On Wednesday morning at the Center for American Progress, I heard Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speak about the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to combat human trafficking. She began by reminding the audience that sexual and labor trafficking dis-proportionally affects women. Napolitano is very passionate about this issue, and in 2010 launched her Blue Campaign. The Blue Campaign is the first program of its kind, specifically focused on human trafficking awareness. It has done a lot of good since its inception and will continue to grow through outreach efforts.
Napolitano went on to explain how her Blue Campaign has functioned and their goals. First they focus in on the countries of origin. They have worked with Central America, South America, Asia, and more. They do not deport the victims, as victims should not be punished for being trafficked. Dealing with the visa process for these victims has also been a priority for Napolitano. It’s also important, she stressed, to work within the modes of traffic. Working within the modes of traffic, besides doing thorough investigations, means training all personnel to recognize the signs of trafficking. Her campaign has helped to train flight attendants as well, since many of the cases of human trafficking have been through air travel. Of course it’s also important that trainings were initiated for law enforcement, but really human trafficking awareness should be universal. This is why the next phase of the Blue Campaign has been to forge public awareness through PSA’s in the US and abroad.
Napolitano wants to educate more people about the signs of human trafficking through expanding access to trainings, as well as increasing the Blue Campaign’s online presence to become more well known. Importantly, they will continue to work with the FBI to expand their internet reach and sources. Many of these crimes do begin with the internet, through websites providing access to slaves. She also wants to make sure that these incidents of human trafficking are always counted. Napolitano explained how previously there was a serious lack of data about human trafficking globally. It just was not counted or documented as it is now. I found this to be the most shocking information I learned from Napolitano’s speech.
The most important thing to consider with this issue of human trafficking is simply that it is happening. Clearly we are in 2012, over a hundred years since the Emancipation Proclamation, and it’s absolutely appalling to consider slavery still exists. But we must be aware that it is a problem that exists, in order to stop it. One of the most poignant anecdotes of her speech was when Napolitano recalled a local story. She knew of a couple who recognized that a little girl in their neighborhood was rarely going outside and didn’t go to school. These seem like easy signs to spot, but it can take guts to speak up. But they did speak up about it, and Napolitano’s agents were able to prosecute the case as human trafficking and unpaid labor. If everyone, all over the world, became vigilant to the common signs of human trafficking we could all help to end it.