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November, 2022 Monthly Reflection

November 11, 2022

TACTICS SIMILAR TO HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Sally Duffy, SC

Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently began bussing immigrants to places such as New York City, Chicago, and Washington DC to draw attention to more traditional cities governed by Democrats. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida financed the flying of immigrants, many from Communist Venezuela, from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

This action is appalling and inhumane. Sadly, the tactics are similar to human trafficking, as if the ends justify the means of dehumanizing people. Many traffickers use psychology to keep their victims “enslaved.” Dehumanized, and treated as commodities or political pawns, these are mostly families without passports, who speak a different language, and wear only the clothes on their backs. These migrants are fleeing violence and life-threatening situations. Homelessness, hunger, extreme poverty, and violence are some of the reasons to risk a life-threatening journey to the United States border. Given the conditions of needing to migrate, the luring and promising of food, jobs, housing, etc. can be convincing tactics to persuade someone to board a plane.

This luring, false promises, fraud, emotionally abusive mischaracterization of immigrants, and deception about opportunities are tactics traffickers use. Isolation and total dependency are also tactics of traffickers. There was no communication and care coordination regarding the arriving immigrants by either governor.

There are economic and other reasons for calling these actions unjust and appalling. This truly is a moral issue; this is about who we are as Christians. Because we are all made in the unique image and likeness of God, and we are all called to welcome the stranger. “When I was an immigrant, you welcomed me.”

Immigrants have inherent dignity, a dignity given to them by God our creator. They are also a result of the incarnation, the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Therefore, they have shared membership in our society and our Church because of their relationship with Jesus Christ. We are a people of faith. Believing in the Trinity, the image and likeness of the Trinity means that we are relational, a community, personal, mutual, inclusive, and we are an accompanying people.

The question, “Who is my neighbor?” is the question we are asked on a daily basis. Our neighbor is the person God puts in front of us. Our neighbor is the person in need.  Compassion and mercy call us to reach out to the immigrant and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Philippians also teaches us that we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and that there are laws greater than the laws of any country. Yes, laws are important but laws can also break people rather than help people.

I have many people that say to me, “But Sister, they are illegal.” God does not make anyone illegal or illegitimate. I do not know about you, but sometimes I break the law by speeding. Sometimes I do not catch that green light that has turned yellow and then is all of a sudden red. Now, maybe that never happens to you. My reasons for speeding are not the same reasons that immigrants leave their homes. They are doing it to save their children. Migrants are doing it because God is calling them to live out their God-given dignity and shared membership. The law is breaking them. Moreover, why is the law breaking them? It is because our immigration system is broken, antiquated, and needs to be fixed.

United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Conference in their statements on immigration calls us to radical hospitality, to welcome, and to take risks out of love. In the words of Pope Francis, “If we want security, then let’s give security, if we want life, then let us give life, if we want opportunities, then let us provide opportunities.” Our American values call us to human rights, liberty, and the international common good. Jesus came to liberate the captives and set free the oppressed.

Let us pray for all our brothers and sisters who are in the shadows, silenced, and oppressed, who if they are sent back to their country of origin, would be sent back to be killed, raped, or to be forced to be part of gangs. Let us pray to avoid complicity in the tactics of human traffickers and the conditions of human trafficking. Let us pray for the grace to know the needs of our brothers and sisters and to take the crucified down from their crosses.

Amen.

USCSAHT Second Annual Conference Explores Key Trafficking Issues

November 4, 2022

ST. LOUIS, MO – U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking hosted its Second Annual Human Trafficking Conference with nationally renowned speakers and survivor leaders, who shed light on many of the dark issues surrounding the exploitation of individuals Oct. 26-28 in St. Louis, MO.

This year’s conference theme, “Weaving Community, Building Capacity, Affecting Change,” featured speakers from national organizations dedicated for their efforts to address human trafficking. They included Lina Nealon from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Dr. Mandy Sanchez, World Without Exploitation, and Russ Tuttle from the STOP Trafficking Program.

“The annual USCSAHT conference afforded members and guests an opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues, to share ideas, to exchange information, and to learn more about human trafficking,” said Executive Director Katie Boller Gosewisch.

