The Star News – Chula Vista hosts anti-trafficking forum

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Chula Vista hosts anti-trafficking forum

International Network of Hearts, a nonprofit organization that helps children recover from human trafficking, and the San Diego County District Attorney’s office jointly hosted a Binational Human Trafficking Conference at Chula Vista City Hall on March 16. Interim District Attorney Summer Stephan said the purpose of the conference is to bring together governmental and non-governmental organizations from both sides of the border to strengthen collaborations in the fight against human trafficking in the region. She said the district attorney’s sex crime and human trafficking division is doing all it can to combat human trafficking. She said the district attorney’s office uses a “Four Ps Formula,” to combat human trafficking. The formula is the same one used by the U.S. Department of Justice and California Department of Justice. The formula focuses on prevention by stopping trafficking before it begins by educating children, teachers and communities. The second part of the formula is the protection of trafficking victims; the third P is prosecution, effectively prosecute human trafficking offenders; lastly the formula ends with partnerships, the district attorney’s office creates partnerships to help victims recover. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Human Trafficking is the fastest growing form of organized crime in the world and is tied in second place with the illegal arms trade. Alma Tucker, president of the International Network of Hearts, said her organization has seen a rise of human trafficking victims throughout the years. “The crime of human trafficking is growing and growing and it’s very profitable,” Tucker said. Adam Braverman, a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, said that human trafficking is one of the world’s most lucrative and fastest growing illicit enterprises in the world. “The trafficking of men, women and children for labor or sex is so appalling and so pervasive in our country and around the world,” he said. “It is one of the department of justice’s top priorities and one of the top priorities for our office.” He said his office has seen an increase in human trafficking cases filed, defendants arrested and defendants convicted for human trafficking crimes. He said just last year, the Department of Justice convicted more than 500 individuals for human trafficking. Braverman said in 2014 it was estimated that proceeds from human trafficking where as high as $150 billion world-wide. Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy said human trafficking affects children, teenagers and women the most. She said the San Diego-Tijuana border is the busiest land crossing in the world and makes San Diego County an international gateway for human trafficking. Kennedy added that Chula Vista is seven miles from the San Diego – Tijuana border. “In Chula Vista, we are doing our part to combat trafficking by aggressively investigating this appalling crime using two different units at our department – our family protection union and our special investigations unit,” she said. Kennedy said both units regularly work sting operations at the city with the San Diego Human Trafficking Taskforce. See full article here

Border Report: ICE Operation Targets San Diego

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Binational cooperation is required to tackle human trafficking, Tijuanenses question the resources used to guard U.S. President Trump and more in our biweekly roundup of border news.

San Diego’s Human Trafficking Problem Requires Binational Work

San Diego was identified as one of the Federal Bureau of Investigations highest sex trafficking areas in the country back in 2003 — and the problem hasn’t gone away. The city’s location, adjacent to Tijuana and on the busiest border crossing in the Western hemisphere, plays a big role in why we see so much human trafficking in the region. That’s why nonprofits, government prosecutors and survivors of human trafficking from both Baja California and San Diego gathered in Chula Vista on Friday to strengthen their collaboration in combating human trafficking. “It’s about the network,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “We can only beat it by working together and leaving no border where they can run to.” The binational conference was organized by International Network of Hearts, a nonprofit that helps victims of human trafficking, and the San Diego County District Attorney’s office. Just the night before the conference, dozens of men were taken into custody during a sex trafficking sting in the Mission Valley area. “It’s one of the world’s most lucrative illicit practices,” said Southern District of California U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. According to a 2015 study from the University of San Diego, human trafficking is the second largest underground economy in San Diego after drug trafficking. The study estimated that, in 2013, the illicit sex economy in San Diego garnered roughly $810 million in annual revenue. Since that 2015 study, some progress has been made in addressing human trafficking in the region, but prosecuting the crimes remains a challenge. Eric Roscoe, an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of California, revealed during one of the panel sessions that his most successful human trafficking case took three years to prosecute and, though two victims had been assaulted on the same night by the same perpetrator, the case resulted in an acquittal — exemplifying how difficult these cases can be to prosecute. Roscoe said that the victims gained some relief in being able to speak out. Working across the border, officials in Baja California focus their efforts on education and prevention, trying to raise general awareness of human trafficking and associated crimes and improving their efforts to identify and help victims. “Slavery continues to this day,” said Hector Orozco, a prosecutor of trafficking crimes for the Baja California Attorney General’s office, in Spanish. “The worst thing is that now they are invisible slaves, because before we saw people in shackles and we knew they were slaves.” See full article here   

Difference Maker

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When Alma Tucker learned of cross-border sex trafficking, she had to act


