Last week, five international visitors from Indonesia explored the efforts of local groups to end human trafficking and raise of awareness of its horrible methods and effects. These visitors were able to explore the issue from all manner of perspectives and deepen their understanding of its insidious ramifications in the United States.
The group began by meeting with the Equal Justice Center (EJC). The EJC is one of few organizations in Texas who are struggling against labor trafficking and the misappropriation of wages among immigrant communities. Their work intrigued the visitors as they sat down to learn more about how much they are able to accomplish and the legal services they offer to underserved clients.
Next, the delegation proceeded to the San Antonio Police Department Public Safety Headquarters. As they have welcomed so many visitors before, the SAPD opened their doors to this group to explain their work in fighting trafficking in persons at the local level. Their conversation delved into the work of the Vice Unit, Sex Crimes Unit, and the special training programs SAPD officers undertake to better prepare them to handle cases of human trafficking.
At SAPD, the visitors were also prepared for their ride-alongs. Later Thursday afternoon, they were given the chance to see police officers in action and ride with them as they patrolled the streets of San Antonio. This hands-on learning experience is always a highlight of visitors’ time in San Antonio and the ride-alongs last week were no exception.
On Friday, the group began with a morning meeting at Homeland Security Investigations and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Representatives of the Department of Homeland Security were able to explain how they track cases of human trafficking at or near the border while also remaining ready to pursue suspects throughout the country. This meeting provided IVLP participants with a better understanding of how federal agencies cooperate with local law enforcement and pursue through different avenues their important investigations.
Before lunch, the visitors were also able to meet with a much-valued resource in San Antonio’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons. The Freedom Youth Project Foundation, a lynchpin of the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking, met with our visitors for two hours to examine their detailed research and methods involving the trafficking of children and effective methods of prevention. This meeting allowed everyone to obtain a broad understanding of the risk factors, determinants, likely perpetrators, likely victims, and cycles of human trafficking. All of the visitors found Mr. Castellanos’ presentation and answers to their questions very helpful.
The visitors then met with two more members of the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking. The Bexar County Juvenile Probation Office provided more information about serving youth in the community who may have been affected by trafficking. Later in the afternoon, Magdalena House showcased their victim support services especially for mothers and families. Their programs include reintegration mechanisms for victims of trafficking in addition to their work fostering empowerment, education, and an end to the cycle of abuse.
Through these varied and impactful meetings, the delegation from Indonesia was able to explore San Antonio’s successful efforts to combat trafficking in persons and reduce the number of people who are victimized by it. Each one of them found the appointments useful in improving their own efforts to fight human trafficking back home.