This year’s conference featured talks and breakout sessions including: the Demand for Sex and Labor Trafficking, LGBTQ+ and Human Trafficking, Men’s Role in Trafficking, Ethical Representation in Working with Survivors, Pornography and Trafficking, Advocacy 101, Cybersafety, Familial Trafficking, The Consumer’s Role in Trafficking, Trauma Informed Care, Migrants/Refugees and Trafficking, Direct Support Services, the Equality Model and more.

Attendees had the option to attend the conference in-person or on-demand via video recordings following the conference, which was held at the Sheraton Westport Chalet, St. Louis.

USCSAHT was founded in 2013 by a group of Catholic Sisters committed to ending human trafficking and supporting survivors. They dreamed of creating a national network of resources and support made up of many different congregations and other mission-aligned partners. Today, this member-based organization has grown to include more than 110 congregations of women religious and another 70+ individuals and groups spread throughout the United States. USCSAHT is also the U.S. member of Talitha Kum, an international network of consecrated life working to end human trafficking.

Keynote Speakers and Presenters included: Dr. Mandy Sanchez (World Without Exploitation), Lina Nealon (National Center on Sexual Exploitation), Terry Coonan (Florida State University), Russ Tuttle (STOP Trafficking Program), Sr. Anne Victory (HM), Peter Quillotine, Theresa Flores, Dr. Kim Hogan (The University of Southern Mississippi State), HEAL Trafficking, Alicia Cohen, Survivors of Human Trafficking and more.

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Kids Can Still Be Charged With Prostitution In Almost Half The Country, New Report Highlights Need For Steady Legislative Improvements

November 3, 2022

Washington, D.C., Nov. 01, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — November 1, 2022 – A new report released today by Shared Hope International shows almost half the country still allows children to be criminalized for their own victimization and a vast majority of states fail to provide funded, holistic services to child sex trafficking survivors. As the only U.S. NGO working in every state to advance legislative protections for child sex trafficking survivors, Shared Hope analyzes child and youth sex trafficking laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, using 40 policy goals to evaluate legal responses to child sex trafficking victims.

The report is used to press for a national standard of victim-centered justice, which can only be achieved if all states are actively working to develop and implement robust protections and just responses to children and youth who have experienced trafficking. Through the Report Cards, Shared Hope is pushing states to ensure all children have access to protective care and services that help survivors heal and rebuild their lives.

“We are thrilled to see many states introduce legislation this session addressing some of the largest gaps in appropriately responding to survivors of child sex trafficking: the development of statewide service responses, dedicated state funding, and provision of non-criminalization protections,” said former Congresswoman and Shared Hope Founder, Linda Smith. “However, a number of those states struggled to move related bills over the finish line, resulting in a preservation of status quo responses; today, too many children remain vulnerable to punishment for their own trafficking victimization and are unable to access critical services and care.”

In Shared Hope’s Report Cards on Child & Youth Sex Trafficking, states are graded across six policy issue areas, providing a consistent measure of state progress. States receive a letter grade based on their score, receiving an A, B, C, D, or F. In the 2022 report, zero states received an A. Tennessee has become the first, and only state, to receive a B, with an overall grade of 81.5. Three states have received a C, Florida, Texas, and California. Ten states received a D, and 37 states have received a failing grade of an F.

Read the full story by Shared Hope International on yahoo!

 

 

Voters In Five States Have The Chance To Wipe Slavery And Indentured Servitude Off The Books

October 30, 2022

WashingtonCNN —When slavery was outlawed in the US in 1865, the 13th Amendment included one exception.

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” the amendment reads.

The penalty has remained on the books in more than a dozen states, even though it hasn’t been enforced since the Civil War. But next month, voters in Alabama, Louisiana, Vermont, Oregon and Tennessee will be given the opportunity to exorcise the punishment from their states’ constitutions once and for all, according to a CNN review of pending ballot initiatives.

The proposed amendments would either explicitly rule out slavery and indentured servitude as potential punishments or remove the terms from state law altogether.

Advocates are hailing the initiatives as long overdue and hope that state-level movements will one day lead to the removal of such language from the 13th Amendment altogether, though some argue that the move underscores a larger need to lift rules permitting forced labor from inmates for little to no pay, a practice that has been likened to indentured servitude. None of the five changes being considered next month would eliminate prison work.

