Reflections/T-Visas/Thanks in dark times

Be humble

Its thanksgiving in half an hour –probably will be by the time this publishes- and I am left with a swirling pool of thoughts. On the one hand this week has marked multiple school shootings, riots, and sewn racial divide in my own country. Something I don’t want to see. I believe in progress and mistakes will always be made its how we respond that matters. On the other hand it’s hard to be thankful and enjoy this holiday season knowing the toll it will take on millions of people living in slavery, poverty, and war torn refugee societies.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot to be thankful for. My life is in all reality at the best point it has been in years. Work is going exceptional and I’ve scheduled the last of the classes for degree number two to graduate this coming summer. I remind myself daily of the words of St Augustine.

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So what I am thankful for today, is my country. Problems aside, we make strides daily. Let’s talk T-visa. The T-visa is an interesting piece of legislation. One of the problems with trafficking cases is that the victims are often no longer in the country when it comes time to prosecute the traffickers. This is interestingly, a problem that occurs worldwide (and in some of the lower tier countries actively deporting victims for the sake of stopping trials does occur). The T-visa is a two pronged idea. It grants victims a visa to stay in the country. Not just the victims though, victims often have families in another countries. Many of them get sucked into trafficking by willingly immigrating thinking they can send money back home. Instead they become slaves who daily hear their families threatened. The T-visa allows for the family members to come into the countries as well. They just have to make it to a US Embassy in their home country. The other side of the T-Visa? It requires that victims take the stand against their captors and traffickers. Now, personally I would be a fan of losing the second requirement. I understand it though. Trafficking cases are hard to prosecute as it is and without victims it’s near impossible. The T-visa was sort of a first of its kind effort. A government truly taking measure to aid the people who had fallen victim within its borders.
Now it is not without its problems. The law allows for Five Thousand T-Visas to be issued yearly. In its history since it was passed through congress in 2001, it has not been issued to five thousand people in a year. In fiscal year 2012-2013 including victims and family members it was issued to less than two thousand people. In total from 2002-2012, including family members, less than 5 thousand visas have been approved. –That’s less than the amount allowed per year-
Why is this the situation? In many cases because trafficking victims are terrified of law enforcement and terrified of their traffickers. Some don’t talk out of fear the traffickers will make good on all the threats they’ve been making to the victims. Other victims don’t speak because they’re afraid police will charge them with criminal offenses (another bit of fear instilled by traffickers). Some victims are afraid the law enforcement might be working for their traffickers, which is most regrettably true in some circumstances. You also have to consider that some of them just want to leave their victimization behind. The atrocities, the torture, and the shame. Psychologically many just can’t stand to face their captors again.
All of that said, the T-Visa is a beautiful piece of legislation. It was an attempt, progress, a step forward and for the most part we seem to be on an upward trend of approvals.
If you’re interested in learning more about the T-Visa please look here and here for official gov webpages.
Stay Tuned to the blog currently planned: Organ Trafficking and a discussion on how trafficking cells actually function.

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Why the NCW’s proposal to legalise prostitution in India is flawed

HUMAN TRAFFICKING INDIA

BY DR PRAVIN PATKAR – PUBLISHED IN THE DNA INDIA

National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson Lalita Kumarmangalam’s proposal to legalise prostitution and the comments thereon have a thing in common, inaccurate understanding of the problem and its solution. Her medicine is deadlier than the disease, especially when the civilised world is fighting human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Naïve supporters of the policy appear to be misled by the magical term ‘legal’ (like ‘development’). Tomorrow they may also support legalisation of rape believing that now onwards rapes will be legal and therefore proper.

A person above the age of 18 years, selling his/her body for sex against money or kind to another person of the opposite sex (the uncertainty on IPC Section-377 is temporarily over, with the Supreme court upholding it.) in his/her private premises (a privately-owned premise is not necessarily private), 200 meters away from a place of religious worship…

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The Tips Report/Hate Evil and Love what is good.

