U.S. Ignores Cuba’s Request for Help Fighting Trafficking to America

Just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, Cuba is practically a next door neighbor to the United States. But America has thus far been behaving in a very un-neighborly way by refusing to help them with the significant problem of human trafficking between Cuba and the U.S., mostly of Cubans to America. I know we’ve had our differences with Cuba in the past (<cough> Bay of Pigs <cough>), but rejecting an olive branch attempt to fight slavery? Now that’s more than unfriendly.

Last week, Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez stated that he wants to negotiate an agreement with the United States to address the mutual problem of Cuban citizens being both smuggled and trafficked into the U.S. While the issues of smuggling and trafficking Cubans into America are distinct, they overlap greatly.

Some Cubans choose to migrate from Cuba to the U.S. without proper documentation, and pay a smuggler to bring them into the U.S. illegally. A smuggler’s relationship with the people he crosses borders with ends after they are in a new country. While migrants often suffer terrible conditions and may even die during smuggling, it is different issue from human trafficking. A trafficker continues to exploit the labor of the person or people he brings across a border, whether its in prostitution, domestic servitude, agriculture, or any other industry.

Sometimes, people voluntarily choose to be smuggled. But once their freedom and ability to leave their situation is taken, they become trafficked —  a modern-day slave. And no one chooses to be a slave.

(more…)

Blaming the victim

Our view: Shoddy police work sank the pandering case against Carlos Silot, but even had he been convicted, Maryland’s laws aren’t tough enough on adult sex traffickers

The case against Carlos Silot, whom police last year accused of running a brothel near Patterson Park, seemed clear cut. Officers put his rented rowhouse under surveillance, then watched as more than a dozen men entered and left over a span of hours. When detectives searched the house they found lists of customers, condoms, photographs, money, business cards and two women from Mexico who said Mr. Silot brought them there to have sex with customers. They were arrested for prostitution, and Mr. Silot was charged with “pandering” – a misdemeanor offense.

Still, on paper, the case looked like a slam-dunk for the prosecution. Yet it fell apart this week, and for an all-too-predictable reason: The women refused to testify against him. In fact, they were nowhere to be found.

How could anyone have expected otherwise? The women were illegal immigrants who had been cut off from their families and made to endure countless deprivations. Last April, when their case first came to trial, their lawyer claimed they were tricked into coming here and that they were held as virtual captives in the Patterson Park house. They couldn’t possibly expect that testifying against the man they say was responsible would turn out well, especially after learning that the state’s case against Mr. Silot was already shaky because police had mishandled or lost key pieces of evidence against him.

What assurances could the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office have made that it would protect these women? It can’t have helped that prosecutors initially charged them with prostitution – even though they were the victims.

In recent years, federal prosecutors have had notable success prosecuting sex-traffickers who exploit women and girls through force, fraud or coercion. The U.S. attorney’s office can bring to bear more resources than local authorities to investigate alleged crimes. Federal laws for such crimes are much stricter, and the federal government can provide legal status for sex-trafficking victims and help them rebuild their lives.

But the feds can’t handle every sex-trafficking case that comes up, which is why local prosecutors took the lead on Mr. Silot’s case. And the outcome points up not only the police’s bungling of the evidence needed to secure a conviction but also the clumsy way officials responded to the victims of sex-trafficking, as well as the disparity in penalties for traffickers who exploit children versus those whose victims are adults.

Since 2007, child sex trafficking has been a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison in Maryland. But state law still treats trafficking in adult women as a misdemeanor; even if Mr. Silot had been convicted of pandering, he would have served no more than 10 years. Not every case of pandering involves force, fraud or coercion, but for those that do, the penalty for adult and child sex-trafficking shouldn’t be so disparate.

Moreover, police need better training to recognize the signs of sex-trafficking and to protect its victims rather than treat them as criminals. They should know when to call in specialized investigative units and how to put victims in touch with nonprofit groups that offer counseling and other services. It’s a lot easier to slap a prostitution charge on a frightened woman who may not speak English well or even know the name of the city where she has been brought than it is to put her pimp behind bars. But that’s too often the way sex-trafficking cases are treated, and it needs to change.