Those trying to cross the border from Mexico to the US risk being abused or trafficked. Alma Tucker has created a safe home for girls caught in this trade. By Brooke Binkowski, Contributor JANUARY 14, 2016

Click here to read the original article

INH and Casa del Jardin featured in Gringo Gazette

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GringoGazetteNorth_0213 page 4-page-001


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UC San Diego Researchers Study Prevalence Of Minors In Tijuana’s Sex Trade

UC San Diego Researchers Study Prevalence Of Minors In Tijuana's Sex Trade

Aired 8/25/15 on KPBS Midday Edition.
UC San Diego Researchers Study Prevalence Of Minors In Tijuana's Sex Trade GUESTS: Jay Silverman, director of research, Center on Gender Equity and Health at UC San Diego Alma Tucker, founder, Casa Del Jardin Summer Stephan, chief deputy district attorney, San Diego County
In one of the first studies of its kind, UC San Diego researchers found one-quarter of female sex workers in the northern Mexican cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez entered the sex trade as minors. According to the study, almost 12 percent of the more than 600 sex workers who were surveyed also said they were under the age of 16 when they got caught up in the sex trade. The study was published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers found minors in the sex trade are at higher risk for sexual violence and HIV infection in comparison to their adult counterparts. Jay Silverman, a public health professor for UC San Diego who led the study, said the survey shows there are about 15,000 to 20,000 females in the sex trade in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. "This translates to many thousands of children who are suffering," Silverman told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. "Young girls are much more likely to be with very high numbers of men — more than 10 men a day." Silverman said he found that many young girls fall victim to people posing as their romantic partners or husbands. "These girls are leaving their homes to men who promise to protect them — take care of them," Silverman said. "Many, many of these young women became pregnant as teenagers that caused them to leave their homes. It also made them tremendously vulnerable economically." But the problem doesn't stop at the border. Summer Stephan, chief deputy district attorney for the county, said young girls in local schools are involved in the industry. "This is very much a local issue," said Stephan who noted many traffickers troll the Internet to find vulnerable girls. "It's something we see all the time." Stephan said the biggest obstacle is self-identification. "Victims of human trafficking don't understand they are victims," Stephan said. "We need the community to be the eyes and the ears."

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that 1,000 individuals participated in the study instead of 600.

Published at NPR – The Underage Girls Of Mexico’s Sex Trade: Hope Amid The Horror

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Maria Fabrizio for NPR

The Underage Girls Of Mexico's Sex Trade: Hope Amid The Horror

Maria Fabrizio for NPR
The report that ISIS is forcing girls as young as 12 to become sex slaves is part of a larger issue. In the world today, an estimated 2 million underage girls work in the sex trade. A new study details the situation in Mexico, where researchers found that one in four sex workers in Tijuana and Juarez say they were forced into the sex trade as minors — under age 18 — and one in eight say they were 15 or younger. The findings of the researchers are as bleak as you'd expect, perhaps even more so. But they did offer a glimmer of hope when they referred me to Alma Tucker, who runs a safe house for underage victims of sex trafficking in Tijuana. First, let's consider the research. To gather information about the number of minors in northern Mexico's sex trade, a team of researchers traveled to Tijuana and Juarez. They visited nightclubs, massage parlors, street corners and public parks — locations where sex work is known to occur — to find female sex workers. The women were told that if they filled out a questionnaire, they'd receive $20. Between March 2013 and January 2014, the team enlisted more than 1,000 participants. The survey, says Jay Silverman, a public health specialist at The University of California, San Diego, who led the study, reveals that young girls forced into the sex trade face greater risks than older women. "Minors in sex work have a different value because they're younger," explains Silverman. "They're easier to sell and people will pay more. They're repeatedly sold as virgins for a much higher price, too. All of these things add up to a much higher vulnerability for violence and HIV. At the same time, these girls are very much invisible; what they're doing is hidden because it's illegal." Silverman adds that a third of girls who reported being forced into the business before the age of 16 were not allowed to use condoms or discouraged from using them during their first 30 days of work. This study helps dispel "the myth that all or the overwhelming majority of people in prostitution enter as fully consenting adults," comments Andrea Matolcsi, who works with sex trafficking issues at Equality Now, a global organization that fights for the rights of women and girls. Alma Tucker, who runs a safe house for victims of sex trafficking in Tijuana, is deeply aware of this issue. When Tucker first started the facility, which is called La Casa del Jardin, she never expected to have little girls staying there. "I was expecting 14-year-olds and up," Tucker says. "But we have a case here of an 8- and 10-year-old being used by their mom in pornography. A man would go every other week, bring clothes and take pictures of them at hotels and parks. [The mom] got $100 from him every time." Another child in the house is 12. When her mother died, Tucker says, the child's uncle forced her to have sex with him. Eventually, he sold her to an elderly man. But before the sale was complete, the district attorney of Baja California rescued the girl and brought her to La Casa del Jardin. In all, 23 girls have stayed at the safe house, which is run by the International Network of Hearts. The staff raises money to provide the girls with food, shelter, schooling and medical attention. A psychologist, social worker and attorney are also available, and there are activities like horseback riding, yoga and dancing. While the girls come in to the shelter depressed and angry, Tucker says, there is hope. Each girl has a dream journal where she writes about her goals. Some talk about how they want to be teachers, while others hope to become attorneys or doctors. They want to travel. They want to take acting classes. They decorate their journals with pictures from magazines that illustrate their dreams. One teenage resident, who'd been abused by her father after her mother died, wrote: At some point in my life I want to be a stylist and own my own beauty salon. The staff at La Casa del Jardin encouraged her to get a job at a salon and helped her open up a savings account. When she turned 18, the woman left the shelter; she works at a salon while finishing up high school. "And that's a success story because she now has tools to be independent, do what she wants and lead her own life," Tucker says.

