The Truth About Human Trafficking & the Wall

President Trump has made many misleading and uninformed claims as he advocates for a wall at the southern border. We thought you should know the truth about modern-day slavery.

Watch on CNN: Lori Cohen, Director of Sanctuary’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative, respond to President Trump’s statements: https://cnn.it/2TjrAZp 


Over the past weeks, President Trump has repeatedly brought up human trafficking as he argues in favor of building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. The majority of his statements on the subject, however, have been either misleading or unfounded.

At Sanctuary for Families, we know from our clients’ experiences and from fellow anti-trafficking experts across the country that the reality of modern-day slavery is different from that described by the President. For this reason, we’re debunking five of the President’s most frequent claims about human trafficking:

1. Trump’s Claim: Human trafficking cannot be stopped without a steel barrier or concrete wall.

Many women and children attempting to cross the border are fleeing sexual violence and trafficking in their own countries, and seeking asylum in the U.S. — Shutting them out of our country makes them more vulnerable to exploitation.


2. Building a wall at the border will keep traffickers out of the United States.

Many U.S. citizens are involved in the sex trade and traffickers entering the U.S. through the southern border often do so lawfully.


3. Stricter immigration policies and tighter border security will stop human trafficking.

In the U.S., immigrants — particularly those who are undocumented — are at a much higher risk of exploitation than nonimmigrants.

By criminalizing immigrant communities, President Trump’s policies are pushing trafficking survivors deeper into the shadows and limiting law enforcement’s ability to investigate trafficking-related crimes.


4. Undocumented immigrants are criminals and bring violence to our communities.

Studies have shown that undocumented immigrants are considerably less likely to commit crimes compared to U.S.-born citizens.

In reality, most undocumented people crossing the southern border are fleeing horrific violence, including gender violence and sex trafficking, in their home countries.


5. Trafficking victims are immigrants from other countries who have been brought here unlawfully.

A very large number of victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation in this country are U.S. citizens and never cross any borders at all.


Building the wall will not stop human trafficking. If President Trump really wanted to protect trafficking victims, he would listen to experts, push for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and increase the number of available T visas.

 

Sanctuary staff contribute to New York Times article on illicit massage parlor industry

When Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Dan Barry began his investigation into the tragic death of Song Yang, a Chinese woman ensnared in the illicit massage parlor industry, he turned to our Anti-Trafficking Initiative (ATI).

Lori Cohen is the Director of Sanctuary’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative. 

When Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Dan Barry began his investigation into the tragic death of Song Yang, a Chinese woman ensnared in the illicit massage parlor industry, he turned to Sanctuary for Families’ Anti-Trafficking Initiative (ATI). Interviewing ATI’s Manager of Outreach Yvonne Chen a dozen times over an eight-month period, as well as myself, “The Case of Jane Doe Ponytail,” published as a special Sunday Times report in mid-October of 2018, is a heartbreaking portrait of a life extinguished too soon.

Barry reached out to Sanctuary because the Anti-Trafficking Initiative has gained renown for its ability to identify trafficking survivors and provide comprehensive services to individuals seeking to escape the commercial sex industry. Our staff of Mandarin and Korean-speaking attorneys and case managers have been instrumental in educating law enforcement, service providers, and advocates on the cultural, political, and economic factors that trap East Asian women in the commercial sex trade.

With our pro bono partners, ATI has served some one thousand immigrant women referred for consultations through New York City’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts. Additionally, Sanctuary staff have conducted direct outreach to Chinese and Korean women in massage parlors throughout New York City, advising them of their legal rights, including their right to be free of violence inflicted by the men purchasing them for sex.

While ATI was privileged to serve as a key resource for Barry’s investigative report, we are deeply saddened by a lost opportunity to meet “Jane Doe Ponytail”. Following an earlier arrest, the Human Trafficking Intervention Court had referred her to Sanctuary for a consultation. Sadly, she died the week before her scheduled appointment. In reading of her loneliness and sense of futility, we only wish that our team had been able to provide her with the help she so desperately needed. Her loss has spurred us to redouble our efforts in the hopes of helping the many other individuals like Song Yang to become free from commercial sexual exploitation.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read this important piece.

Our statement on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing of the End Child Sex Trafficking Act

For over a year, Sanctuary staff, survivors, and supporters advocated for the removal of the coercion provision in New York’s trafficking law which forced child victims testify in court. In August 2018, Governor Cuomo signed the End Child Sex Trafficking Act into law.

SANCTUARY FOR FAMILIES APPLAUDS GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO FOR ENACTING THE END CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING ACT

New law relieves prosecutors of the burden of having to prove that a child sex trafficking victim was coerced into having sex

Advocates join Gov. Cuomo for the bill signing. Sanctuary’s Legal Center Director, Dorchen Leidholdt, stands third from left.