“If their populaces vote for this at the state level, then we have to believe that their congressional representatives will also have to support it as a federal measure,” said Bianca Tylek, the executive director of Worth Rises, a non-profit that is campaigning to remove the clause from the 13th Amendment. “The more states that do this, the more federal support we can garner.”

Read the full story by Shawna Mizelle on CNN.

ECPAT Awards Recognize Human Trafficking Heroes

October 18, 2022

Brighton, MI – The ECPAT-USA Awards were held recently in New York City to celebrate individuals who work to combat child trafficking.

Theresa Flores, Program Director for the United States Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, was recognized for her work in preventing sex trafficking and the exploitation of children.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by ECPAT USA for the mission that God put before me 15 years ago,” she said. “This journey has been heart-wrenching, mind-opening, brought me to my knees in tears, and also opened my heart to the huge amount of support and happiness I have received in turn. Receiving the “Freedom Award” is humbling because it wasn’t just me who did this work, but also motivating because we need a lot more people doing this work to end human trafficking.”

In addition to being the Program Director for U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, Flores is the founder of the SOAP Project – Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, a non-profit that mobilizes citizens to help locate missing youth who are being trafficked during major sporting events and assists survivors of trafficking on their healing journey.

She has been a licensed social worker for more than 30 years, was appointed to the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission in 2009, and has testified before both the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate in support of Human Trafficking Legislation. Additionally, the “Theresa Flores Law,” which eliminates the statute of limitation for children who have been trafficked, was passed in Michigan in 2015.

Flores is a survivor of domestic child sex trafficking and was sold in an underground crime ring in an upper-middle-class suburb outside Detroit from the time she was 15-17 years old. She has researched the mental and physical health problems of more than 200 domestic trafficking survivors and has hosted more than 200 women at survivor retreats.

She has received many awards including the 2017 L’Oréal Women of Worth, the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association, the 2013 Christian Service Award & the 2020 Polaris Star Award. In January 2012 at the Ohio State of the State Address, Flores received the Courage Award from the governor for her work in human trafficking.

Flores also has published five books including, “The Sacred Bath,” “The Slave Across the Street” (in the UK and U.S.), and “Slavery in the Land of the Free – A Student’s Guide to Modern-Day Slavery.” You only list three books, so I added the including. The 10-year anniversary edition depicts the trauma of trafficking upon a person and the struggle it takes to heal. The audio version of her memoir—name– was nominated for the 2011 Audie Award, being in the top five of all memoirs and biographies, and has been on the Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Seller list for e-books several times. In addition, she also conducted the TED Talk, “Find a Voice with SOAP.”

USCSAHT was founded in 2013 by a group of Catholic Sisters who were committed to ending human trafficking and supporting survivors and dreamed of creating a national network of resources and support made up of many different congregations and other mission-aligned partners. Today, this member-based organization has grown to include more than 110 congregations of women religious and another 70+ individuals and groups spread throughout the United States. USCSAHT is also the U.S. member of Talitha Kum, an international network of consecrated life working to end human trafficking.

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The Trafficking in Persons Office Announces Recipients of the 2022 Program to End Modern Slavery Awards

October 9, 2022

The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) is pleased to announce seven new awards under the Program to End Modern Slavery (PEMS).  Starting October 1, 2022, these programs will implement innovative and transformative approaches to combat human trafficking, including a focus on financial inclusion in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe; climate and displacement in Bangladesh and Kenya; sex trafficking in Nigeria; and public health in India and South Africa.  PEMS’ commitment to strengthening the field of prevalence research will continue through the funding of a program led by the International Labour Organization, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and the University of Georgia, to develop operational definitions, methodologies, and uniform guidance for the measurement of trafficking in persons, including forced labor.

2022 Program to End Modern Slavery Award Recipients Include:

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) received $2.3 million to develop an evidence lab rooted in high-quality data collection in Nigeria. This program will support the Nigerian government, and specifically the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), to increase efficacy in anti-trafficking programming within the country.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) received $2 million to develop operational definitions, methodologies, and uniform guidance for the measurement of trafficking in persons based on the definitions in the United Nations Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons and the United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and on the definition of forced labor based on the definitions in International Labour Organization Conventions on Forced Labour. This guidance will help facilitate prevalence estimation and allow both researchers and practitioners to better understand the nature of human trafficking with a coordinated set of research tools.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) received $2.3 million to address human trafficking in Kenya that exists due to vulnerabilities and displacement exacerbated by climate change. IOM will employ a variety of livelihood support models in order to build economic resilience in communities facing economic insecurity due to climate change. Additionally, IOM will work to create awareness of human trafficking among specified populations.  The program will pilot a range of interventions through a phased approach and refine program activities based on the outcomes of randomized interventions.

