This is a backgrounder I created for my non-profit client, Mosaic Family Services, and my PR Writing class. It defines the issue of human trafficking and important topics related to it.
Mosaic Family Services Backgrounder
Mosaic Family Services’ mission and purpose is to support, educate and empower victims of trafficking, immigrants and refugees in crisis, and the community (Mosaic Family Services). Mosaic accomplishes this through an array of services and programs that its staff provides to those at risk. In order to increase awareness and understanding about the abuse of human rights, Mosaic also actively participates in and advocates community outreach events.
Defining the Issue
Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is commonly referred to as a form of modern day slavery. It describes the process of recruiting, transporting or harboring individuals for the purpose of exploiting them. Trafficked people are coerced into positions of vulnerability and servitude where they are kept against their free will and forced to perform involuntary labor or services.
Labor trafficking and sexual trafficking are defined as the two distinct forms of trafficking according to The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. Exploitation through labor can include domestic servitude, sweatshop factory work and migrant agricultural work, while sexual exploitation involves prostitution or commercial sexual services (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
Traffickers control their victims by a variety of means ranging from psychological manipulation to abduction, fraud, debt bondage, extortion, and threats and violence toward the victim and their family.
The Victims of Human Trafficking
Victims of human trafficking are largely women and children but also include teenagers and men. According to the U.S. Department of State, about 50,000 individuals are trafficked through U.S. borders annually while the number of victims trafficked internationally reaches upwards of 700,000 individuals every year.
A large issue with identifying, preventing and ending human trafficking is the concealed nature of the crime and the level of fear that surrounds its victims. “It’s not obvious, even to people that know about it. People who are trafficked usually don’t make an outcry or cry out for help, oftentimes they don’t see themselves as being victimized,” said Bill Bernstein, Deputy Director at Mosaic Family Services.
Many victims of trafficking, especially those in the United State illegally, are fearful of authorities or unfamiliar with the laws and thus are less likely to seek assistance. Even after they are released from their trafficker’s hold and influence, many victims are unwilling to communicate with authorities and divulge information about the criminal activity due to fears of retribution toward themselves and their families.
U.S. Laws on Human Trafficking
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 was the first comprehensive Federal law created in response to human trafficking. The law provides protection to victims, including those in the country illegally, while prosecuting their traffickers by making human trafficking a federal crime (U.S. Department of State). This law has been renewed three times: in 2003, 2005 and 2008.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides two types of immigration relief for victims: T Nonimmigrant Status (T-Visa) and U Nonimmigrant Status (U-Visa).
The T-Visa allows victims who are illegally in the country to remain in the United States on the condition that the victim admits to being trafficked and agrees to prosecute their trafficker pending an investigation by law enforcement authorities.
The U-Visa provides immigration protection with the same stipulations as the T-Visa to victims who sustained significant mental and physical abuse as a result of the criminal activity.
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) created provisions in U.S. immigration law that protects and aids victims of abuse and violence who are not citizens of the United States. Many victims are vulnerable to their abusers’ attacks because they must depend on their abuser to apply for the legal documents that allow them to live in the United States. In some cases, victims are able to gain lawful immigration status without first receiving a petition from their abuser. VAWA has been reauthorized twice, in 2000 and 2005, and is up for renewal by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012.
How Mosaic Family Services Combats Human Trafficking
Through its Services for Victims of Trafficking Program, Mosaic served 109 clients in 2010. The program provides assistance through linguistic, legal and social services, counseling, employment assistance, and housing. Staff members of the program also provided 38 Human Trafficking Outreach Sessions in 2010.
Mosaic House assisted 207 women and children in 2010. Opened in 2001 as the Dallas-area’s first multicultural housing for victimized women and children, Mosaic House offers the basic necessities to its clients, including shelter, food, clothing, and hygiene and medical supplies (Mosaic Family Services).
Mosaic’s Refugee Case Management Program served 646 clients in 2010. The program helps refugees access medical and mental health care, provides assistance with psychological and cultural adjustment, and offers short-term counseling and health-related education. The program also held 12 workshops and conducted 16 community outreach events to advocate refugee rights and assistance.
The legal staff of Mosaic’s Multicultural Legal Services Program assisted 900 individuals in 2010. The program provides immigration assistance with T-Visa and U-Visa applications, VAWA petitions, and work authorization applications. The program also offers free legal services and advice in cases involving divorce, child custody, child support and protective orders.