One of the things people don’t always understand about the trafficking field (and other international criminal enterprises) is how they got so out of control. A huge part of that reason is that the ability to move people from place to place exploded in the 1990s as international travel and communication exploded. The internet alone has proven to be a huge game changer in trafficking as websites operating in the “dark net” routinely sell trafficking victims. With elements of these criminal enterprises being so new, it takes time for law enforcement and governments to establish the effective protocols for dealing with the situations. In many ways, the United States has led the fight World Wide in establishing laws to fight trafficking. I’m going to use this time to talk about some of the important laws that have come about in the US as a result of trafficking. The program with the longest reach is the Trafficking in Persons Report, commonly referred to as the tips report. Though you could spend countless hours examining the tips report and its effectiveness…we’ll just go with a brief intro.

The Tips report first began in 2001 (check out the 2014 report intro here and country rankings on page 58). The report was a requirement of a congressional passed law the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of the year 2000. Tips examines key elements of trafficking in individual Countries and ranks them into three tiers (read as categories, and really there is 4 but two of them are considered as the same tier). So what are the three tiers?

Tier I: Countries are fully compliant with TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act) standards.

Tier 2: Countries that are making progress to become compliant with the TVPA

Tier 2.5(tier 2 watch list): Countries that are not meeting tier 1 requirements and are failing to supply compelling evidence for increased efforts usually while also having an increase in the amount of trafficking going on in the country. This is also common if the country is making pledges for improvement. –Countries that remain on this list for two years and would be placed on it a third time are automatically dropped to tier 3.

Tier 3: Countries are not TVPA compliant and are making no significant efforts to become compliant.

The motivation for countries to become compliant is monetary. Countries in the tier 3 category are ineligible for non-humanitarian and trade related funds. This also means the United States will vote against loans from the World Bank for these countries.

So what are the TVPA minimum standards? Well essentially this:

Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Div. A of Pub. L. No. 106-386, § 108, as amended.

(A) Minimum standards for purposes of this chapter, the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking applicable to the government of a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims of severe forms of trafficking are the following:

(1) The government of the country should prohibit severe forms of trafficking in persons and punish acts of such trafficking.

(2) For the knowing commission of any act of sex trafficking involving force, fraud, coercion, or in which the victim of sex trafficking is a child incapable of giving meaningful consent, or of trafficking which includes rape or kidnapping or which causes a death, the government of the country should prescribe punishment commensurate with that for grave crimes, such as forcible sexual assault.

(3) For the knowing commission of any act of a severe form of trafficking in persons, the government of the country should prescribe punishment that is sufficiently stringent to deter and that adequately reflects the heinous nature of the offense.

(4) The government of the country should make serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.

But check out the State Dept. Page for more info on the TVPA.

Read the full TIPS report and country profiles here.

Now there is all sorts of controversy surrounding the TIPS reports. That said, can we not be satisfied that the attempt is being made and that it does promote an active fight against trafficking?

That concludes my brief info of the TIPS report, stay tuned for the T-Visa, a fantastic improvement(also part of the TVPA though)

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Baby factories. Blood Trafficking. Ritual sacrifice.

Today I decided to bring on some darker elements of the already dark trafficking world. Trafficking for blood & body parts for obscure religious rituals, and baby factories. I’ll be using quite a few examples from Africa, as my own knowledge of blood trafficking began reading articles written about its occurrences in Africa.

Let’s start off talking blood trafficking. What is blood trafficking? Simply put, the victims are trafficked for the sake of taking their blood and selling it on the black market. Now I read the first news article about this nearly a year ago on AllAfrica.com It was a case I believe of a man in Egypt who had been kidnapping nomads locking them in a large warehouse and draining their blood. Keeping them alive as a non-depleting year round cash crop. Now I can’t seem to find that article despite best efforts. I was able to locate another article on blood trafficking, also in Egypt interestingly enough.

“The court said in its ruling that although there is no specific law banning the trafficking of blood, human and organ trafficking is illegal in Egypt, which was the basis for its decision.

According to prosecutors, two of the accused regularly brought street youth to apartments where they would take their blood “for analysis” in exchange for LE10 and a meal. The men would then take the blood and sell it on the black market for LE 85 a bag.”

Check out the complete article here

Going to use that blood trafficking to segue into another form of blood trafficking, this one for occultic ritual.