Read the full press release from the U.S. State Department.

October, 2022 Monthly Reflection

October 1, 2022

How Bad Can a Chocolate Pumpkin Be?

Jeanne Christensen, RSM

The Catholic Health Association has a spring campaign called “How Bad Can a Chocolate Bunny Be?”  Let’s plagiarize and ask “How bad can a chocolate pumpkin be? Or a chocolate turkey? Or a chocolate Christmas tree?”

How bad? The main ingredient in chocolate is cocoa; and when one considers the harvesting of cocoa, one must also consider the harvesters.  The U.S. Department of Labor reports millions of children are exploited by labor trafficking—working long, arduous hours for little or no pay.

Ivory Coast is the world’s leading producer of cocoa, the raw ingredient for chocolate, and is responsible for about 36 percent of global exports. The Ivorian cocoa trade is mired in the exploitation of children, war and corrupt profits for officials and western big chocolate business. It is estimated that a quarter of a million children work in hazardous conditions on Ivorian cocoa farms, in spite of a pledge by the world’s biggest chocolate companies more than seven years ago to abolish forced child labor from their supply chain.  Ghana is also a major producer of cocoa and child labor is found there as well.

The U.S. Department of Labor published their 2022 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.  This 116-page report includes clear and specific detail and information.  It identifies seven countries where cocoa is harvested by a child or forced labor.  These countries are Brazil, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.  To learn more, visit The Department of Labor.

One of Catholic Social Teaching’s principles, The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers, says “The economy must serve people, not the other way around.  Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.  If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected – the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”

How can we help ensure the dignity of work and rights of workers?   We can purchase fair trade products; in the upcoming holiday seasons, when cocoa and chocolate are staples, we can purchase online or locally fair trade products from one or more of the companies listed at the end of this reflection.

By purchasing fair trade products, we avoid chocolate produced through the exploitation of child labor. Fair trade is a system of certification that aims to ensure a set of standards are met in the production and supply of a product or ingredient. For farmers and workers, fair trade means workers’ rights, safer working conditions and fairer pay. For shoppers, it means high-quality, ethically produced products. Many companies offer fair trade cocoa and chocolate, along with many other products.

It is important that we consider our own consumerism – our desire for less-expensive, easily-acquired products; and to remember those who are exploited in order to grow, harvest, produce or sell such items.  Pope Francis says: “Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers.  Every person out to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act.”

For additional information:   End Slavery Now and Food is Power

If fair trade products are not available locally, they can be purchased online at any one of the following websites:

Additional information on fair trade chocolate

 

 

St. Paul Man Sentenced to 43 Years for Largest Sextortion Case in FBI History

September 22, 2022

ST PAUL, Minn. — Editor’s note: The video above first aired on KARE 11 on June 15, 2022.

Three months after pleading guilty to a massive sextortion scheme, 31-year-old Yue Vang was sentenced to more than four decades in prison.

At the federal courthouse in St. Paul Wednesday, Judge Eric Tostrud handed down Vang’s 43-year sentence. Vang, who’s from St. Paul, was initially charged with two counts of production of child pornography, one count of possession of child pornography, and one count of interstate communications with intent to extort.

“Mr. Vang’s conduct was calculated and cruel. It caused unbounded and everlasting harm,” Judge  Tostrud said.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, from 2015 through 2020 Vang “adopted the personae of real minor girls” and posed as real people to get other young victims to produce and send him child pornography. When they refused, Vang threatened to and did release their sexually explicit images and videos.

“This is the largest sextortion case in the country,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Brenda Born.

Read the full story by Alexandra Simon on Kare 11.

USCSAHT Announces Communications Director

September 15, 2022

BRIGHTON, MI — U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) announces its new Communications Director, Christine Commerce. Commerce began her tenure with USCSAHT Sept. 12, 2022 and will be the first communications director for the organization.

