A bi­par­ti­san op­por­tu­nity: Fight hu­man traf­fick­ing

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY DE­SIREE ZA­P­ATA MILLER - CON­TRIBUT­ING COLUMNIST, OBSERVER EDI­TO­RIAL BOARD

Hu­man traf­fick­ing, the mod­ern-day slav­ery. We’ve heard this phrase many times. It is sober­ing to know the city of Char­lotte ranks num­ber 1 in hu­man traf­fick­ing within North Carolina and our state ranks 10th in the na­tion, ad­vo­cacy groups say. The av­er­age age a child en­ters sex traf­fick­ing is be­tween 12 and 14. These statis­tics should cause us great alarm.

At the Meck­len­burg Evening Repub­li­can Women’s Club, we’ve heard from or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Re­deem­ing Joy Min­istries, Lily Pad Haven and oth­ers. These or­ga­ni­za­tions are do­ing a great job res­cu­ing and sup­port­ing vic­tims. Un­for­tu­nately, they are lim­ited by lack of fi­nan­cial re­sources.

N.C. Rep. Bill Braw­ley tried to get fund­ing; he was the chief spon­sor of HB 910, which would have pro­vided $56 mil­lion to help vic­tims, pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion and more. Un­for­tu­nately, it didn’t pass and while I am grate­ful that some mea­sures were taken, we could do so much more.

Sadly, Rep. Braw­ley, who fought hard for girls and women, was de­feated in the midterm elec­tion. Hu­man traf­fick­ing is a non-par­ti­san is­sue that Democrats and Repub­li­cans should tackle in 2019. We call upon Braw­ley’s suc­ces­sor, Demo­crat Rachel Hunt, to take the ba­ton from Rep. Braw­ley and lead this ef­fort.

Home­land Se­cu­rity, ICE in par­tic­u­lar, has had great suc­cess com­bat­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing. Ac­cord­ing to ICE: “Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of State, the United States is a des­ti­na­tion coun­try for thou­sands of men, women, and chil­dren traf­ficked from all ar­eas of the world. These vic­tims are traf­ficked for the pur­poses of sex­ual and la­bor ex­ploita­tion. Many of these vic­tims are lured from their homes with false prom­ises of well­pay­ing jobs; in­stead, they are forced or co­erced into pros­ti­tu­tion, do­mes­tic servi­tude, farm or fac­tory la­bor or other types of forced la­bor. Vic­tims of­ten find them­selves in a for­eign coun­try and can­not speak the lan­guage. Traf­fick­ers fre­quently take away the vic­tims’ travel and iden­tity doc­u­ments, telling them that if they at­tempt to es­cape, the vic­tims or their fam­i­lies back home will be harmed, or the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies will as­sume the debt. We rec­og­nize that men, women and chil­dren that are en­coun­tered in brothels, sweat shops, mas­sage par­lors, agri­cul­tural fields and other la­bor mar­kets may be forced or co­erced into those sit­u­a­tions and po­ten­tially are traf­fick­ing vic­tims.”

With this week’s news that Meck­len­burg Sher­iff Garry McFad­den has de­cided to end the 287(g) pro­gram be­tween Home­land Se­cu­rity and the Sher­iff’s of­fice, I am con­cerned about the im­pact this de­ci­sion will have in Meck­len­burg County’s ef­forts to com­bat hu­man traf­fick­ing. The 287(g) pro­gram al­lowed for ex­ten­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the sher­iff’s depart­ment and im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties. ICE has had great suc­cess com­bat­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing, ar­rest­ing 2,000 peo­ple for traf­fick­ing last year. I sin­cerely hope Sher­iff McFad­den would re­con­sider his de­ci­sion, given the po­ten­tial con­se­quences end­ing 287(g) may have on our fight to end hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Miller is pres­i­dent of the Meck­len­burg Evening Repub­li­can Women’s Club. [email protected]

JEFF SINER [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

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