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Editorial: Human trafficking is local issue

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
November 10, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

It’s a silent and devastating problem going on right under our noses, and it’s going to take courage and a willingness to ask invasive and uncomfortable questions to stop it.

A handful of years ago or more, when Abby Kuzma was executive director of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, she met a Mexican man who had been held against his will and forced to live and work while under armed guard in a warehouse in Pennsylvania. He’d been promised a regular job by the person who brought him across the border, only to find slave-like conditions. A family member figured out his plight and helped him break free, but the man was on the run from his captors and Kuzma was unable to convince him that she wanted to help him; he feared she would return him to his life of servitude.

If your first thought on reading that is “he shouldn’t be here illegally in the first place” then you are part of the problem, because human trafficking isn’t just about enslaving people in warehouses – it’s also about people being forced into prostitution, and worse.

Now in her role as director and chief counsel for the Consumer Protection Division of the Indiana Attorney General, Kuzma is still interested in the outcomes of these kinds of cases, as are advocates who work with domestic violence victims, lawyers who focus on human rights, and immigration lawyers. You can read about the issue in a story that begins on page 1 of this issue of the newspaper.

While Kuzma wasn’t able to help the man she met, she was able to help a 16-year-old girl from Honduras, who had been abducted by a gang and prostituted from the time she was 13 or 14. The girl was reunited with her mother, who lives in the United States.

Domestic violence victim advocates say the problem is on the rise in Indiana, but it is being noticed in rural parts of the state. The power and control exhibited by a trafficker is often the same as that demonstrated by someone who abuses his or her domestic partner. It’s a problem we all need to be aware of so we can do something about it.

The Indiana Department of Labor is supposed to be on the alert for calls that come in regarding unfair wages or employment practices that might relate to human trafficking. Police are also supposed to be aware of how to interact with potential victims, especially when it comes to prostitution. Other outreach efforts include domestic violence shelters and hospitals that treat those with low incomes and the uninsured.

But the outreach effort also can include you.

Kuzma said it best: “… if you see a girl who is not in school who seems to be working somewhere – including next door and working there all hours, like a domestic slave, if not for you, who would be asking the question? Maybe if you see her in a grocery line, maybe that’s the opportunity to find out who she is.”

If not for you, who would be asking the question? If you’re wrong, all you’ve done is perhaps ask an intrusive question and embarrassed yourself a little.

But what if you’re right?•

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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  3. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  4. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  5. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

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