Tag Archives: human trafficking

Modern Day Slavery: Human Trafficking in New Jersey

New Jersey is a hub for human trafficking. There are between 12 million and 27 million human trafficking victims worldwide. These victims are women and men, children and adults, American citizens and people born in other countries, all forced into modern day slavery.

Join the League of Women Voters of New Jersey and Rutgers University Campus Coalition Against Trafficking, on Saturday, April 21 from 9:00 am – 12:30 pm at Rutgers University, Douglass Campus, New Brunswick and explore this widespread problem.  Learn how to identify when and where human trafficking is happening, how to help the victims, and what can be done to prosecute the criminals. Speakers will include New Jersey policy experts, a human trafficking survivor, and experts working in the field.

Speakers Include:

Dorchen A. Leidholdt, Director, Sanctuary for Families

Danielle, a human trafficking survivor

Kaitlyn Keisel, State Director, Polaris Project NJ

Jame Bolds, NJ Representative of FREE International

Asha Vaghela, Deputy State Attorney General and Director of the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force

The cost is $15 and the registration deadline is Thursday, April 12th. This is a popular topic and space is limited so register early.

Learn More and Register Now

This event is co-sponsored by Polaris Project NJ, RUCCAT, AAUW.

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Have You Seen Human Trafficking In Your Town?

The following is written by Elizabeth Santeramo, League of Women Voters of New Jersey board member and chair of the League’s Women and Family Issues Committee.

January has been declared “Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month” by President Obama. As a member of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, I have had the privilege to attend a United Nations briefing on Human Trafficking where a former sex slave bravely shared her story. The devastating crime of human trafficking occurs in New Jersey’s urban areas and in the quaint small towns that pepper the state. The League of Women Voters supports human rights, and condemns all forms of slavery and the violence associated with it. We believe that the basic inalienable rights granted at birth must be protected and upheld.

Many of the massage parlors that line our Main Streets are storefronts for sex shops-harbingers of terror and abuse where trafficked women and girls are forced to perform sexual acts on patrons. Often, the victims live where they work, in dark and filthy conditions. They are not allowed to leave, take breaks, or do the routine things you and I do, like shop, visit a friend, or take a walk in the park. They are truly sex slaves.

It is odd to use the term “slave” in 2012. Yet, these victims are transported to our local towns from Newark, where they are trafficked from Brazil and parts of Asia. This is modern day slavery. Some of these victims are as young as 8 years old. In most cases, community members do not complain about the massage parlors because they are unaware of what lies behind the doors, and the establishment does not constitute a nuisance. Many may think it’s a typical “happy ending spa” but few realize that we are dealing with real women and girls who have been abducted from their homeland and tricked into thinking they will live the American dream. But we know better. They are living an American nightmare.

As a League member, I was invited to attend other briefings at the U.N. where I heard a survivor share her story of being sold at 16 in her home state of California. She was walking with her sister one day, when another woman and fellow Mexican-American approached her with a job opportunity to clean homes. In need of money, she accepted. After a long car ride, she was taken to a small dark room where she was chained and drugged. Her job turned out to be that of a sex slave for an older married Mexican man. After years of psychological, emotional and physical torture, she now shares her story to help other victims and make citizens aware of how to spot trafficking activity.

I viewed a slideshow presented by an attorney who works at Sanctuary for Families in NYC. The program showed the three key things to look for to help identify makeshift massage parlors: obscure establishment names, i.e. a number and a name; windows discreetly veiled with curtains or blinds to hide the interior from outside; and the inability for potential customers to book an appointment if they are not the “right” type of client for the parlor.

If you have come across such parlors that offer “massages” and you’re suspicious that they may hold victims of human trafficking, there are ways that you can help. You can save a woman or a young girl by learning how to identify trafficking in your neighborhood, how to help a victim, and how to report it anonymously. The League of Women Voters of New Jersey partners with Polaris Project to help prevent these crimes. Polaris Project provides a hotline for the public to anonymously report suspicions and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey is looking for members who are interested in working to stop human trafficking in our state. For more information, please visit www.lwvnj.org and www.polarisproject.org.

Highlights of Our 59th Biennial Convention

The following entry is written by Toni Zimmer, LWVNJ President

I just finished participating as board member and incoming President at the League of Women Voters of New Jersey state Convention for 2011. Knowing I was about to take over the reins of this wonderful organization made the convention especially exciting for me. I watched outgoing President Anne Maiese very carefully as she led us through the event, knowing that at the next convention that would be my role!