Readers respond
The news that a credible sex trafficking case “fell apart” due to a lack of testimony from two victims is unsurprising at best. Both foreign national and U.S. citizen victims of sex and labor trafficking face enormous obstacles as they attempt to leave (or simply survive) unimaginable, often terrifying circumstances.

However, rather than cast blame on prosecutors, it is more productive to understand that in Maryland, local, state and federal law enforcement officers; advocates; and legislative experts have formed the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force to assist victims and ensure justice, including successful prosecution. This body is able to serve victims and get the word out about the scourge of sex and labor trafficking in Maryland.

Let’s put aside our differences and focus on the real enemy – male and female traffickers, from this country and elsewhere, who ruthlessly exploit child, teen and adult victims – and on real solutions, which always involve working together as one.

source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bal-ed.sextrafficking11nov11,0,4383283.story

Published in: on November 29, 2009 at 9:12 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Facing the realities of human trafficking in our own back yard

Shaniya Davis

I recently published a story on the Foreign Policy Association Blog Network, Trafficking? Not in my town…Yes, in every town, which featured the story of 5 year-old, Shaniya Davis, from Fayetteville, North Carolina. Shaniya was reportedly kidnapped and her body was later found on the side of a rural highway in North Carolina. Her mother was later charged with human trafficking for placing her daughter into ’sexual servitude’.

The story lead me an interview with Blog Talk Radio’s DC based show, “A Measure Of Truth”. I sat down with host, Michael Fordham to discuss some of the harsh realities of human trafficking/modern slavery and how it can effect every town, and we can all make an impact in helping to bring awareness to, and an end to, this horrendous crime against humanity. Click here for the recorded pod cast.

The case in NC has led many to seek to ask tough questions on whether this tragedy could have been prevented, however while the general issue of abuse has been addressed, few have touched on the realities of human trafficking. Out side of the human trafficking field few have questioned or mentioned the demand for sex, sex with a child, that factored into this story, which is haunting reality for many children across the globe. The demand for children that exists in Fayetteville, NC or, Washington, DC is the same demand that fuels sexual slavery in India, Thailand and beyond. This brings me back to an older article I published, Are we still clueless about modern slavery?. The hard truth is overall, yes! However we are progressing, we do have a long way to go. First steps are to educate yourself on what human trafficking is, then make yourself aware of the signs and how to report any suspected cases or potential victims.

What is Human Trafficking, or Modern Slavery? It is when the use of fraud, force, or coercion is used in which to exploit an individual for the mere means of profit or economic gains. There is no stereotypical face of human trafficking, for the chains of modern slavery can bind anyone, of any gender, race, religion or age. Those bound by slavery do not have to cross borders to be victimized, for one can be exploited within their own home, community, as well as half across the globe. Modern slavery comes in many shapes and forms, such as; child soldiers, forced labor through debt bondage, and forced prostitution or sex slavery. And as we have seen, not even rural North Carolina is immune to this disease of power and greed, which binds some 27 million people around the world.

It does happen right her in our nations capital, and not rarely. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) considers Washington, DC one of the top 14 sites in the country for sex trafficking of American children. (FBI, 2005). According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Task Force members maintain that hundreds of sex and labor trafficking cases in the Washington, DC area remain undiscovered each year.

Anyone can become a victim; there isn’t one face to human trafficking and modern slavery. How do you know if you have come across a victim? The following is a list of potential red flags and indicators of human trafficking. If you see any of the following red flags, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888 now to report the situation.

• Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips

• Is not free to leave, or come and go

• Works excessively long and/or unusual hours , has no breaks or unusual restrictions at work

• Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off

• Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts

• Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work

• Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous / paranoid behavior

• Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up “law enforcement”

• Avoids eye contact

• Appears malnourished or is in poor physical health

• Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse

• Has little to no personal possessions

• Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account

• Has numerous inconsistencies in their story

Note: This list is not exhaustive and rather represents a selection of possible indicators and may not be present in all trafficking cases. Please see http://www.slaverystillexists.org for a more conclusive list

source: http://www.examiner.com/x-7661-DC-Human-Rights-Examiner~y2009m11d24-Facing-the-realities-of-human-trafficking-in-our-own-back-yard

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 8:40 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

Blaming the victim

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Our view: Shoddy police work sank the pandering case against Carlos Silot, but even had he been convicted, Maryland’s laws aren’t tough enough on adult sex traffickers

The case against Carlos Silot, whom police last year accused of running a brothel near Patterson Park, seemed clear cut. Officers put his rented rowhouse under surveillance, then watched as more than a dozen men entered and left over a span of hours. When detectives searched the house they found lists of customers, condoms, photographs, money, business cards and two women from Mexico who said Mr. Silot brought them there to have sex with customers. They were arrested for prostitution, and Mr. Silot was charged with “pandering” – a misdemeanor offense.

Still, on paper, the case looked like a slam-dunk for the prosecution. Yet it fell apart this week, and for an all-too-predictable reason: The women refused to testify against him. In fact, they were nowhere to be found.

How could anyone have expected otherwise? The women were illegal immigrants who had been cut off from their families and made to endure countless deprivations. Last April, when their case first came to trial, their lawyer claimed they were tricked into coming here and that they were held as virtual captives in the Patterson Park house. They couldn’t possibly expect that testifying against the man they say was responsible would turn out well, especially after learning that the state’s case against Mr. Silot was already shaky because police had mishandled or lost key pieces of evidence against him.

What assurances could the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office have made that it would protect these women? It can’t have helped that prosecutors initially charged them with prostitution – even though they were the victims.

In recent years, federal prosecutors have had notable success prosecuting sex-traffickers who exploit women and girls through force, fraud or coercion. The U.S. attorney’s office can bring to bear more resources than local authorities to investigate alleged crimes. Federal laws for such crimes are much stricter, and the federal government can provide legal status for sex-trafficking victims and help them rebuild their lives.

But the feds can’t handle every sex-trafficking case that comes up, which is why local prosecutors took the lead on Mr. Silot’s case. And the outcome points up not only the police’s bungling of the evidence needed to secure a conviction but also the clumsy way officials responded to the victims of sex-trafficking, as well as the disparity in penalties for traffickers who exploit children versus those whose victims are adults.

Since 2007, child sex trafficking has been a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison in Maryland. But state law still treats trafficking in adult women as a misdemeanor; even if Mr. Silot had been convicted of pandering, he would have served no more than 10 years.

Not every case of pandering involves force, fraud or coercion, but for those that do, the penalty for adult and child sex-trafficking shouldn’t be so disparate.

Moreover, police need better training to recognize the signs of sex-trafficking and to protect its victims rather than treat them as criminals. They should know when to call in specialized investigative units and how to put victims in touch with nonprofit groups that offer counseling and other services. It’s a lot easier to slap a prostitution charge on a frightened woman who may not speak English well or even know the name of the city where she has been brought than it is to put her pimp behind bars. But that’s too often the way sex-trafficking cases are treated, and it needs to change.

Readers respond
The news that a credible sex trafficking case “fell apart” due to a lack of testimony from two victims is unsurprising at best. Both foreign national and U.S. citizen victims of sex and labor trafficking face enormous obstacles as they attempt to leave (or simply survive) unimaginable, often terrifying circumstances.

However, rather than cast blame on prosecutors, it is more productive to understand that in Maryland, local, state and federal law enforcement officers; advocates; and legislative experts have formed the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force to assist victims and ensure justice, including successful prosecution. This body is able to serve victims and get the word out about the scourge of sex and labor trafficking in Maryland.

Let’s put aside our differences and focus on the real enemy – male and female traffickers, from this country and elsewhere, who ruthlessly exploit child, teen and adult victims – and on real solutions, which always involve working together as one.

source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bal-ed.sextrafficking11nov11,0,4383283.story

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