Over the course of the past week, visitors from Indonesia came to San Antonio to participate in the State Department International Visitors Leadership Program initiative “Trafficking in Persons.” From July 28th to August 2nd, they visited our city to explore the many aspects of investigating, prosecuting, and preventing human trafficking while also learning about the services necessary to care for the victims & survivors of human trafficking.
The appointments they attended to learn more about these issues included a meeting with Guillermo Contreras of the San Antonio Express-News to discuss his investigations into human trafficking, Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking, the RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), and the San Antonio Police Department.
The State Department sponsored program helped participants learn more about inter-agency cooperation in battling human trafficking, civil society’s role in the fight, creating public awareness campaigns, and expanding the networks necessary to support survivors.
Guillermo Contreras was able to introduce our visitors to the unique landscape of crime and human trafficking in San Antonio with his years of experience in covering nationally-recognized stories on cartels, labor abuse, and trafficking in persons. Going into detail on his specific reports helped to outline the causes and effects of human trafficking in San Antonio that provided a foundation for future appointments to build upon.
Almost all of the appointments emphasized the necessity of inter-agency cooperation. The San Antonio Police Department emphasized their cooperation with the county and its District Attorney’s Office as well as state troopers and federal resources like the Department of Homeland Security to bring down human trafficking offenders. The Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking unites different stakeholders in non-profits, religious groups, schools, and government organizations to fight human trafficking.
Civil society is vital in combatting human trafficking. The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) exemplified the importance of non-governmental organizations in caring for immigrants and displaced persons who may not have housing or food without their help. RAICES takes in immigrant families and prevents them from remaining prone to exploitation, abduction, or trafficking on the streets.
Another important objective of the program was to help participants learn about ways to raise awareness and engage people in the struggle to end human trafficking. Saul Castellanos, President and CEO of the Freedom Youth Project Foundation and member of the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking, explained the importance of introducing their educational initiatives into schools, churches, and youth groups to help teach children about deceptive and dangerous behaviors. He also impressed upon the visitors the importance of educating the parents as well about potential hazards.
Lastly, visitors learned about expanding networks to support survivors of human trafficking and help bring necessary medical, financial, or legal resources between multiple organizations to their aid. Groups like RAICES and AACAT specialize in mobilizing non-profits to the aid of such survivors. Meanwhile, the San Antonio Police Department alongside the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office and Department of Homeland Security mobilize local, county, and federal groups in unison to investigate and prosecute these cases of human trafficking.
Together, these appointments helped to cover all objectives set by the State Department’s IVLP project “Trafficking in Persons” and allowed our visitors insight into the problems the San Antonio community has faced while still shining light on the tremendous successes that have been accomplished.