NSU to host human trafficking symposium

NSU to host human trafficking symposium
Public invited to learn about the illicit and dangerous trades
Nova Southeastern University
Miami (Miami-Dade, Florida)
Broward County
Human Rights
U.S. Department of Justice
Clubs and Associations By Linda Trischitta, Sun Sentinel

3:58 a.m. EDT, September 23, 2010
DAVIE — The Civil War ended 145 years ago, but slavery in the form of human trafficking still exists in America and it’s growing and lucrative in Florida.

Human trafficking is a $36 billion industry that trails only drug dealing in profitability among illicit trades, experts say.

On Friday and Saturday, a dozen scientists, advocates and survivors from Haiti, Liberia and the U.S. will approach the topic from many angles at a Human Trafficking Symposium. The event is presented by the Inter-American Center for Human Rights and hosted by Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center.

The symposium is free and open to the public. It will feature a traveling museum of exhibits about victims’ experiences in Florida.

One reason why trafficking is a growth industry here: There’s less risk for gang leaders.

From the trafficker’s viewpoint, the victim sex worker or undocumented farm worker will end up in jail and is expendable, said Adriane Reesey, president of the Broward Human Trafficking Coalition.

“These gang leaders don’t play,” Reesey said of conspirators’ enterprises that are “less risky than selling crack.”

Trafficking most frequently happens among farm laborers, sex workers and domestic, hotel and resort staffs, but “It can happen in any industry,” said Regina Bernadin, statewide human trafficking coordinator for the Florida Department of Children & Families who will speak at the symposium.

She said DCF conducted 156 investigations into alleged child trafficking situations from May 2009 to May 2010, though not all complaints were confirmed as trafficking exploitation.

Since October 2008, FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement teams have averaged one arrest a month of suspected traffickers operating from Key West to Fort Pierce, FBI Miami spokeswoman Judith Orihuela said.

“They’re promised a great life and job, but once they’re here, it’s forced labor in different trades,” she said. “We’ve devoted more federal resources to it to help local law enforcement, because they’re the first responders and we rely on them to tip us off.”

In 2010, Justice Department prosecutors in South Florida won guilty pleas or convictions in seven trafficking cases: six for child prostitution, and one for forced labor.

One of the sex trafficking conspiracies led to guilty pleas in August by Johnny Saintil, Michael Defrand and Stanley Wilson, all of Broward County. The men could face life terms at their November sentencing for trafficking adult women and minors out of name-brand hotels in South Florida, according to prosecutors.

This month, the federal government won guilty pleas from Sophia Manuel and Alfonso Baldonado Jr., of Boca Raton, for forced labor of 39 Filipino nationals in country clubs and hotels. The workers’ passports were confiscated and they toiled for little or no pay, without adequate food or drinking water, officials said.

Katariina Juliao, who calls herself a child trafficking survivor, will be one of the speakers on Friday.

“I’m very passionate about this and am sick of seeing vulnerable children prostituted,” Juliao said. “There needs to be more awareness.”

If you go: Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Shepard Broad Law Center, 3305 College Ave., Davie; and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Alvin Sherman Library, 3100 Ray Ferrero Jr. Blvd., Davie. For information, call 305-647-9607. For a list of speakers, go to http://www.nsulaw.nova.edu/orgs/iachr/index.cfm.

Staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.

Linda Trischitta can be reached at ltrischitta@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4233.

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