Actress helps fight child sex trafficking in Ore.

by Wayne Havrelly

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Posted on January 17, 2011 at 11:52 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 17 at 12:37 PM

PORTLAND — Hollywood actress Daryl Hannah has long been an activist against child sexual slavery. This weekend, she rode with Portland police officers as they patrolled strip clubs and areas known for prostitution.

Hannah was in Portland for a weekend conference against human sex trafficking.  It was organized by Soroptimist International, a women’s organization dedicated to improve the lives of women.

Hannah shared her experience of going undercover into brothels in places like Cambodia as she worked on a documentary about human sex trafficking. Saturday night, she rode along with Portland police.

“I was shocked at what I learned,” said Hannah. “Most of the girls in these strip clubs are not just girls looking to make cash, a majority are represented by pimps.”

US Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also recently went on a ride along with Police on the human trafficking detail. What he saw convinced him to push congress to help local survivors of sex trafficking.

He’s co-sponsored a bill to fight the problem and talked about it last Friday during a town hall meeting at Milwaukee High School. “We’re going to get it passed early this year,” he said. “There’s going to be help, shelters for young women so they can get their lives back together.”

“To learn there are no shelters specifically for victims of trafficking is absolutely shocking,” said Hannah.

According to FBI estimates, more than 100,000 underage girls are exploited for commercial sex in the U.S. every year. Wyden’s bill would authorize $2 million grants for six areas in the nation known for child sex trafficking.  Portland would likely be one of those areas.

Not My Life: Globalization and Modern Slavery

On January 19th, 2011, the Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York City will hold the world premiere of Not My Life — a feature-length documentary film about modern-day slavery and global human trafficking, about horrifying practices that affect millions of children, women and men in every part of the world — a shameful but neglected reality in our “global village”.

Globalization has brought us many advantages indeed, but its related deregulation processes have also facilitated some inhuman practices. Bonded labor, debt-related slavery, commercial sexual exploitation and other forms of forced labor and related trafficking have become a global industry — very conservatively estimated at over $32 billion by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2005 and even higher numbers in more recent reports by other organizations, the United States’ State Department, etc.

All varieties of forced labor and human trafficking are treated as criminal practices, prohibited in international law and most national legislation. It is covered by international treaties and covenants, including three United Nations Protocols and three ILO Conventions, which are unique in the sense that they include elements of criminal law and its enforcement. The overwhelming majority of governments have ratified these instruments and developed and/or improved related national laws and technical cooperation programs. Yet, the illegal and hidden nature of different forms of forced labor and trafficking makes it very difficult to crack down such practices. Very few victims are rescued on a global basis.

There are indeed many committed institutions and compassionate individuals advocating an end to modern slavery, and many of them are working with governments and their law enforcement agencies. But these efforts need to be strengthened with more financial resources and also proactive media to mobilize public opinion, particularly consumer awareness, as well as private business initiatives, etc. Businesses today cannot afford to run risks of association with any form of child labor and forced labor and related human trafficking in their own business operations and their supply chains, no matter how difficult it may be for them to monitor and control these complex chains.

Particularly in countries with well developed legislation and strong human rights advocacy groups, any company facing allegations of profiting from forced labor exploitation will not only find their reputation severely damaged, but may also face costly lawsuits and criminal prosecution. The same is generally true for at least some of the “worst forms of child labor” defined under ILO Convention 182 and related UN Protocols. These issues have become a significant risk management concern for companies. But few of them are engaged proactively in multistakeholder efforts to crack down on forced labor, child labor and human trafficking. It would indeed help them fence off their own risks if they would become more actively engaged.

Not My Life is a film that can make a difference in informing and mobilizing public opinion and multistakeholder initiatives. Although the topics addressed — especially female sexual trafficking — have been seen in television reports, there is a lack of feature length films that effectively depict the problem of modern slavery as a whole targeting a mass audience and, in addition, can provide, at little or no cost, edited versions of the film for educational and fundraising purposes and to help enhance cooperation.

