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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. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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