“One boy explained how witch-doctors took his blood to be used in such rituals: “The traffickers or witch-doctors take your hair and cut your arms, legs, heads and genitals and collect the blood. They say if you speak out I can kill you.” Another victim feared for her life, saying the “witch-doctor told me that one day he would need my head…Meanwhile, a girl from Nigeria remains convinced the spell performed on her means she can never identify her traffickers, for fear her family will die…For $250 (£160) a reformed criminal introduced us to Yunus Kabul, who boasted he had been abducting children for witch-doctors in Africa and abroad, for years.

During our conversation he offered as many children as we required.

“I have enough, a hundred, no problem. I have so many communications. I have a network across whole of Uganda.”

Read the whole article here

And while we’re on the topic of trafficking for rituals..

“In 2010, ABC news reported a horrific story of a father killing his 17 month old son to sell his head for ritual sacrifice…he and his friend beheaded his infant son and sold his head to a wealthy businessman for $2000. According to the report, the businessman believed that the head of the child would bring him more wealth.

“They have a belief that when you sacrifice a child you get wealth, and there are people who are willing to buy these children for a price. So they have become a commodity of exchange, child sacrifice has become a commercial business.”

In response to the rising number of ritual murders, the Ugandan government established an Anti-Human Sacrifice Police Task Force, equipped in part by the U.S. government. Since its establishment, the Ugandan authorities say that the rate of ritual murder has slowed down.”

Again check out the full article here

and then there are the baby factories..

Baby factories are essentially what they sound like. They have become an increasingly popular find in Nigeria, most of the women in the baby factories do appear to end up there on their own. Usually pregnant and unable or unwilling to care for the child, the factory owners then sell the babies at a premium and give the mothers’ small amounts. Although in most cases it seems like they begin willingly, there have been documented cases where factories were set up with forcibly trafficked women who are impregnated by traffickers to produce children for sale.

“One of the girls told us that mothers sell their babies for $160 to $190,” said Abia State police chief Bala Hassan.

Anti-trafficking agency spokesman Orakwe says that they can then be resold for up to $6,400, depending on their gender. Traditionally, boys are preferred, as they can inherit land according to the local Igbo culture.

Abortion is illegal in Nigeria, and its southeast region is mostly Catholic.

“This girl already feels that she has brought a burden onto her family and onto herself, and she wants to get it over with,” says Orakwe….The anti-trafficking agency said the problem is most pronounced in Nigeria’s southeast, where people prey on girls to provide babies for trafficking rings. The absence of paperwork for these children means anything can happen to them”

Check out the full article here and some related articles here and here

Organ trafficking would have logically been placed in this article.  There will be a post coming on organ trafficking shortly though as the crime is complex and far reaching and I want to spend a little more time on that part of the trade looking at it from start to finish.  Why the intro to the lesser known trafficking areas? I’ll let Frank Douglas explain..

vintage theatre spot light on black curtain with smoke

To expose it is to kill it.

“Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Psalm 82:4

tonight’s trafficking thoughts

“More than anything, it’s up to us to do everything we can to protect our vulnerable citizens and continue this fight to make our communities and ultimately our world safer. It’s up to us to be a voice for the voiceless.”

Who is this human trafficking crusader? CNN.

I love CNN, I know news and politics are a constant war in the United States but I appreciate that at least their website tries to cover a large range of important topics.  More than anything it is up to us.  There is not a soul who could say it better CNN, the fight is up to us all.  One of the big trends in trafficking awareness I’ve been seeing in the last year is the struggle to get airports, ports, and train stations better suited to conquer the issue.  This has been coming in a variety of forms.  Let’s start with Time Magazines appeal to the public that uses these places.

“If for instance you are at a gate and there is an unaccompanied minor, do they know the name of the person they’re traveling with, or where they’re going?” she said. Crew members also watch for unusual activity on a plane, such as when kids don’t answer questions or avoid eye contact when addressed. Other telltale signs might be bruising or other wounds, or a ravenous appetite….The response that trafficking activists are hoping for is similar to the response for suspected acts of terror: “If you see something say something.” Vance is a bit more circumspect. “First people have to decide they care about it,” he said in an interview. “Unless you acknowledge that it happens and are prepared to talk about it it’s not going to change”

Times

“Let’s say I’m at the window of a transportation station. I would only have 60 seconds to four minutes to identify if this is potentially a case of human trafficking. You look at the demeanor of both people, look at their identification. Where they’re going and where they’re coming from.”

