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WASHINGTON—U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf announced the opening of the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking, the U.S. government’s first-ever integrated law enforcement operations center directly supporting federal criminal investigations, victim assistance efforts, intelligence analysis, and outreach and training activities related to human trafficking and forced labor.
The center, which has been operational since early September, is based in Washington and led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a global leader of criminal investigations into human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The center will be staffed with law enforcement officials from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and across DHS, as well as subject matter experts and support staff from 16 DHS components—all focused on the “4 Ps” of the center’s mission: prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships.
“Human trafficking is modern day slavery. There is no other way to say it,” said Acting Secretary Chad Wolf. “The words are strong because the actions are evil. The forms of exploitation, sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude that constitute human trafficking are antithetical in every way to the principles of human dignity that Americans hold dear. The launch of this Center for Countering Human Trafficking represents the investment of resources, attention, and time by President Trump to combat and dismantle all forms of human trafficking.”
On Jan. 15, Wolf signed and released the DHS Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation (https://www.dhs.gov/publication/strategy-combat-human-trafficking-importation-goods-produced-forced-labor-and-child) which pledged to bolster DHS efforts to combat human trafficking and forced labor.
“Human Trafficking, whether through sex or labor, is a detriment to our society and threatens the moral conscience of our nation. Criminal organizations target those who are most vulnerable and exploit them through any means necessary, Victims are treated as commodities rather than human beings, with no regard for their health and well-being,” said ICE Senior Official Performing the Duties of Director Tony Pham. “ICE, along with our internal and external partners, will continue to fight against these atrocities and answer victims’ cries for help. The Center for Countering Human Trafficking will serve as evidence that when we work collectively against such heinous acts, we combat the threat they pose to national security and to public safety.”
ICE’s HSI has long been a global leader in investigating human trafficking and sexual exploitation cases and bringing offenders to justice. The Center will build on the agency’s “victims first” approach, which balances victim identification, rescue and support with prevention, investigation, and prosecution of traffickers. ICE HSI is uniquely positioned to utilize criminal, immigration, and trade-based authorities to proactively identify, disrupt and dismantle cross-border human trafficking organizations.
In fiscal year 2019, ICE initiated 1,024 human trafficking and forced labor related cases which led to 2,197 criminal arrests. These effective actions resulted in nearly 700 convictions and the rescue of more than 400 victims.
Reporting suspected sexual or labor exploitation can help decrease or stop further victimization, as well as lead to the identification and rescue of other possible victims. To report suspicious activity or instances of sexual abuse or exploitation, contact your local law enforcement agency. Tips can be submitted online at https://www.ice.gov/tipline, by phone at 866-DHS-2-ICE or by contacting your local ICE office.
For more information about the Department of Homeland Security’s overall efforts against human trafficking, visit http://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign
by Jenn Lukens
Human trafficking, as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “involves force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Referred to as a form of “modern-day slavery,” human trafficking occurs in every state and is not limited by the size of a community. While there is debate about the exact dollar amount, the industry generates profits into the billions, making it one of the most profitable crimes in the world. It has been identified as a public health concern by researchers, federal agents, and healthcare professionals alike.
Click here to read part one of a two-part series on human trafficking in rural America.
Jan 31, 2020 — The President issued an executive order on combating human trafficking and online exploitation of children. Describes the federal government’s commitment to strengthen its responsiveness to human trafficking, prosecute human traffickers, and protect victims of human trafficking and exploitation.
The Administration on Children and Families created SOAR to Health and Wellness Training to create a community-level public health approach to individuals who have experienced trafficking. SOAR – an acronym for Stop, Observe, Ask, Respond – provides an online training curriculum in English and Spanish with course credits available. Resources and trainings for indigenous populations are available through SOAR for Native Communities.
Human trafficking can happen anywhere and to anyone. Sometimes it takes place at the hands of someone the victim knows.
In Pennsylvania, state agencies and organizations are working together to put an end to human trafficking within the state and nationally.
Human Trafficking is the most rapidly growing organized crime in the world. In 2016, 40 million people were victims of human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 10,949 cases called in in 2018.In Pennsylvania, The Hotline receive 630 contacts regarding human trafficking in 2018, with 275 cases reported. These numbers are not indicative of the full scope of victims, since not all cases are identified or reported.
What is Human Trafficking?
Adults and children can be trafficked or enslaved and forced to sell their bodies for sex. People are also trafficked or enslaved for labor exploitation, for example to work on a farm or factory or in a house as a servant, maid, or nanny and receive little to no money for their work 10-16 hours every day of the week. The crime of human trafficking must involve the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
PennDOT is one of the first transportation agencies in the country to train employees to recognize the signs of a potential trafficking situation and how to report it to the authorities. To date, PennDOT has trained 564 driver license and welcome center employees, as well as almost 15,000 transit agency employees in human trafficking awareness. In 2018, PennDOT took the USDOT pledge to “Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking” and became a member of the National Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking initiative.
Visit PennDOT’s human trafficking landing page for more information on the initiative and helpful links.
Get the Facts & Spot the Signs
Polaris provides resources for human trafficking prevention and tracks data that can be used for targeted systems-level strategies to disrupt and prevent human trafficking. They provide myths, facts, and statistics to help better explain what human trafficking is and dispel common misconceptions.
Keep Kids Safe provides additional information on human trafficking in Pennsylvania, as well as how to spot the signs of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.
If you witness or are a victim of human trafficking, get in touch with the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Call 888-373-7888, or text “BeFree” to 233733.
The Pennsylvania Office of Victim Services provides help for victims of human trafficking who need to find local service programs, financial assistance, or visa assistance.
