King County, Seattle, Port promote awareness of human trafficking
In advance of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, recognized nationally on January 11, the King County Council, Port of Seattle Commission, and Seattle City Council passed recent legislation to shine a spotlight on the horrific problem of human trafficking.
“In Washington, we can be proud that we were the first state in the union to criminalize human trafficking, and King County successfully prosecuted the state’s first human trafficking case.” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who co-sponsored the County proclamation. “The unique partnerships we have been able to create here are making a difference by strengthening tools for law enforcement and the courts to help protect immigrants and teens from being forced into servitude and prostitution, as well as increasing penalties for convicted traffickers.”
As many as 17,500 people are trafficked annually into the United States. Mostly women and children, these individuals endure forced labor, sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and forced marriages – prison terms that have no end date and no hope for release.
"Our borders should always be open to trade and tourism, but they should never be open to human trafficking," said Port of Seattle Commission President Gael Tarleton.
By working together, the three agencies, along with local and federal law enforcement partners, hope to increase awareness of this terrible issue – and with that awareness, heighten both reporting of activities and conviction of those who benefit from the misery of others.
“Human trafficking is a grave issue that thousands of people face in our State. It requires broad partnership across jurisdictions and I’m proud of the statement we are making together with this proclamation,” noted Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien.
"Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery and needs to be eradicated permanently," said King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. "It's important that we increase public awareness of the warning signs and heal the victims."
Human Trafficking Awareness Day is Wednesday, January 11, and the three agencies will be joined by community and law enforcement leaders to announce new tools for both law enforcement officials and citizens and unveil solutions to prevent this modern-day slavery. The event will be held at 1:30 p.m. at Seattle City Hall.
WHEREAS, in 2003, Washington became the first state to criminalize human trafficking, and now recognizes a National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness designated by Congress on January 11 and supported by Washington State Senate Resolution 8611; and
WHEREAS, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that includes forced labor, sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and forced marriages by use of fraud or coercion; and
WHEREAS, human trafficking is a billion-dollar industry, with 27 million people held in slavery around the world, and an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people trafficked annually to the United States; and
WHEREAS, King County law enforcement and prosecutors are participants in the model, multi-agency Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network (WARN) that brings together service providers, criminal justice agencies, and advocacy groups to rescue victims from these conditions: and
WHEREAS, local partnerships with federal, state, county, and city agencies, the Port of Seattle, and community advocacy organizations are providing training for law enforcement, court staff, and human services agencies about how to work together to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking; and
WHEREAS, Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna has initiated a national initiative against human trafficking, known as the Pillars of Hope campaign, to hold traffickers accountable, help victims, and promote public awareness and advocacy; and
WHEREAS, Anti-Trafficking Engagement Day in Olympia on January 12 will involve advocates such as Washington Engage and the Refugee Women’s Alliance working with state legislators to strengthen legal protections and end human trafficking in Washington State;
NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Metropolitan King County Council, do hereby proclaim January 11, 2012, as
HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS DAY
in King County and urge all citizens to join in efforts to combat all forms of modern-day slavery.
DATED this ninth day of January, 2012.