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Tag Archives: human rights

Human trafficking blog series update: Legislation and Safe Harbor Bill

The TVPA

The first ever comprehensive law passed to prevent human trafficking and protect victims was called the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Subsequent re-authorizations (TVPA) expanded protection and services for international and domestic victims. This act made a difference for victims trafficked from overseas into the United States because victims could be issued T-visas that allowed them to temporarily stay in the United States and make use of victim services. T-visas give victims from overseas a way of gaining independence away from their pimps or from the people who brought them to the United States. After gaining the T-visa, they can also choose to continue staying in the United States or go back to where they had originally come from.

On top of attending to the needs of the victims, the TVPA also brought about tools for the prosecution and punishment for traffickers. Traffickers who kidnapped, sexually assaulted, attempted to kill or killed their victims could be sentenced to life in imprisonment. In addition, traffickers who used fraud, force or coercion to sexually exploit minors could also face life in prison.

Safe Harbor in Minnesota

The TVPA is one of the forces pushing states to implement similar laws that punish traffickers and protect victims. The Advocates for Human Rights in Minnesota pioneered and led a coalition of non-profits and activists to write and lobby for the Safe Harbor bill which Governor Mark Dayton signed into law in 2011.

The Safe Harbor bill explicitly defines sexually exploited minors as victims who are in need of protection and victim services, and not delinquents. This law that will be enacted in 2014 charged the commissioner of public safety, the commissioner of human services and the commissioner of health in alliance with many groups of people involved in providing services and stakeholders to put together a comprehensive child victims services almost from scratch.

According to Jeff Bauer, Director of Public Policy at the Family Partnership and a member of the Safe Harbor coalition, there are virtually no shelter beds in the state that are dedicated to housing minor victims of sexual exploitation now. But all that will soon change because he is now traveling all around the state to string together resources and connecting service providers, translators, hospitals and stakeholders into a system that would potentially be dedicated to serving and protecting minors who are sexually exploited.

Although this Safe Harbor bill is one big step forward, Bauer believes that more should be done. While children under 15 are immune from prosecution, children who are 16 and 17 could still be prosecuted under the juvenile justice system if they have already gone through the mandatory first referral to victim services. He believes that all minors under the age of 18 should be protected and never be treated as criminals.

Updates on the Safe Harbor coalition

I had the opportunity to shadow Bauer to some of the daily meetings where I got to meet many dedicated professionals who are as passionate about this issue as he is. At the No Wrong Door meeting that brought together the whole Safe Harbor coalition to unveil and review the whole system of services they had worked so hard on, I learned the basic workings of the sexually exploited child victim services. Victims could be referred from anywhere such as getting picked up on the streets, hospitals or even self-referred. Once they are referred, they will work with an expert from their region who will make sure they get all the services and protection they need to regain their lives. Services include chemical dependency rehabilitation, education, legal services, mental health consultations, employment help and many more.

According to Bauer, similar system had been set up in other states but most of the systems turned out to be a failure. This is because most of the time, only one department of the government worked on creating the system, which caused many conflicts within a framework where it is necessary for multiple parties to work together. With that in mind, I was hopeful that our system might just be one of the successful systems while I sat in a room full of lawyers, social workers, law enforcement officers, lawmakers and other professionals with a variety of expertise and watching them debate about definitions, talk about procedures and basically working together.

What is needed from the Asian Community in Minnesota

While there seems to be hope of child victims of sexual exploitation, human trafficking is a problem that is not only prevalent but even increasing in Minnesota, Bauer said. Bauer recommends that communities of color should start talking about this hidden problem and “accept that it is happening to their own children.” “Silence is what allows this problem to grow in our state,” he said. The Asian community can also work together with the Safe Harbor coalition to create a culturally appropriate system that would serve Asian victims better. The victim services should not be a one-size-fits-all system. He hopes that more people from the Asian community can give their input on how services can be more culturally specific. If you have any ideas or questions at all, please leave a comment and I will be sure to address them all.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in CAPM news, Legislative

 

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Human Trafficking in Minnesota Series, Part 2: Human Trafficking in the Asian Community

Starting in Feb 2012, CAPM intern Michelle Sham will be reporting on the issue of human trafficking, an issue that has often been associated with foreign populations or countries. It is our hope that this blog series will help shatter myths about human trafficking, provide an alternative view of the realities of this grave human injustice, and to offer information that can aid in catalyzing social action against human trafficking.

Part 2: Human Trafficking in the Asian Community

Human trafficking is not absent in our communities. Instead, it is everywhere around us, except we do not notice them because they are being disguised. Some are locked away in houses as maids, some are toiling away at construction sites or in farms, and others are walking the streets forced to sell their bodies. There are 12.3 million adults and children bonded in forced labor and forced prostitution all around the world.