Not My Life is the outcome of four years of planning and hard work by its director, writer and producer, Robert Bilheimer. It was filmed in North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, India, and Africa. I first met Robert in Washington, DC, in early 2007 when he was seeking support from United States agencies and international organizations to help him define the focus, scope, funding and outreach of his envisaged new film. As Director of ILO for the United States, I engaged frequently with Robert in his efforts and, in this process, we became close friends as well. Robert’s compassionate worldview and artistic style had been evident in A Closer Walk, his highly acclaimed documentary about global HIV-AIDS. This character and style would inevitably lead him to produce a humanistic essay about slavery that, as he once put it, would

provide a deeper understanding of the way the world is and our relationship to one another as human beings in a planetary society. …The viewers around the world who see this film will ask themselves: what kind of society have we created that allows traffickers to profit and prey on — of all things — human lives? The lives of innocent children? The lives of young women and girls? The lives of men who have been robbed of their dignity and self-respect long before enslaving criminals appeared to take what little they had left? 

Yet, the nature of this complex theme required more than a humanistic approach. It dealt with crimes. It required an in-depth knowledge of the international and national instruments and loopholes, and the efforts of some UN agencies, NGOs and government agencies dealing with the scourge of modern slavery and related trafficking. Robert and I had long discussions about how a poetic humanistic perspective could in fact enhance what the UN agencies and NGOs, and many governments and some companies were trying to achieve.

Not My Life‘s premiere will be a celebration of all those individuals and organizations working to end slavery in our time. Many of those appearing in the film itself will attend the premiere, including guests from several countries, among them, prominent government figures, leaders from NGOs, United Nations agencies and private business, members of the arts and entertainment communities, including the film’s narrator, Ashley Judd, and musical contributors Dave Brubeck, Derek Trucks, and Susan Tedeschi. Members of the international press corps will be in attendance to mark what the organizers anticipate will be a watershed event for one of the most complex and troubling human rights issues of our time. The premiere, which will be attended by approximately 1,000 people, will be followed by a limited theatrical run of Not My Life in select theatres in the United States, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Two More Charged in Hawaii in Human Trafficking Case

WASHINGTON—The Justice Department announced today that a federal grand jury in Honolulu has returned a 10-count superseding indictment charging defendants Joseph Knoller and Bruce Schwartz, both of Los Angeles, as co-conspirators in a scheme to hold 400 Thai nationals in compelled service as agricultural workers in the District of Hawaii and elsewhere. Knoller and Schwartz are charged along with six co-defendants charged in an earlier indictment returned on September 1, 2010: Mordecai Orian, Pranee Tubchumpol, Shane Germann, Sam Wongsesanit, Ratawan Chunharutai, and Podjanee Sinchai, each of whom is associated with California-based labor recruiter Global Horizons Manpower Inc. and the recruiters that served as Global Horizons’ labor recruiting agents in Thailand. The superseding indictment also charges Schwartz with conspiracy to commit document servitude, along with four co-conspirators previously charged with that offense.

In addition, the indictment alleges four additional counts of forced labor and document servitude; and charges Orian with committing immigration-related offenses for financial gain. The indictment seeks forfeiture of an aircraft that Orian and his co-conspirators used to transport workers among Hawaiian Islands. According to the indictment, the defendants engaged in a scheme from 2001 to 2007 to compel the labor of hundreds of Thai agricultural workers, by using false promises to induce the workers to incur insurmountable debts, and then using a scheme of threats, intimidation and controls to hold the workers in the service of Global Horizons and its agricultural grower clients, often for little or no pay. The defendants and their associates recruited impoverished Thai nationals, charging high recruitment fees that required the recruits to incur substantial debts, frequently secured by their family homes and subsistence lands as collateral, based on promises of lucrative employment that would allow them to repay the debt.