Churches Sign According to Eradicate Modern Slavery

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The Catholic Church signed an agreement on Monday in the Vatican with representatives of Islam and the Anglican Church that is committed to fighting to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking worldwide by 2020 and to encourage other confessions to join the fight. The statement stresses that "modern slavery and human trafficking is a crime against humanity" and that "the physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children condemn 30 million people to inhumane conditions and degradation." This is a translation. Source:

Civil associations urge to watch over the free sex enterprise

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MEXICO CITY, March 16 -. More than 70 percent of female victims of sexual exploitation in Mexico City at their release from traffickers returns to the world of prostitution due to the lack of job opportunities, therapeutic support and social stigma. 77 percent of 15 thousand sex workers that have turned to the Street Brigade Support organization Women Elisa Martínez, AC for 15 years that they claimed to be survivors of trafficking, continue in sex work "not because they like prostitution, not because they feel victimized, but because there are no other labor choices, for all women and men in this army of the sex trade. " Jaime Montejo, spokesman and founder of Street Brigade organization maintains that the authorities and the city's society "all women who engage in prostitution are victims" and they focus operations on victimizing prostitution without generating long-term options after their bailouts. The organization has 22 years of life, it trusts in the work made by the Central Office of Research for the Care of the Crime of Trafficking in Persons of the Attorney General of Justice of the Federal District (PGJDF), but believes that the solution to eradicating sexual exploitation is not through lockouts, but with the regularization and acceptance. Last week, in a historic event, 14 sex workers won an injunction through the first district judge in administrative matters, Paula Maria Garcia Villegas, because the GDF recognizes them as self-employed workers after 20 years of legal proceedings. With this resolution, Mexico City could be the first institution in the country to offer options to organize a first union; cooperatives to avoid the assigning of leaders that allow the trafficking of women and presence of pimps. What the judge says is that there are those who are forced into prostitution, and must be rescued, but there's willing prostitution, and those who decide to continue in prostitution, the GDF must guarantee their rights so that they are not extorted, don't suffer police abuse, and are not forced to testify against strangers. "The Secretary of Labor, Patricia Mercado, is offering opportunities to be reviewed for those who want to learn a different profession, with no obligations," Montejo said in an interview. She warned that this model will work if you allow the process to be personal. "If in this new rearrangement control of these documents is re-put in the hands of few, trafficking and pimping will be refounded, and a comprehensive law against trafficking will serve for nothing. Right now, it works for that when it's massive, it's known who has no birth certificate, who does not have IFE, who is a minor, and whether adult women without documents are likely to be reported missing in other states," she said . Street Brigade suggested that the Human Rights Commission of the Federal District (CDHDF) is present in the operations, because some women are in the sex industry by choice and they can't all be characterized as victims. He said that the closure of the tables in Cuajimalpa is only causing greater hiding in homes and communal areas. This is a translation. Source:

Forced Prostitution along US/Mexico Border (Marketplace)

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Today's edition of Marketplace will give you an insight into life at La Casa del Jardin.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.45.03 PMA 19-year-old woman with a baby face covered in heavy makeup and a hestitant, toneless voice shares her experiences in the past year: an old friend asked her for help, again and again, until she agreed. He kidnapped her and forced her to work as a prostitute.
Read the full article and listen to the audio clip at Marketplace Online.

Alma On a Mission (SD Prime)

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"Alma On A Mission" is the cover story of the January, 2014 edition of local Chula Vista news magazine, SDPrime.  The article describes life at La Casa del Jardin, a "safe-house" in Tijuana for survivors of human sex trafficking. 2014-01-sdprime Click on 2014-01-sdprime-alma-only to read the article or click on 2014-01-sdprime-full for a full copy of the January 2014 edition of SD Prime.