Trafficking of humans is a very profitable business. If you sell arms or drugs, once your products are sold, they do not belong to you anymore. However, when you are selling the service of a person as a product, the person belongs to you even after you receive payment and you can reuse him or her over and over again. The human trafficking industry earns $32 billion dollars every year. More specifically, human trafficking profits in the United States can go up to $15.5 billion dollars.

Why Minnesota?
Minnesota is a major trafficking hub because the rural areas surrounding big cities, Duluth’s international port, the large unpatrolled border with Canada and not to mention the infamous Interstate 94 which is used very often to transport victims up and down the mid-western states. The number of victims coming through Minnesota everyday through trafficking is unknown.

In our Asian community
In addition to our ideal geographical placement for human traffickers, Minnesota also has large populations of minorities and newly arrived citizens. New citizens and even illegal immigrants are more vulnerable targets for traffickers because they are not familiar with the rights they are entitled to and may have less ability to seek help or resources. Furthermore, children of those families have to struggle with balancing their traditional culture that they learn at home and American culture that they are exposed to in school. When some children and teenagers cannot find solutions to their problems through teachers, family or mentors, they turn to the streets where they are vulnerable.

“A lot of problems start with the family. A lot of Hmong girls turn to the streets. I have a cousin who witnessed her mother being beat up by her step father all the time. Her parents are constantly arguing. She really doesn’t exist for them except to do the chores and watch the younger siblings. She turned to the streets in order to escape the violence at home. When she is with a boy, at least they give her attention. These girls have a need to be loved and accepted and allowed a social life.”

– A testimony from a Hmong Professional

In 2005, there was a well publicized human trafficking case uncovered from within the Hmong community, where girls, many of whom were runaways, were raped and forced into prostitution by Hmong gang members.
97 Hmong men and teenagers were charged with sexually assaulting or prostituting Hmong girls.*

Xiaoying Chen, the Asian American Health Coordinator from Office of Minority and Multicultural Health at the MN Department of Health, and an active member of the community working against human trafficking  reasoned that there are many cases like these (runaways who become victims of trafficking) from within the newly arrived communities because of generational differences and disputes between the second or third generation children and their immigrant or more traditional older family members. Young people who are impressionable and naive are also usually more easily seduced and enticed into human trafficking.

Human trafficking is not only exclusive to the Hmong community but is a problem that the whole Asian community, domestically and internationally, has been dealing with. Chen also said that trafficked victims are everywhere and sometimes are even right in front of our eyes. One of her personal encounters with human trafficking was at an Asian restaurant in Saint Paul where she was having lunch at. She accidentally overheard the conversation of a few neighborhood church members who were trying to help the bus girl at the restaurant who may have been smuggled and trafficked from China to Minneapolis to work.

In fact, Chen’s encounters is not a rare case. There were many brothels in guise of Asian massage parlors that have been busted in Rochester, Woodbury and all around the Twin Cities filled with women brought over from China and Southeast Asia who are forced to perform sexual favors for customers. Many Asian women who are brought over are also usually forced to be maids, farmers and factory workers.

The effects of the lack of awareness
There is a great lack of awareness, and thus research and action about human trafficking especially in Asian communities all over the nation and in Minnesota. In the whole state of Minnesota, there are only 2 shelter beds dedicated specifically for children trafficked for sex! We need more awareness throughout the state so that more people will be educated and be out-spoken on this issue. This would also encourage state legislators and politicians to join the fight in eradicating human trafficking from our state. Only from this unity can we start to stop human trafficking.

Next week’s post will be about the complexities of human trafficking. One can only really understand human trafficking after knowing how it works. Please read next week’s blog post about the business of human trafficking.

Missed last week’s post? Click on the link to trackback.
Part 1: Introduction

*Source from St. Paul Police Gang Unit.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2012 in CAPM news, Community news

 

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News for immigrants, non-citizens, and new Americans

Update from US Citizenship and Immigration Services

USCIS is considering changes that would allow certain immediate relatives (the spouse, children or parents of a U.S. citizen) who can demonstrate extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen spouse or parent to receive a provisional waiver of the unlawful presence bars before leaving the United States.

These procedures are not in effect and will not be available to potential applicants until USCIS publishes a final rule in the Federal Register specifying the effective date. USCIS plans to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the coming months and will consider all comments received as part of that process before publishing a final rule.

  • Do not send an application requesting a provisional waiver at this time. USCIS will reject any application requesting this new process and we will return the application package and any related fees to the applicant. USCIS cannot accept applications until a final rule is issued and the process change becomes effective. 
  • Be aware that some unauthorized practitioners of immigration law may wrongly claim they can currently file a provisional waiver application (Form I-601) for you. These same individuals may ask you to pay them to file such forms although the process is not yet in place. Please avoid such scams. USCIS wants you to learn the facts about protecting yourself and your family against scammers by visiting uscis.gov/avoidscams.

