Anti-Trafficking Collaborative of the Bay Area: Combating Modern-Day Slavery
When they told me that I didn’t have any choice but to carry drugs across the desert into the United States for them or they would kill and force my 12-year old brother to do it instead, I didn’t even dare cry. I thought I saw my dreams to even finish my first year of high school disappear. The police in the United States told me they would help me but prosecuted me instead. When I finally met my caseworker and she told me that my attorney could help me apply for immigration status, that I could start high school again, and maybe I could bring my younger brother and mother to the United States to be with me, I finally felt safe enough to cry.” – 16-year old trafficking survivor
My employer always reminded me that she was powerful and that she knew where my family lived. I had to sleep in a closet with another worker in the spare bedroom. I was not allowed to go to church because she said I was an animal, and God didn’t listen to animals. Even though I did not eat pork because of my religion, sometimes she would only buy pork on purpose, and I would be so hungry that I would eat the leftover pork from my employer’s family’s plates after they were done eating.” – Trafficking survivor
I paid a lot of money to come work in the United States on a legitimate work visa. But when I arrived in the United States, instead of working at a resort in Florida, I was forced to provide caregiving in other states. I had to sleep in the couch in the lobby room and vacated patient beds, and my paycheck was deducted for my so-called debts. When I complained, I was told that my visa would be cancelled, and the people that I owed money to in the Philippines that my wife had signed collateral for would go after my family. I was so terrified.” – Trafficking survivor
They would just bring us men after men, maybe up to 30 in a day. We weren’t allowed to address each other by our real names. One time another girl accidentally told me her real name—Guadalupe—and as punishment, the guard injected the birth control we were forced to have into her mouth. I just kept thinking about my husband, who I missed and was trying to reunite with when I got trapped into this situation. Even after my release, my husband has been nothing but supportive of me and has never judged me. But today I am free and recently I’ve started my own business selling food and my own daycare. I remember what it is like to not be free and I cherish my freedom.” – Trafficking survivor of forced sex work
To most people, the idea of buying and selling people, slavery, and the human trade seem like nothing but dark echoes of the past. However, several million men, women, and children are trafficked internationally and domestically each year, reflecting a horrific reality. The United States is not immune to human trafficking—in fact, human trafficking occurs every day in our lives, possibly at your favorite restaurant, at your next door neighbor’s house, or at that store that you walk by every day on your way to work. Human trafficking is simultaneously a global and local community human rights abuse.
Beginning with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Amendments and Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000 to recognize the crime of human trafficking and create legal remedies for trafficking survivors, API Legal Outreach informally joined with long-time partners to establish the nationally-recognized Asian Anti-Trafficking Collaborative (AATC). As one of the first federally funded community-based organizations to design and provide comprehensive social and legal services for survivors of human trafficking, AATC also assisted in the creation and passage of California’s Anti-Trafficking Law, AB22. The AATC’s goal is to help trafficked men, women, and children become empowered survivors of trafficking. Rather than treating human trafficking survivors as helpless victims, AATC recognizes that it is their courage and pioneering spirit that made them vulnerable to deception and false promises by traffickers.
The trafficking of human beings is prevalent in almost all industries, from hotels to agriculture to massage parlors to private homes, even in our public schools. Unfortunately, too many people continue to hold mistaken beliefs about human trafficking. API Legal Outreach strives to dispel these myths, which set back efforts to identify and successfully address the crisis of human trafficking.
To date, AATC has served hundreds of victims of human trafficking from Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, Latin America and Europe. AATC’s clients span the age from 7 to 75 years old, male, female, transgender, and different ethnicities and nationalities. AATC works to ensure that survivors of human trafficking are assisted not only in obtaining immigration relief, but also emergency and long-term housing, civil litigation, advocacy for restitution in the criminal proceedings, medical services, therapy, and other social services.
To reflect the growing needs of different populations, recently, AATC added new partners to become the Anti-Trafficking Collaborative of the Bay Area (ATCBA), with its partners Asian Women’s Shelter, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, and The SAGE Project. ATCBA continues to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and other legislative and policy changes that seek to support survivors of trafficking and address systematic root causes of trafficking. Currently, many clients come from all over the United States to the Bay Area to seek ATCBA’s expertise in supporting trafficking survivors. We look forward to our continued commitment to the community to combat violence, injustice, and exploited labor.
This year, ATCBA organized its third annual brown bag series with several events for the community in honor and recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, as well as training hundreds of local, state, and federal criminal and civil law enforcement. AATC members won awards from the San Francisco Coalition Against Human Trafficking and the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women for Abolitionist of the Year. ATCBA also provided intense advocacy to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
As the examples demonstrate, human trafficking survivors go beyond the stereotype of the woman forced to prostitute herself, the sex trafficking industry. Additionally, while ATCBA has served hundreds of survivors of trafficking from both group cases and individuals. API Legal Outreach honors their resiliency and courage to tell their stories.
For more information about our work through the Anti-Trafficking Collaborative of the Bay Area, go to www.endtrafficking.org (or click the icon below):