USCSAHT was founded in 2013 by a group of Catholic Sisters who were committed to ending human trafficking and supporting survivors and dreamed of creating a national network of resources and support. Today, this member-based organization has grown to include more than 110 congregations of women religious and numerous mission aligned coalitions and individuals throughout the United States. USCSAHT is the U.S. member of Talitha Kum, an international network of consecrated life working to end human trafficking.

Commerce joins USCSAHT as the organization continues to grow and diversify, increasing its impact in the larger struggle to end human trafficking and support survivors on their healing journey. She believes strongly in USCSAHT’s vision of a world without slavery and protecting the dignity of every human being. “I am honored to accept the position of communications director to further educate the public about this affront to human dignity so that together, we may stand in solidarity and break the invisible chains of modern-day slavery,” Commerce said.

Commerce brings her experience in the nonprofit world with volunteer management, education and outreach, program expansion, event planning, marketing and public relations to USCSAHT. She has previously served as Executive Director of Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful and most recently served as coordinator of the Diocese of Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force. In addition to her extensive work in the nonprofit field, she has worked as an editor and reporter for Sunbelt Newspapers and freelance writer for the Florida Catholic, Orlando Magazine and the Tampa Tribune.

Commerce holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and communications from the University of Florida. “I am proud to have Ms. Commerce join our team. Her experience and passion for the mission of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking is exactly what is needed as we communicate organization aims to our membership and the public at large,” said Katie Boller Gosewisch, USCSAHT Executive Director.

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Bumblebee Tuna Not as Wholesome as Company Claims

September 14, 2022

Major US seafood brand Bumble Bee is suspected of having environmentally harmful illegal fishing and human rights abuse in its supply chain, according to a new investigative report by Greenpeace East Asia. The American brand, owned by Taiwanese tuna traders FCF, has long worked to establish its reputation as “champions for sustainable fishing and dedicated advocates for fishers.” However, the “Fake My Catch – the unreliable traceability in our tuna cans” report uncovers information that shows that by sourcing seafood from vessels that are suspected of labor and human rights abuses, the company is failing to deliver on its promises to American consumers.

Washington, DC (August 30, 2022)Major US seafood brand Bumble Bee is suspected of having environmentally harmful illegal fishing and human rights abuse in its supply chain, according to a new investigative report by Greenpeace East Asia.

The American brand, owned by Taiwanese tuna traders FCF, has long worked to establish its reputation as “champions for sustainable fishing and dedicated advocates for fishers.” However, the “Fake My Catch – the unreliable traceability in our tuna cans” report uncovers information that shows that by sourcing seafood from vessels that are suspected of labor and human rights abuses, the company is failing to deliver on its promises to American consumers.

Mallika Talwar, a Senior Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace USA, said: “We are not surprised at the high level of disparity between what Bumble Bee tells US consumers and what was uncovered in this investigation. Bumble Bee claims to be for people and the planet, but what we see in this report is a company skirting its responsibilities in order to make a profit. Instead of disclosing a list of all their supply vessels, they have used smokescreens such as the Trace My Catch program to fake transparency while leaving it up to consumers to dig up information on an incredibly complex and opaque supply chain. Even then, as this report shows, there is no guarantee the information Bumble Bee shares is correct. That is not what real transparency looks like.”

The “Fake My Catch – the unreliable traceability in our tuna cans” report finds that over 10% (13) of the 119 Taiwanese-flagged/owned vessels identified in the sampling that supplied Bumble Bee had violated Taiwanese fishery regulations and were on the Taiwan Fisheries Agency’s (TFA) illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) list. Further, indicators of forced labor were identified in the reports of fishers that worked aboard six of the vessels that supplied Bumble Bee and FCF.[1] Catch from Taiwanese-owned vessel Da Wang, whose crew were indicted for their involvement in forced labor and human trafficking, has been used to supply Bumble Bee – raising concerns that seafood tainted with forced labor has already been sold in the US market. Additionally, one migrant fisher died whilst working on Da Wang after an accident occurred – reportedly causing the other workers to quit due to the excessive physical abuse they endured. A Bumble Bee product sourced from this fishing vessel was found to be available for sale at a Harris Teeter (a wholly owned subsidiary of Kroger Co.) in Arlington, Virginia.

Read the full story on Green Peace