After arrival in the United States, the indictment charges, the defendants confiscated the workers’ passports and required them to labor in the fields of Global Horizons’ agricultural grower clients. The indictment further alleges that the defendants paid the workers low wages and required them to remain under the defendants’ control, without pay, in overcrowded, substandard conditions, to serve as a cheap, compliant, and readily available labor pool when there was insufficient work. The defendants maintained control over the Thai nationals by confiscating their passports, threatening them with deportation, and threatening to send them back to Thailand with no way to repay their debts, knowing they feared that they and their families would face serious economic harm as a result of the recruitment debts secured by their property. If convicted, Orian faces a maximum sentence of 135 years; Tubchumpol a maximum sentence of 115 years; Wongsesanit a maximum sentence of 35 years; Germann a maximum sentence of 30 years; Chunharutai a maximum sentence of 65 years; Schwartz a maximum of 10 years; and Knoller a maximum of five years.

Sinchai, who was recently charged and convicted in Thailand with recruitment fraud, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison if convicted in the United States. The case is being investigated by the Honolulu Division of the FBI, with the assistance of the FBI’s Los Angeles, Norfolk, and Buffalo Divisions; the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Offices in Los Angeles, Provo, Utah and Washington State; and the United States Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service, Los Angeles Field Office. The principal non-governmental organizations assisting the victims are the Thai Community Development Center, Utah Legal Services, and Florida Rural Legal Services. This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Susan French and Kevonne Small of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, and Assistant United States Attorney Susan Cushman of the District of Hawaii.

The charges in the 10-count superseding indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Human trafficking victim tells Pinellas gathering of her abuse

BELLEAIR — The 20-year-old woman with the bright eyes and curly brown hair was dancing at a Miami strip club when she met him.

She had been sexually abused as a child growing up in foster care and yearned for love, affection, attention.

He gave it to her, at first.

She agreed to move with him to Cleveland. The first night in the new city, the man told her to change her clothes. He had a job for her to do.

“That night changed my life,” she said.

For the next four years, the woman was forced to prostitute herself in cars, alleyways and cheap motels.

The woman, whom the St. Petersburg Times is not identifying, shared her story with a rapt audience of about 125 people Tuesday at a fundraising luncheon for the International Association of Human Trafficking Investigators at the Belleair Country Club. Law enforcement authorities at the fundraiser say the woman’s story is a classic case of human trafficking.

Gregory Christopher, a special agent with the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force, said the agency recovered about 30 juvenile victims in the Tampa Bay area last year who were forced into prostitution.

“We have an endless supply of victims in this area, unfortunately,” he said. “A lot of them are runaways or foster kids.”

But children aren’t the only victims. Just last month, a multijurisdictional task force found 27 people living in two homes in Largo and Clearwater. Authorities say they believe the people, adults from Latin American and Asian countries, were being forced to work in a Largo restaurant. That investigation is ongoing.

In the United States, the FBI estimates that several thousand people a year may be victims of human trafficking, which can include sexual exploitation, domestic servitude or forced labor.

Tuesday’s luncheon was sponsored by the Zonta Club of Pinellas County, a group dedicated to women’s rights issues. Founders of the nonprofit IAHTI, which was formed in October 2009, said their intention is to help human trafficking investigators worldwide to share resources, intelligence and investigative techniques in cases that often cross jurisdictional boundaries.

One goal is to educate the public to recognize signs of human trafficking, such as multiple people living in the same home, indications of people being held against their will such as bars or locks on windows, or people exhibiting excessive fear, anxiety or intimidation.

Part of the challenge for law enforcement is that victims are often threatened by their captors so they don’t report the crime, said IAHTI executive director Jeremy Lewis, who founded the association along with Clearwater police Detective James McBride.

“It’s the community who’s actually going to find or identify the victims and bring it to our attention so we can investigate,” Lewis said.

The woman who spoke at the luncheon, now 34, said she never reported the abuse to police because her main concern was “getting out of there.”

But before she got the chance, she spent four years crisscrossing the country with her pimp, forced to sell her body in more than a dozen states.

“I worked seven days a week … 11 at night to 8 the next morning,” she said. “I couldn’t keep track of how many men I was servicing.”

The man who said he would take care of her cursed her instead. Through years of manipulation, she was scared to leave him, she said, afraid of what he would do to her and worried she wouldn’t be able to care for herself. But she finally escaped when the man abandoned her for a couple of weeks in Las Vegas in January 2001, she said.

“I am set free of that life. I’m no longer a victim. I’m a survivor,” she told the crowd Tuesday.