If you already have an immigrant visa interview with the U.S. Department of State, we strongly encourage you to attend. The Department of State may cancel your immigrant visa registration if you fail to appear at this interview.

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The following was taken from a newsletter from the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.

Emergency Medical Assistance: Recently, 2,300 Minnesotans received letters informing them that they would no longer qualify for Emergency Medical Assistance (EMA) beginning January 1, 2012. Specifically, due to changes made during the 2011 special legislative session, EMA would no longer cover such treatment as dialysis, chemotherapy, in-patient treatment, or mental health treatment. Due to the nature of who EMA covers, these changes impacted only non-citizens. The persons affected ranged from children to the elderly; from undocumented parents with U.S. citizen children to persons who have been legal permanent residents in Minnesota for years. Among other actions, ILCM began taking calls from affected immigrants and community partners almost immediately. Thanks to the generosity of the Minneapolis Foundation, we were recently able to hire a part-time attorney to screen immigrants for possible immigration relief such as applying for U.S. citizenship, U-visas, or a family petition to address both their immigration status and their eligibility to access life-saving healthcare. ILCM is also working hard with multiple partners to try to reinstate EMA coverage for as many persons as possible. Please be sure to sign up for action alerts and we promise to keep you informed as this issue moves forward. For more details, read this January 10 article from Minnesota Public Radio.

Click here to read a fact sheet compiled by the Department of Human Services on how last years change to EMA reduced coverage of serious medical conditions for some of Minnesota’s low-income immigrants.

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Family Visa Waiver Petition: On January 6, USCIS announced its intent to reduce the time that U.S. citizens are separated from their family members under certain circumstances while those family members proceed through the legal immigration process. This announcement from USCIS is wonderful news for immigrant families across the United States. We believe the announcement is the result of high-profile advocacy efforts like that of film director Ruth Leitman in her stellar documentary Tony and Janina’s American Wedding: A Deportation Love Story, as well as stories like Emily and Raul’s represented by ILCM and its pro bono attorneys, and another one in which an ILCM board member’s client died while waiting to be reunited with his U.S. citizen spouse from Hinckley.

 
 

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Gordon Hirabayashi, 1918-2012

Received word through social media that civil rights hero Gordon Hirabayashi, best known for being one of the few people to openly defy the government’s unconstitutional internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, has died. He was 93.

Hirabayashi was arrested, convicted and imprisoned, and eventually appealed his case to the Supreme Court (Hirabayashi vs. United States) — the first challenge to Executive Order 9066. The Court ruled against him, 9-0. However, his wartime convictions were successfully overturned forty years later.

Rest in peace. Here’s the Facebook post from Mr. Hirabayashi’s son, Jay Hirabayashi, announcing his passing:

My Dad, Gordon K. Hirabayashi, who was ninety-three, passed away early this morning. He was an American hero besides being a great father who taught me about the values of honesty, integrity, and justice. My Mother, Esther Hirabayashi, who was eighty-seven, also passed away this morning about ten hours later. She was a beautiful, intelligent, generous soul. Although my parents were divorced, they somehow chose to leave us on the same day. I am missing them a lot right now.

Here’s a good summary of Hirabayashi’s landmark case:

During World War II, Gordon Hirabayashi was a 24-year-old senior at the University of Washington – an American citizen by birth – when, as acts of civil disobedience, he defied a curfew imposed on persons of Japanese ancestry and refused to comply with military orders forcing Japanese Americans to leave the West Coast into concentration camps. He appealed his convictions to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in one of the most infamous cases in American history, held that the curfew order was justified by military necessity and was, therefore, constitutional. A year and a half later, in Korematsu v. United States, the Court relied wholly on its decision in Hirabayashi to uphold the constitutionality of the mass removal of Japanese Americans.

Forty years later, in 1983, represented by a remarkable and dedicated team of lawyers, Mr. Hirabayashi reopened his case, filing a petition for writ of error coram nobis in Seattle, Washington, seeking vacation of his wartime convictions on the ground that the government, during World War II, had suppressed, altered, and destroyed material evidence relevant to the issue of military necessity. In 1986, the Ninth Circuit, in an opinion authored by Judge Mary Schroeder, vacated both Mr. Hirabayashi’s curfew and exclusion convictions on proof of the allegations of governmental misconduct.
Hirabayashi v. United States, 828 F.2d 591 (9th Cir. 1987).

Next month, the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality will host a major conference to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Ninth Circuit opinion in the Hirabayashi v. United States coram nobis case. It’s happening February 11 at Seattle University. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, and to register, go here.

UPDATE: Here’s a statement on Gordon Hirabayashi’s passing from the Korematsu Institute and the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice: Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education and the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice Remember Civil Rights Leader Gordon Hirabayashi.

 

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in National news

 

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