- - Wednesday, October 9, 2019

There has been a big, underreported development in the cause of human trafficking victim rescue. Businesses — like Delta Airlines and Marriott Corp. — are engaging meaningfully. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a task force. 

Nobody knows how many victims suffer as sex slaves in America. We know that the number is substantial. And that it’s intolerable. We know how to put an end to this shameful condition.

I, Dottie Laster, have been credited with triggering the largest human trafficking victim rescue in U.S. history. And I, Ralph Benko, was a field organizer there and in half a dozen other cities for President George W. Bush’s Operation Rescue and Restore. Unassumingly, we helped build an “underground railroad’ to rescue the victims of modern day slavery. 

We know from direct experience.

Business, and business alone, can provide the missing ingredient to rescue all the human trafficking victims in America. It’s the right thing.

So welcome, business, to this great humanitarian crusade. However, it is as important to do the thing right as it is to do the right thing.

Businesses now are putting most of their effort into educating their employees (and customers) on how to spot a victim. Good beginning. Now something more, but not more expensive, is needed.

A famous story supposedly about FDR goes: “Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph met with FDR before World War II to get the president to take action against discrimination, the president boomed back: ‘I agree with you, now go out and make me do it.’”

“Make me do it” is the missing ingredient. The resources needed to rescue human trafficking victims are already out there. The resources are fragmented among many agencies. We just need to align them. 

The local police are quietly knowledgeable about where the traffickers and their victims may be found. But making the rescue is delicate and complex. And you need T and U visas from the federal Department of Homeland Security at the ready. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS) website says “T visa nonimmigrant status is a temporary immigration benefit that enables certain victims of a severe form of human trafficking to remain in the United States for up to 4 years if they have assisted law enforcement in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking.”

The USCIS says a “U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.”  

Also, many traffickers operate interstate. That can thwart local police and district attorneys. That requires the FBI and Justice Department.

Rescuers need a safe and secure place to shelter the rescued victims. Local nonprofits are usually the best bet for this and will go to great lengths to provide. Many victims need language and job training. Many require psychological counseling. Other agencies are available to provide these.

Rescuers need philanthropists, foundations and government agencies to provide humanitarian funding to rescue victims at scale. Otherwise, success would swamp the rescue infrastructure. It is a very rewarding cause. Success will win their enthusiastic support. 

Rescuing the victims — all the victims — is not prohibitively expensive. Neither is it cost free. Freedom is never “free.”

So, the resources are there.

Why do we still have trafficking? 

Let’s let you in on the secret key to ending human trafficking. Most agencies have little to zero routine operational interaction with one another.

Also, there are abundant rivalries and even mild animosities. Local police mostly look on the FBI with disdain. And vice versa. Nobody knows USCIS’s phone number. Humanitarian service providers tend to look on the police as borderline brutes. Cops look at social workers as namby-pamby bleeding hearts. (Until they get to know each other.)

The agencies that have to work together are not naturally aligned. Public pressure makes them do it. But public pressure is “as spontaneous as arson.” It will take a small squad of do-gooders to activate public pressure. Victim rescue at scale requires busybodies and nudniks. Socrates was such a one. He called himself a “gadfly.”

The government, or government-funded agencies, won’t fund their own busybodies. They can’t. Yet, when FDR said “I agree with you, now go out and make me do it,” he meant it. Here too! Virtually every elected official truly sympathizes with trafficking victims. They would be thrilled to be “made” to rescue them.

So what’s the solution? Two dozen or so well-organized busybodies, nationally. They’d pour on the sweet relentless pressure needed to force alignment among the responsible parties.

We know.

We’ve done it.

The cost of such a squad would be a rounding error on the weekly profit and loss report of any major corporation. That cost would be an excellent PR investment. It would protect their brands from the tarnish of charges — founded or not — of negligence toward human trafficking on their turf.  

Plus, what CEO wouldn’t care to go down in history for more than just turning a profit? To be remembered for ridding America of modern-day slavery?

Being a great businessperson? Great.

Being a great humanitarian? Priceless.

Let’s end human trafficking in America, now.

Thank you, U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

• Dottie Laster is the principal of TraffickingVictimRescueCentral.org. Ralph Benko is the chairman of The Capitalist League. 

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