A Green Event

This year, we had the privilege of utilizing the conference facility at the Verizon Operations Center in Basking Ridge (a few miles south of Morristown) for our event. The facility has earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED  Silver certification for its environmentally friendly design and energy efficiency. To make the 1.4 million-square-foot facility more energy efficient, Verizon uses temperature sensors and energy-management systems to monitor heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.  Bravo, Verizon!

Step Right Up

Local League delegates line up for the "Roll Call"

As described in this issue’s “From the President” column, for the first time, the LWVNJ conducted a Roll Call of Local Leagues which gave each representative a chance to summarize their group’s 2-year accomplishments and activities.  It was impressive to hear so many fine achievements. Congratulations to all!

Guest Speakers

When it came to guest speakers, we were definitely not disappointed.  First, it was a wonderful privilege to have our LWVUS liaison, Marcia Merrins, speak to us on the important aspects of non-partisanship and elections in a new era. She was eloquent, direct, and had a sense of humor that kept a smile on our faces as we absorbed such serious information. We are very fortunate to have Ms. Merrins as our liaison and mentor.

John Mooney

Our other esteemed guest speaker was John Mooney, founding editor and education writer of NJSpotlight, an online news service providing insight and information on issues critical to New Jersey.  Mr. Mooney shared his views and expertise on various school issues facing New Jersey and the important role of education journalism.

Moderator Workshop / Caucuses

Marcia Merrins

Marcia Merrins conducted a comprehensive moderating workshop that covered everything from how to choose a debate format to maintaining correct protocol during the event.

Caucuses are informational sessions, often with elements of planning and strategizing. For example, members might hold a caucus to promote an action they intended later to introduce at convention. At this convention,  some caucuses included these topics:

Immigration: Deborah MacMillan led this caucus which attracted more than a dozen core immigration group members and newcomers.  The annual report was reviewed and the group discussed a summary of the immigration survey. Current and future conditions were discussed,  including (1) the latest immigration climate in Hightstown and (2) the Morris County Freeholder board’s objection to granting in-county tuition for illegal immigrant students. The Freeholders state that money should only be used to subsidize tuition rates for students born in the United States or living in the U.S. legally.

Education Caucus

Education:  Led by Pat Libutti, the caucus explored a strategy for the progressive emergence of education study materials, i.e. PowerPoint presentations, short and/or comprehensive papers and the  possibility of speaking with other Leagues to combine information meetings.  Of paramount importance to the group was the impending new budget which is slated to cut a total of 20 vital education programs, including:  The Jacob Javits Act program for education of the gifted;  Even Start – a head start program for migrant workers; and a total of five critical literacy programs.  For more information, visit: http://www.edweek.org/media/program_elimination_051211.pdf

Human Trafficking: This well-attended caucus was successfully led by Doris Schapira. Doris is currently abroad and unable to provide a summary of caucus events for this publication. However, the caucus yielded important and timely information we believe needs to be shared with members across the state, so pertinent information regarding the blight of Human Trafficking will be published in our next Voter. Thanks to all who participated in this caucus.

Awards and Accolades

Awards Ceremony

Several well-deserved awards were presented to League members for outstanding service, membership longevity, and generous financial support. At the risk of inadvertently omitting a name of any of the recognized recipients, I won’t list them here. Their exceptional contributions to the League are deeply appreciated.

Approved Study Programs and Board Actions

Study:  The delegates voted by voice majority to approve a study on electronic voting devices. For a number of years it has been a concern of the national League that electronic voting devices are not secure unless fully backed up by paper ballots that can be used to verify that the machines worked correctly. New Jersey currently has very few machines with paper trails, and we are thus dangerously dependent on the adequacy of the electronic devices and software. This study will investigate the situation in New Jersey, determine what plans are afoot to solve the problem, and make recommendations on what the League should support or oppose.  One of the great things about this organization is that we always carefully study issues and come to member consensus before taking a position.

Board Action:  A number of delegates came together to urge action against human trafficking, which they said was disturbingly common in our state. They proposed, and the  delegates agreed, that the board should write to the Attorney General to urge him to use the utmost effort to train law enforcement to recognize and to rescue and assist victims and to prosecute the perpetrators of human trafficking.

As usual, this League convention was engaging and fast paced.  Our one-day format made it even more so than when we had one and a half day conventions. I learned a lot, enjoyed the give and take of discussion and issues, and I’m looking forward to leading the organization for the next two years. If you are not already a member, I hope you will join us as we move forward with our important work.