At Human Trafficking Seminar, Oct. 4, Monterey
Bishop Richard Garcia and San Jose Bishop Patrick
McGrath listen while Sister Caritas Foster, SHF,
explains the scope of the problem and its
implications in the Bay area.
By Roberta Ward
Under the auspices of the Diocese of San Jose Department of Social Ministries, headed by Linda Batton, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath established the Catholic Network to End Human Trafficking. The Network planned and presented two early October seminars especially aimed at informing parish and school personnel.
Network members, many of them Religious women, meet monthly to strategize ways to counter the trafficking problem, especially in a diocese which is home to people from many parts of the world.
Bishop McGrath, who attended the seminars and spoke briefly, had urged each school and parish to have at least one representative at the three-hour sessions which dealt with basic signs of trafficking and how it affects victims. A total of approximately 180 people attended.
The Network also collaborates with the Diocese of Monterey whose Deacon Doug Winston is a member. Monterey Bishop Richard Garcia attended the first seminar and said trafficking “is a big problem in our diocese, especially in Santa Cruz County. There are so many migrant camps and farmworkers and their children are very vulnerable.”
He said there have been tremendous changes in his diocese in farmworkers, many of whom now come from Oaxaca State in southern Mexico.
“Oaxacans now are beginning to dominate the fields,” Bishop Garcia said. “They are from indigenous groups who do not speak Spanish and have their own dialects. It is easier to take advantage of them. Immigration and human trafficking are very interrelated.”
Bishop McGrath noted, “Human Trafficking is a crime that affects approximately 27 million people globally. According to the U.S. State Department, it is estimated that as many as 600,000 to 800,000 persons are trafficked across borders each year.”
He said, “The United States is a source, destination and transit country for human trafficking. It is present in every community, including our own. As Catholics and as people of faith, we are called to create awareness and to do what we can to end this abuse of human life.”
He said, “I found it hard to believe, and thought it couldn’t happen here. It was women Religious who made me aware that it does happen here. Perpetrators are very skilled. They lure with false promises of jobs and education. It boggles my mind. It is very important to get the word out and to let our people know the signs and to be able to ask questions and intervene.”
Nationally, trafficking is a topic of huge concern for Religious congregations of women. Locally, the diocesan Network works with a group of Religious that has developed “Stop Slavery!” That group educates hospitality industry personnel in trafficking awareness. (See story, Oct. 8 edition, page 6.)
Sister Caritas Foster, SHF, member of the DSJ Network, said, “Human trafficking is modern day slavery. “It’s the recruiting, harboring, transporting, buying and selling of a person through force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation.”
She said that globally 27 million people are trafficked yearly representing a $32 billion business. “It is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world, second after drug trade,” Sister Caritas said. “Victims are more lucrative than drugs and criminal penalties are higher for selling drugs than for selling people!”
She noted that 5.5 million of trafficking victims are children -- some 25 percent – and 11.4 percent are women and girls, especially because, in some parts of the world, they are considered “property” of males.
Unjust labor issues figure prominently, Sister Caritas said. In some parts of the world, victims work long hours for little or no wages. In India, for example, children hand stitch carpets 18 hours a day and grab a few hours of sleep on a floor before going back to work. “Human trafficking is a violation of the person,” she said.
“There are many stories of real people,” she said, telling of a young girl who was sold for $30, and others recruited from within their own ethnic group for domestic services. “The victims have to pay for everything and they wind up owing more than they make. This creates generational debt.”
The workshops also featured law enforcement officials who spoke of the local reality of trafficking – FBI Special Agent Jennifer Chelf and San Jose Police Department Sergeant Kyle Oki. (Their comments will be in the Nov. 5 edition of The Valley Catholic.)
How to become ‘heads-up’ about human trafficking
Two recent seminars on human trafficking sponsored by the Diocese of San Jose convened parish and school personnel to hear experts on the problem as well as learn ways of spotting it and dealing with it.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided information stating clearly: “Human trafficking is controlling a person through force, fraud or coercion – physical or psychological – to exploit the person for forced labor, sexual exploitation, or both.”
Trafficking also covers the use of minors for commercial sexual activity even if there is no force, fraud or coercion, as well a people held against their will to pay off a debt, known as “peonage.”
HHS also points out that Human trafficking is a hidden crime, the causes complex, including poverty, globalizing economies, faster transportation and open borders. It is a major source of profit for organized crime syndicates and is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world, outpacing guns and drugs.
Seminar attendees were urged to support safe houses and shelters – Freedom House, www.freedom-house.us.com; and partner with local organizations: Asian Anti-Trafficking Collaborative, www.endtrafficking.wordpress.com; MISSEY, www.missey.org; The SAGE Project, www.sagesf.org; Tassa Tags, www.tassatags.org (Project of ECPAT-USA.org).
Attendees were also urged to consider their purchasing practices, considering sources of products; and to buy Fair Trade products. -- R. Ward