Download and print human trafficking awareness posters from the Pennsylvania State Police
The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded more than $100 million in funding, through the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), to combat human trafficking and provide vital services to trafficking victims throughout the United States. For a complete list of individual grant programs, award amounts, and jurisdictions that will receive funding, visit the DOJ webpage here.
SOAR Online is a series of training modules launched in 2018 by the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center and Postgraduate Institute, in collaboration with federal partners. A new SOAR for School-Based Professionals Module equips those serving middle and high school students to better understand how human trafficking-related issues impact youth. Visit the SOAR Online page for full CE/CME information and register for SOAR Online.
In 2018, 127 cases of human trafficking were reported in Pennsylvania, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. At the 2019 Rural Human Trafficking Summit hosted by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health at Penn State Tuesday, advocates said that to target and stop trafficking, the public needs to first recognize the situation.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported nearly 8,000 cases of sex trafficking in 2018, and about 1,200 case of labor trafficking. The organization says the statistic doesn’t necessarily mean sex trafficking is more prevalent than labor trafficking, only that people are more aware of the former.
Jane Guerino, a survivor of sex trafficking, said most people don’t believe trafficking is happening in Pennsylvania or outside of urban areas. She was abducted at the age of 30 in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“It is here. It’s in your backyard. It is with your children, and you don’t know it and you don’t realize it until they’re abducted or they’re taken into trafficking,” she said.
Guerino is the president of the Glory House in Allentown, a transitional home for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. She warned that dating websites and the internet as a whole are often used by traffickers to lure potential victims into trafficking. Young girls and women should be especially vigilant and cautious, she said, as they’re the most likely targets.
Guerino, who was one of the speakers at the summit, said medical professionals and law enforcement agencies need more training on recognizing signs of human trafficking in victims. They may come in contact with emergency rooms or police officers while showing bruising or displaying anxiety.
Shea Rhodes, who directs the Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation at Villanova University, talked about prosecuting the traffickers and buyers in the billion-dollar industry instead of the victims.
“Pennsylvania is really starting to — and our legislature is recognizing that, unless we target the sex buyers to drive down that demand for commercial sex, the traffickers are going to continue to capitalize and be able to make money,” Rhodes said.
She helped push the state to enact a comprehensive legislation that defines both sex trafficking and labor trafficking in 2014, “the most meaningful change” from the legal perspective.
“Every year since that law has gone into effect, we’ve been working with the legislature to continue to move that ball forward,” Rhodes said.
One of the additions is a Safe Harbor Law, which the state enacted in 2018, ensuring child victims of human trafficking don’t get prosecuted for prostitution or other crimes.
“We really need to change the public perception as to what prostitution is,” Rhodes said. “And all of those terrible synonyms and the stigma that goes along with that particular crime. It’s actually, in our opinion, exploitive, and we don’t think anyone, who is being either sold for sex, or selling sex because they have no other way to survive, should be criminalized.” So far, the 2014 legislation has led to 46 convictions in the state.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, you can get help by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.
Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health to Host Rural Human Trafficking Summit on October 29
University Park, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH) will hold the first Pennsylvania Rural Human Trafficking Summit on October 29, 2019 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center in State College, PA.
The summit will focus on national and state efforts to address human trafficking, the law enforcement response to trafficking, and community- and health care facility-based strategies and education to address trafficking.
According to the Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH), approximately 40.3 million modern slaves are in service worldwide, with approximately 25 million being forced into labor and sex trafficking. It is estimated that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.
Human trafficking is not just a global issue, but a local issue. Rural America, and rural Pennsylvania, are not immune to trafficking. According to data from the NHTH, 275 reported cases of human trafficking were reported in 2018 in Pennsylvania, ranking the state 11th in the nation for human trafficking.
Isolation, geography, and transportation routes that facilitate human trafficking in rural areas allow human trafficking to go undetected. The lack of economic opportunities in many rural areas also make individuals more vulnerable to trafficking. Education, awareness, and an understanding of local, state, and federal resources are essential to identifying potential human trafficked individuals and assisting them in getting the help they need.
The October summit will feature a “surthriver,” a victim of human trafficking who was able to escape this modern day slavery. She will share her compelling journey into and through human trafficking and how she survived—and thrived. She now directs a human trafficking recovery program in northeastern Pennsylvania to aid others to escape the bonds of trafficking.
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. It can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender or nationality. Traffickers might use violence, manipulation or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking.
Trauma caused by traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings. Language barriers, stigma, fear of their traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement frequently keep victims from seeking help, making human trafficking a hidden crime.
National estimates indicate that approximately 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women, and health care providers are often the first professionals to have contact with trafficked women and girls. Nearly 50 percent of trafficked individuals saw a health care professional during their exploitation, putting health care providers and facilities on the front lines of identifying and potentially stopping human trafficking.
The summit is sponsored by PORH; the Region III Office of the Health Resources and Services Administration; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the Eastcentral and Northeast Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center; the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and the Governors Office of Homeland Security.
Registration and additional conference information can be found on the Rural Human Trafficking Summit website at cvent.com/d/z6qs99.
PORH formed in 1991 as a joint partnership between the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Penn State. The office is one of 50 state offices of rural health in the nation funded under a program administered by FORHP and is charged with being a source of coordination, technical assistance, networking, and partnership development.
PORH provides expertise in the areas of rural health, agricultural health and safety, and community and economic development. PORH is administratively housed in the Department of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State University Park.
Editors: For more information, contact Terri Klinefelter, outreach coordinator, Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, at 814-863-8214 or email@example.com.