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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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