AATOP Community Forum Outcome Document
October 24, 2012
The Asian American Trafficking Outreach Project (AATOP), a program launched by the International Organization of Adolescents (IOFA) held its first community forum on October 24, 2012 at the Hull House Museum. This forum was the first meeting to connect organizations from the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community of Chicago that have interest and expertise in the issue of human trafficking. Over forty attendees ranging from college students to professionals in the fields of advocacy, health, legal, education, and social services came together to hear about AATOP and contribute to the discussion about outreach to victims of human trafficking in underserved API communities.
IOFA provided a general introduction to the initiative, explained the scope of human trafficking in the United States and Chicagoland area and provided guidance on how to identify trafficking victims. Shelby French (IOFA Executive Director) and Sehla Ashai (IOFA Anti-Trafficking Program Specialist) segued into a description of AATOP’s goals and target activities. Esther Liew (IOFA AATOP Program Development Intern) presented research from IOFA that demonstrated little evidence that API trafficking victims are being identified or provided support by a sample of API-serving organizations in Chicago. Using this as a launching point, Shelby invited the attending organizations and individuals to partner in AATOP efforts at various levels of participation. Both IOFA and participating organizations will bring together expertise from different fields with the goal of effectively reaching API trafficking victims and agencies that serve this demographic.
We proceeded to a discussion session that addressed these questions:
- Do you believe that human trafficking is a critical issue facing API communities?
- Do you think human trafficking is being addressed adequately in API communities?
- What are the challenges to building public awareness and concern about human trafficking?
- What are the opportunities?
- Which API communities are at greatest risk?
- Who needs to be involved to ensure success and sustainability of AATOP efforts?
- What are the specific challenges and opportunities in relation to outreach into this particular community?
- What are some culturally appropriate models or methods of outreach to victims of similar crimes?
The discussion explored attendees’ understanding of the challenges to serving trafficked victims and generated suggestions of how they themselves can contribute to AATOP efforts.
Feedback points included:
Human trafficking is a critical issue facing API communities
- Psychological coercion of human trafficking can be damaging.
- Service providers in attendance have spoken and worked with trafficked individuals but have not realized it.
- Trafficking is a big problem in the Vietnamese community. The Vietnamese American Community of Illinois has received calls eliciting support for trafficked victims. It has also conducted anti-trafficking programs for the Vietnamese community.
Fear of removing self from trafficked situation
- Some victims come to the U.S. not knowing anybody.
- They get minimal provisions in the trafficked situation, but if they leave, they are stepping out into the unknown where there may receive no protection at all. It is scary to be in a trafficked situation, but scarier not to know what is out there, so not many trafficked individuals leave.
- A shelter living situation is not incentive enough for victims to leave.
Building a connection between organizations that potentially serve API trafficking victims
- If staff do not know how to identify a trafficking situation, they will not know what to do when confronted with it.
- Benefit of having a coordinated network: direct service providers builds relationships with victims and with other collaborating organizations. Victims will choose service providers that they trust to advocate for them. They will be less fearful of presenting their trafficking situations to a police or lawyer if they have a professional who supports them.
- Organizations serving trafficking victims should know how to connect and coordinate with organizations in victims’ home countries in case repatriation is necessary.
· The difference between trafficking and labor exploitation is blurry. What constitutes as exploitation in one culture is not the same in another; what is “normal” in one culture is not in another.
- Some people do not understand the difference between labor exploitation and trafficking, so we need to be clear when explaining the distinction between the two.
- Outreach work into labor violations and employment issues face resistance because victims and social service organizations do not want to go against businesses. Victims may deny that there is a problem.
- Some of the largest labor trafficking cases have involved Asian workers. Labor trafficking preys on the language gap of victims. There is success when workers are organized to advocate for recognition of labor trafficking. However, it is difficult to organize domestic workers because they are isolated from each other.
- There is currently no law association with whistle blowing or “qui tam” (a writ whereby a private individual who assists in a prosecution is entitled to a percentage of the recovery of the penalty as a reward for exposing wrongdoings) to empower workers to advocate. There is little incentive for victims to challenge labor trafficking employers because of the burden of litigation and re-traumatization. Using litigation for outreach has not been successful, but has been successful when used for compensation.
- If there is an affluent defendant, the case will go to trial because reputation is at stake.
- AATOP’s priorities are threefold: identify victims, gather services so they are accessible to victims, and train organizations. Victims face a dilemma if there is nowhere they can receive services. Connections are currently non-existent, so we must put a network together.
Recommendations for moving forward
- Victims or people who have identified a human trafficking victim can call the 24/7 National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-3737-888) for assistance.
- Members of the AATOP network can also call IOFA at 773-404-8831 if a victim is identified and wants to be connected with law enforcement and/or legal and social services in the area.
- It will take awhile to get the API community used to the concept of trafficking outreach, so relationship-building with participating organizations and specific communities is very important.
- Have conversations with the API community to familiarize them with human trafficking.
- Organize community leaders to provide a safe space for victims to meet and talk
- Survivor participation: we want to hear from survivors, ask them questions, and receive direct feedback to inform our programs.
- For those working with older refugee/non-US citizen girls under pressure to get jobs/are working, have conversations with them about work: work hours, language barriers, fear of being fired, what has raised questions for you, etc.
- AATOP is in the process of translating trafficking outreach tools into culturally appropriate terms so agencies can use them.
- AATOP can use resources from Look Beneath the Surface, a culturally appropriate trafficking campaign.
- Divide up by target ethnic communities and by expertise to contribute to AATOP efforts: legal, social service, capacity building, etc. For example, the Chicago Bar Association can help with the legislative portion.
- Strength in numbers: the more organizations we get to come on board, the more the issue will be moved to the forefront.
- Positive peer pressure: launching point for a shift in thinking and beliefs of other organizations.
- Train law enforcement to identify API trafficking.
- College students can be advocates on campus with their student organizations.
Next steps for AATOP
- Send out a survey inquiring the interest and participation level of potential member organizations
- Maintain open communication with member organizations through the AATOP blog, listserv, and quarterly newsletters
- Compile a list of member organizations
- Have phone calls or meet with member organizations to check in on AATOP progress on their part, then provide help where necessary
- Recruit for the AATOP steering committee
- Recruit more AATOP member organizations by reaching out to more API-serving organizations in Chicago and inviting them to participate in AATOP
- Recruit non-organizationally affiliated community members to be supporters of AATOP
- Hold ethnic-specific meetings with community members and interested organizations
- Awareness building and public education
- Victim outreach
- Training and capacity building of existing organizations and resources
- Ongoing technical assistance to organizations
- Enhance legal and social services for victims
- Establish and coordinate cultural competent referral networks
- Research and evaluation of target activities