Seventeen visitors from across Latin America came to San Antonio this week to learn more about what our community is doing to combat human trafficking both across borders and at home. The delegation was very impressed with the resources they were able to visit and found the whole trip enhanced their understanding of current efforts in the U.S. to end trafficking in persons.
They began with a roundtable discussion with the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking (AACAT). Saul and Nilda Castellanos from the Freedom Youth Project Foundation gave an in-depth presentation about the nature, patterns, tactics, effects, and useful countermeasures they have discovered in their work to end human trafficking. Also in attendance from AACAT were representatives of Centro Seguro who explained their necessary work in providing a shelter for children with nowhere else to turn. These resources allowed the visitors to understand a wide array of methods used in the San Antonio community to fight human trafficking.
The exchange was a great success on both sides. The visitors learned more from the “Liars and Posers” presentation about how exactly the correct lies are used to lure children into being trafficked and how “Stranger Danger” is no longer sufficient advice to protect those who might be trafficked by trusted coaches, family friends, neighbors, or even teachers. On the other hand, Saul Castellanos commented that he always finds the IVLP delegations he participates in tremendously helpful. In one case where a delegation from Indonesia was discussing human trafficking with AACAT, he learned about the phenomenon of children entrapping their friends into being trafficked. This knowledge has allowed AACAT to pursue and prevent another mode of trafficking in persons.
Later, the group met with the staff of the Equal Justice Center to discuss their work in providing legal representation especially in immigrant communities. Their work in fighting labor trafficking in these communities was of particular interest to the Latin American visitors. It even allowed an interesting back-and-forth about the logistics of labor trafficking out of Peru and to the United States with representatives of both countries.
The Refugee And Immigrant Center for Education and legal Services (RAICES) was also able to shed light on broader border-related issues with renowned international human rights lawyer, Curtis Doebbler. He provided his first-hand accounts of fighting for underserved populations in tough circumstances. His knowledge of atrocious human smuggling conditions also provided the delegation with a new perspective on human trafficking and its effects.
On their day trip to Laredo, IVLP visitors were able to get a better understanding for the role of law enforcement by visiting the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices at the Rio Grande Detention Center. Here, visitors asked many questions about ICE’s measures to fight international human trafficking at the border and the role of that goal in their broader mission. Immediately following this, they met with Texas Riogrande Legal Aid (TRLA) to hear about their work fighting for immigrants’ rights including their human rights against those who would traffick them. In fact, their appointment at TRLA was some productive that the visitors lobbied to stay an additional hour since it was their last appointment of the day.
Overall, the program was a phenomenal success and each participant came away knowing so much more about how to identify, prevent, combat, and prosecute trafficking in persons. We also have seen that the exchange has built transnational partnerships and connections that will continue to enrich their efforts long into the future.