It’s Georgia

What they’re really saying is that although training the law enforcement in these avenues is of utmost importance it is still going to be necessary for everyday people busy with their travels. Frustrated with their delayed flights. Stuck on their layovers to stop and take notice of the world around them. “If you see something say something.”

I think a common question I’ve had when discussing trafficking is one that everyone who talks about trafficking gets and a question that everyone has when they first consider trafficking.  Why don’t they run away? Why don’t they say something to the countless officers they pass by entering our country?

The simple answer is fear.  The fear traffickers create is powerful.  There is physical abuse sure, they get beat.  But the real chains.. they exist outside of the physical world.  Mental abuse is strong.  They threaten victim families and make the victims feel worthless where they are too afraid and too ashamed to fight back.  Plus as several of the above articles notate, minors are not questioned in traveling in the US, the guardians hold the papers.  That is a huge way to control victims of trafficking.  By controlling the legal documents it makes it harder for the victims to escape and traffickers feed the idea that law enforcement in our country will arrest them for being here illegally and won’t believe or care that they are saying they are victims.  The victims trafficked into the US often don’t speak English and our culture is one they are not familiar with, a stranger in a foreign land, who can’t speak the language, who is being threatened and beaten.  Adding to this dilemma is that many of them have experience with corrupt law enforcement in their home countries or even in the United States.  Imagine being the victim and being forced to perform for a corrupt officer, would you ever and I mean ever..trust that uniform?  Especially when they bust into your building and arrest you for prostitution are you going to tell them about the trafficking ring or are you going to be quiet in case the cops on the trafficker’s pay roll are the ones talking to you.

If you see something. Say something.

1 (888) 373-7888

National Human Trafficking Resource Center

SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”)

Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week

Languages: English, Spanish and 198 more languages

I’ve heard there are troubles of more than one kind; some come from ahead, and some come from behind. But I’ve brought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see; now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!

Dr. Seuss

Still a man in need..

IMG_0544-1.JPGWhat’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behavior
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I’m still a man in need of a savior

A little vintage DC talk for you. As seems to be the case with most of my posts i am writing this in the early hours of the morning sleep forever escaping me. It’s been a while since I wrote here. I’ve had a lot on my mind distracting me from writing or participating in any awareness/charity campaigns lately. The show Bones, the one about the forensic anthropologist that helps the FBI solve murders, had an episode that revolved around a trafficking ring this past week. I watched it tonight, there’s a scene where the open a trap door and there is a dozen or so women crammed in this basement where their trafficker was attempting to hide them. When the FBI throw open the door you see these scared dirty faces looking up. They even the details right, victims kept in slavery without physical chains but through psychological torture and fear for their families. Just a gentle reminder that the world needs people to care, needs people to make the time to care.

“We owe Christ to the world–to the least person and to the greatest person, to the richest person and to the poorest person, to the best person and to the worst person. We are in debt to the nations.” (Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream)
Read more: http://www.faithandentertainment.com/27-top-david-platt-quotes/#ixzz3ISnBRcwy

I find it hard to argue with David Platt. Radical is still the most life changing book I’ve read about Christianity. Everything he says is convincing and powerful. the call to a radical Christianity where we truly abandon ourselves for the cause and take the gospel to places where we would never go, where we would fear to go.

Christmas approaching makes me think of trafficking. Last year the only gifts I purchased were from a free trade website called ten thousand villages. As the shopping season waits to explode all that’s on my mind is the many things purchased everyday that come as a result of trafficked labor.

“We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” (Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream)

While there are still so many in bondage, we must remember to fight. Our lives are meant to be given up for the cause. In the early days of our faith executions were common, in some parts of this world that still happens. In some places in our modern world, Bibles are forbidden. If Christians in those troubled times and places can sacrifice and struggle for the faith, the very least we can do is not forget their sacrifices. We can remember the persecuted, the poor, the trafficked, the hopeless. We can remember that our fellow man suffers. And we can fight to break the chains.