(New York – August 15, 2018)Sanctuary for Families (Sanctuary), New York State’s largest dedicated service provider and advocate for victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence, today applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing into law the “End Child Sex Trafficking Act” – a measure that relieves prosecutors of the burden of having to prove that a child was coerced into prostitution in order to in order to convict that child’s exploiter of sex trafficking.

Dorchen Leidholdt, Director of Sanctuary’s Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services, stated,

“This law is the result of the powerful advocacy of a diverse coalition of survivors, their families, advocates, and faith-based leaders, determined to protect our most marginalized and brutalized children and hold their exploiters accountable.”

Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families said,

“This year alone, hundreds of thousands of children in the United States will be subjected to or at risk of sex trafficking. With the enactment of the End Child Sex Trafficking Act, New York has taken a major step forward to eradicate this scourge.  Prosecutors can now build strong cases against those who traffic children without forcing the children to testify and relive the devastating trauma. Sanctuary for Families applauds Governor Cuomo’s decision to sign this bill into law. We are also deeply grateful to the bill sponsors, Assembly Member Amy Paulin and Senator Andrew Lanza, for their unrelenting commitment to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

Judge Kluger also commended the team at Sanctuary for Families for their tireless advocacy on this issue.

Prior to enactment of this measure, prosecutors in New York could not build successful cases against traffickers of children unless the child victim was willing and able to testify. The trauma children suffer as a result of sex trafficking and their terror of retaliation from their traffickers often prevented child victims from testifying.

The End Child Sex Trafficking Law creates an affirmative defense for all sex trafficking victims.  New York now aligns with federal law and the other 49 states, which do not require that prosecutors prove coercion in sex trafficking cases when the victims are minors.

Children are major targets of human traffickers, who pursue them because they are vulnerable and because sex buyers demand children. Estimates suggest that each year at least 100,000 U.S.-born children become victims of sex trafficking. From 2000-2010, service providers in the New York City metropolitan area reported working with nearly 12,000 human trafficking survivors, many of whom were children.

Recognizing Yuqing Wang: A Pillars of Change Honoree

Yuqing is a 2018 Pillars of Change honoree.

It’s National Volunteer Recognition Week! Every day this week we’ll be highlighting a Sanctuary volunteer who will be honored at our Pillars of Change Volunteer Recognition Event on May 10th. Learn more and register for Pillars of Change.

As an international student at NYU, Yuqing Wang was curious about life in New York City outside her campus and searched for volunteer opportunities on VolunteerMatch.com where she found Sanctuary for Families.

As a native Mandarin speaker, Yuqing utilizes her language skills as a volunteer interpreter for Sanctuary’s Queens Trafficking Intervention Pro Bono Program (QTIPP). In this role, Yuqing supports Sanctuary staff, pro bono attorneys, and clients every Friday at Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court by providing interpretation for client intakes and screenings.

“Interpretation for our clients is not as simple as translating words from one language to another,” explains Lauren Chung, Administrative Assistant, Anti-Trafficking Initiative.

“Many of the clients within the QTIPP program are vulnerable immigrants from East Asia and it is very difficult for them to recount experiences of abuse and trauma.”

Despite this, Yuqing approaches these intakes with extreme sensitivity and she becomes the client’s voice for the duration of the intake. “I can recall many cases in which a client walked into the office nervous and walked out with a smile on their faces. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about volunteering,” Yuqing explains.

In just over a year of volunteering at Sanctuary, Yuqing has translated for over 60 client intakes, working with over 50 pro bono attorneys from Sanctuary’s law firm partners. As an experienced trauma-sensitive interpreter, Yuqing has also been assisting the Anti-Trafficking Initiative with developing an interpreter training for future volunteers.

Yuqing’s talents have not gone unnoticed by Sanctuary staff:

“We have come to rely on Yuqing’s insightfulness – if there’s an intake that we anticipate will be particularly sensitive, we do our best to have Yuqing interpret for that intake, trusting that her presence will ease the client.”

For Yuqing, volunteering at Sanctuary has been rewarding both personally and professionally. One thing Yuqing did not expect was the relationships she would develop with other people working on the project:

“I met Maggy last year, who is a retired lawyer and we have collaborated many times. She was incredibly kind and was happy to share her experiences with me and give me advice. If not for this volunteer opportunity, I would never have gained this friendship.”

Yuqing always brings the focus of any conversation about her work back to the clients she works with. For Yuqing, the most rewarding part of her work is ‘seeing that someone in difficulty is more relieved after our interview’.

We sincerely thank Yuqing for her compassion, sensitivity, and insight and hope she will continue working with Sanctuary for a long time to come.

We look forward to celebrating Yuqing and four other amazing volunteers at Pillars of Change on May 10, 2018! You can join us at Pillars of Change by registering now. We hope to see you there!