine a Light on Human Trafficking” can play a big role in combating modern day slavery.  With numerous businesses such as massage parlors, escort services, salons, and modeling agencies acting as fronts for the human trafficking industry, increased awareness of the warning signs and recognition of the types of establishments that have been known to be involved in the industry can help authorities put an end to this epidemic.  Often hidden in plain sight, law enforcement agencies often rely on the public for tips to locate, dismantle, and prosecute individuals involved in these organizations.

Modern human trafficking presents the most widespread global slave trade known to mankind, with more people enslaved today than at any other time in human history. A violation of one of the most basic human rights, efforts to combat this epidemic should be tailored towards the restoration of that fundamental human right—freedom.  It is a common misconception that human trafficking presents only a vast international problem; the U.S. State Department estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 individuals are purchased and sold across international lines and borders every year, the United States included.  Making people more aware of this fact alone can help combat the human trafficking dilemma.  Awareness campaigns are invented to provide the tools needed to help bring the victims to safety and individuals involved in the human trafficking industry to justice.

For those who live in Houston and would like to take part in “Shine a Light on Human Trafficking,” the campaign will kick off at City Hall on September 24 at 6:30 p.m.

The Difficulties of International Adoptions

I grew up listening to my dad’s stories about being a war orphan in South Korea.  He told me how he resented other children for having families.  He told me about school teachers and other children bullying and teasing him for being an orphan.  He told me about the “Oink Food” (i.e., pig slop) feast they had every Saturday that he could not stomach. (Every weekend, someone at the orphanage would gather the leftovers from the mess halls in the American army base, carry it back in drum containers, and serve it – all you can eat – to the starving children.  The children had to pick out the toothpicks, napkins, and cigarette butts, but they still fought over the very last spoonful – all, except my dad.)  Despite all this, my dad told me how much he feared being adopted by an American family.  He did not want to look at the blue eyes and blond hair and feel like an outsider.  He especially did not want to forget the Korean language, because that would significantly diminish his chances of ever finding his birth mother.

I also have friends who are international, transracial adoptees.  Most are very emotionally stable, happy, and they love and are loved by their adoptive families.  They seem to have an understanding that although they do not look anything like their parents, they are nonetheless their parents’ children.  Others struggle more.  One of them joked that his biological mother threw him away and his adoptive parents bought him on Ebay because he looked exotic.  Another resented his parents for adopting him and said wanted to go back to the country from which he was adopted to look for his birth mother.

I have recently been seeing more news articles about the difficulties of international adoptions and the many conflicts faced by both the parents and the adoptees, post-adoption.  Some articles were written from the perspective of the adopting parents, who recounted the long and difficult process of an international adoption.  However, most were written by the adoptees themselves, describing their adoption experiences as disorienting, to say the least.  Many expressed the frustration and resentment of being expected to quickly and completely adapt to their new environment, as well as the self-disappointment and depression when they failed to do so.  A few even described themselves as “monsters” and “freaks” created by society.

Many of us were from the same orphanages. Many of us came over the same flights. Many of us were adopted into predominantly white, Anglo-Saxon communities, many rural. Many of us considered ourselves white trapped in Asian bodies.

              – Kurt Streyffeler, adoptee (The Gathering of the First Generation of Adult Korean Adoptees, The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute)

Reading about these adoptees and reflecting upon what I have heard from my friends and my dad makes me wonder if these people were really better off being adopted.   Does the risk of potential cultural identity crises and emotional harms truly overpower the issues they would have faced if they had remained in the system?


Thursday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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Children’s Act to Transform Services for At-Risk Kids: Bill 25 Touches All Aspects of Government Services for Alberta Youth, Edmonton Journal

Human Services Minister Dave Hancock introduced the Children First Act on Tuesday, a new law that will touch every program or service the Alberta government provides to children and families at risk.  Bill 25 initiates a review of all policies, programs and services that affect children and requires the government to establish a “children’s charter” to guide future decision making . . .

The proposed new law also changes several related pieces of legislation.  The Protection Against Family Violence Act will be reopened and the government will establish a Family Violence Death Review Committee. Hancock said 121 Albertans have died in family violence incidents over the past 10 years, and the committee will look to learn from such deaths to avoid similar incidents in the future.

The government will also redefine offences under three separate laws, including the Drug Endangered Children Act, the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act and the Child Youth and Family Act.

For example, the province will take the word “wilfully” out of these laws, so adults who put children at risk will be held accountable even if they didn’t intend to do so.  “If you’re cooking up meth in your kitchen, you’re endangering your children,” Hancock said . . .

Finally, the province will change the nature of the legal relationship between front-line workers and the children they serve . . . The changes also give kinship and foster parents more authority over the children in their care, he said . . .

NDP critic Rachel Notley expressed “grave concerns” about changing the legal relationship between workers and young people . . .  Liberal critic David Swann said “what is disappointing is that this follows so closely on a budget that is cutting services to children.  “Actions speak louder than words. This is more talk, more philosophizing,” Swann said . . .

Ariel Castro Charged With Kidnapping And Rape In Ohio Missing Girls Case, The Huffington Post

Authorities in Ohio filed charges Wednesday against one of the men arrested in connection to the disappearance of three women held for a decade in a dilapidated home in Cleveland.

Ariel Castro, 52, faces four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, Cleveland’s chief assistant prosecutor said today at a press conference.  Castro’s brothers — Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50 — were not charged, though they had been taken into custody Monday after the women were found . . .

Police believe that Amanda Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, about 23, were held against their will in Castro’s house since their teens or early 20s. The kidnapped women and a six-year-old girl were rescued Monday after Berry kicked through a locked screen door and called 911 on a neighbor’s phone.  It was the first time the woman tried to escape, according to an official speaking at the press conference.

National Attention Rarely Highlights Missing Minority Children, CBS Atlanta

The discovery of three missing Ohio women held hostage for almost 10 years has brought national attention to those who are abducted and go missing daily. [Note: Gina DeJesus of that tragedy is Hispanic]

What does not become national news as often are the numbers of minority children and adults who go missing. The blame for this is the phenomenon called the “missing white girl syndrome” and many blame local and national media for its lack of coverage.

According to the Chicago Citizen, “missing white girl syndrome” refers to “the disproportionate degree of coverage in television, radio, newspaper and magazine reporting on an adversity, most often missing person case, involving young, white, upper-middle class frequently blonde woman or girl.”

The contrast is played against missing boys or men, minorities and people of different classes.

According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person and Unidentified Person Statistics for 2012, a total of 265,683 minorities were reported missing in the U.S., out of 661,593 children.

According to the NCIC, 42 percent of those minority child abductions are African Americans.  Since their inception in 1975, the NCIC has not given specific statistical data for missing Hispanic persons. According to the FBI’s Investigative and Operational Assistance Unit, “the race breakdown was decided at that time [1975] based on visual looks rather than blood lines.”

Studies have been published since the early 1970s about missing minority children represented in the media. According to the 2010 study Missing Children in National News Coverage: Racial and Gender Representations of Missing Children Cases, “although a relatively large number of African American children are actually missing, they are significantly underrepresented in television news.”

Derrica Wilson, the president and co-founder of the Maryland-based nonprofit Black and Missing Foundation, Inc.and a veteran law enforcement official says, “The nature of missing person cases is not just a black or white issue, it’s an American issue.”