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Panel to Address Forced Labor Human Trafficking in Santa Clara County and the South Bay

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – According to estimates in the 2013 Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress report, as many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year, and 100,000 children who are U.S. citizens are trafficked within the United States.  Today, in recognition of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the County’s Office of Women’s Policy, partnering with the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking and the YWCA, will host a panel on Forced Labor Human Trafficking in Santa Clara County and the South Bay. 
“Human trafficking is a crime with no boundaries, and with real victims in our own neighborhoods,” said President Mike Wasserman, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. “We must work together to be a voice for these victims.”  
National statistics show that most of the reporting calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline come from California.  San Jose, alongside other major coastal California cities, is a major destination for traffickers and victims. It is believed that the majority of the cases in Santa Clara County are related to forced labor.
“Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and I am proud of the Board for raising awareness of this appalling and immoral practice,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, District 2, who will give the welcoming remarks at today’s panel. 
Today’s event will be held at 3:00 p.m., at the County Government building Isaac Newton Auditorium Senter, 70 West Hedding St., San Jose.  It is part of Freedom Week, which includes a series of activities in the South Bay coordinated in part by YWCA Silicon Valley to celebrate freedom and raise awareness on forced labor and human trafficking.  U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, 19th District, and human trafficking survivor Sarah Balabagan Sereno, as well as representatives of law enforcement and community organizations and advocates, will speak.
“We face enormous challenges fighting human trafficking because most victims are not easily identified,” said Ruth Silver Taube, Legal Services Chair of the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. “Forging collaborations with law enforcement, community organizations, and legal representatives have enabled the South Bay Coalition to develop coordinated responses, direct resources to survivors, and bring perpetrators to justice.” 
California has taken a strong stance against human trafficking with the passage of Proposition 35, which increased penalties against traffickers. 
While most criminal investigations in California are sex trafficking cases (56%), labor trafficking cases are reportedly 3.5 times as prevalent.  Many times labor trafficking cases present themselves to victim service providers and not law enforcement.
Over the past year, the San Jose Police Department’s Human Trafficking Task Force has investigated or assisted in the investigation of 37 cases of human trafficking; most involve the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).  In Santa Clara County cases range from an elderly woman kept as a slave in a nursing home to a homeless man forced to beg on the streets and turn over his proceeds or face violence. Sex trafficking cases tend to be high profile cases. In 2012, The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office issued 18 sex trafficking cases, involving a total of 21 victims and 45 offenders.
Human Trafficking Facts
According to the United Nations, human trafficking is the process by which a person is recruited, controlled, and held captive for the purpose of exploitation.  In the United States, Human trafficking became a federal crime under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and is investigated primarily by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE. Reports from the United Nation’s International Labor Organization and the U.S. Department of Justice indicate that:
·         There are 20.9 million victims of trafficking and human slavery throughout the world.
·         11.8 million are subject to a form of modern slavery within their own national borders.
·         Children aged 17 and below represent 26 percent of the total victims; there are 5.5 million child victims worldwide.
·         An estimated 12.3 million people around the world are forced into labor and sexual servitude.
·         About 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders. Of these, about 80 percent are women and girls, and up to 50 percent are minors. This figure does not include millions that might be trafficked domestically within their own countries. 
Most victims of slavery are women and children.  Traffickers take advantage of factors like gender discrimination, family violence, and lack of access to education and economic opportunity.
About the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking
Since 2005, the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking in collaboration with the County of Santa Clara has provided crisis intervention, emergency shelter, financial support, and other services to more than 100 survivors of human trafficking. The Coalition is one of 40 victim-centered human trafficking task forces funded jointly by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime.
Efforts to address human trafficking are supported by additional collaboratives, including the City of San Jose Police Department Human Trafficking Task Force and the Diocese of San Jose’s Human Trafficking Coalition.  Since 2005, the SJPD Human Trafficking Task Force and the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking have identified and rescued over 300 potential victims of human trafficking.  The countries of origin with the largest number of survivors served are USA (44); Mexico (43); Philippines (13); and China (7).
Anyone who has encountered a suspected victim of human trafficking may call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or 9-1-1 in an emergency.
Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Marina Hinestrosa, Office of Public Affairs (408) 299-5119; Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, Office of Women’s Policy (408) 299-5142; Ruth Silver Taube, South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking (408) 737-2313.
Posted:  January 23, 2014