“We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” -Radical

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

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In my last post I used the words “comfort zone.” Comfort zones are the places we go where the whole world falls away. Mine is a very messy room that houses my gaming pc rig and my just giant piles of books and bookcases. You know how many people I reach from this room? None. I started this blog out because I thought it would give me the chance to reach people in my free time and help make a difference for something I cared about. So putting aside that I don’t like writing or an audience.. I began writing it. Italy, Portugal, Argentina, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada, Thailand, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Names of countries where my blog has been read. 8 countries where a voice has been heard.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you

God’s plans/desires to change the world will bring you out of your comfort zone. Moving forward, taking a cause, to follow a purpose all of these things require risk. Risk of failure, risk of doubts, even danger in some cases. Your comfort zone isn’t changing the world. When you step out and you take a risk you have the chance. Odds are you will fail, odds are you will struggle, you might end up in the most dangerous areas of the city you live in or a brothel district in a foreign country where you feel alone and scared. Take courage with you because you never walk the road alone. Pastor Bil Cornelius of Church Unlimited in his sermon last Sunday said “if you are busy doubting yourself then you will never use what God gave you.” More on, in his book Today is the Day the very first chapter is about realizing and following dreams God gave you. His second clue for knowing God’s dream for you? That it solves problems for others, clue three? It includes a burden for those people. Solving problems for others. Why is this important? Because Christ left us to take care of the world and we are doing just a miserable job.

I follow around 30 human trafficking groups on Facebook. That is 30 organizations trying their best to free PEOPLE. PEOPLE from slavery. This is the world we’re supposed to be taking care of. I talk about human trafficking and I see peoples brains tune out. It comes across on their faces they don’t want to hear it. Most of you reading this blog probably know exactly what I am talking about. When God tells you to find to go forward and move ahead it will be in-between a rock and a hard place. My heart is burdened for those people trapped in the hell of a world that trafficking creates enduring misery and pain on unimaginable levels. My dream is to help them get out of that life. Christ left US. You. Me. The congregation of the faithful, to take care of the world till he could return. We can do better.

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you

Pastor Cornelius mentioned another thing that really has me thinking. He said remember to take with you the people who believe in you and what you’re doing. That’s an interesting phrase. He was talking about how you “take courage with you” in situations where you’re afraid. For Christians our courage is our Bible and our Faith but for all humans our courage is also our friends, our knowledge of our purpose. So on the journey you have had surround yourself with people who are going the same way or at the very least understand and support you for going where you are going. Trafficking is an appalling moral outrage. Some people will not understand why it matters to me or to you. Surround yourself with the people that care so that you have that courage and reinforcement when you need it.

On a side note regarding Pastor Cornelius.. Well he is this guy on cnn and also the guy who had this billboard on the side of the highway:

05.03.11 4PM

When I drove into Corpus Christi as a transfer college student I knew nobody in the town, I didn’t have a plan for a church, and honestly was in a really rough place in my head. So I see this giant billboard with a guy pointing at me. A week or so later I get a flyer in the mail and its that same picture and it says “I dare you” and has his church location and times on the back. If you know me, you know I had to go, he dared me! That was over four years ago. I still consider that my home church regardless of the fact I haven’t lived there in three years. Church unlimited (previously known as bay area fellowship) is an amazing church. They have satellite campuses scattered around Texas, post all the sermons to youtube, host live showings of all their sermons via the website or app(yes! An app! You can get the entire Church Unlimited experience from the Church Unlimited app!). Church unlimited is now opening actual churches inside prisons (GodBehindBars) and to truly hit home, a church after my own heart, Church Unlimited started and runs a trafficking rescue house. I had the privilege of sitting in a sermon on the main campus last week for the first time in years and Pastor Cornelius announced they’re opening a satellite location in San Antonio! I cannot wait to see the church take root in my home town and to be part of it. I would seriously recommend looking at some of the sermons, the David & Goliath series is a personal favorite.