Council declares January Human Trafficking Awareness Month and recognizes efforts to highlight its impact
|Councilmembers join representatives from agencies fighting to end human trafficking
after the Council proclaimed January 2017 “Human Trafficking Awareness Month”
in King County
The Metropolitan King County Council today declared January Human Trafficking Awareness Month in recognition that trafficking in persons is now the world’s second-largest and fastest-growing underground economy.
“Because of our region’s ports, our shared international border with Canada, Sea-Tac International Airport and access to I-5, King County has long been a hotspot in the international trafficking of persons,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a co-sponsor of the proclamation. “Human trafficking is an extreme violation of human rights that threatens the health and welfare of all our communities.”
“King County recognizes Human Trafficking Month in order to create awareness about the many resources available to victims throughout our region,” said proclamation co-sponsor Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn. “It is my hope that even a simple reminder of this tragic problem might make the difference in someone's life.”
Legislation introduced by former State Representative Velma Veloria made Washington the first state in the country to create an anti-trafficking task force in 2002 and to criminalize human trafficking in 2003. As a member of the State Senate in 2002, Kohl-Welles sponsored legislation signed into law that provides protection to immigrants who come to Washington to marry residents through the services of international marriage brokers, which were found to be problematic in leaving people vulnerable to exploitation.
The 2017 Legislature will consider two bipartisan bills that will create a way for victims of human trafficking to obtain protection orders and would extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting certain crimes related to trafficking and prostitution.
“I’m pleased to hear that there will be legislation considered during the Legislature’s upcoming session,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “Trafficking is a worldwide problem and we are fighting against it in Washington State. It’s important to end it on a bipartisan basis and to give survivors new tools to recover.”
King County has been a leader in the effort to end human trafficking. Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in King County work closely with the Washington Anti-Trafficking Network (WARN), a coalition of non-governmental organizations that provides direct services to survivors of human trafficking in Washington state, assisting them on their path to restoration and recovery. That effort has grown through the establishment of the King County’s Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (“CSEC”) Task Force to help ensure the safety of young people who are survivors of sexual exploitation. In addition, the King County Prosecutors Office established the “Buyer’s Beware Program” with the Organization of Prostitution Survivors. King County continues to work with NGO’s, such as API Chaya, Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees & Communities of Color, and Seattle Against Slavery.
King County has worked with both Clear Channel Outdoors, a division of Clear Channel Communications, and Titan Media to highlight the need to fight human trafficking through billboards that provided information on how to contact agencies that helped individuals escape trafficking.
Most recently, the County Council included funding in the biennial budget for a report on best options to address the issues of labor trafficking and economic exploitation in King County.
Representatives of community organizations doing work in King County to address the issue of human trafficking were present to accept the proclamation before the council.
“When we started serving survivors of human trafficking, we thought we would be seeing mostly Asian and Pacific Islander women and children,” said Joanne Alcantara, Executive Director of API Chaya, a local organization providing services to survivors of sexual and domestic violence, exploitation, and human trafficking. “After a dozen years of experience, API Chaya has served clients from all over the world, with more than two-thirds of them being men. Human trafficking is a global problem and the resources to address the needs of survivors are limited.”
Each year, API Chaya holds a candlelight vigil commemorating the 1995 shooting of Susana Remerata Blackwell, her unborn child, and friends Phoebe Dizon and Veronica Laureta, who were killed by Ms. Blackwell’s estranged and abusive husband inside the King County Courthouse. Following the forced servitude case of Helen Clemente in 1999 and the murder of Anastasia Solovieva-King in 2000, King County has been active in working with the state Legislature in finding ways to reduce and aid the survivors of trafficking.
A 2013 report from the International Labour Organization estimates that nearly 27 million men, women and children are victims of various forms of trafficking, such as forced labor, sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and forced marriages, each year worldwide. Shining a bright light on these crimes and educating the public is one way we can work to eradicate these types of crimes.
WHEREAS, in the month of January, we highlight the crime of human trafficking, in which millions of men, women, and children are bought, sold, and compelled into service against their will across the world, including the United States; and
WHEREAS, human trafficking includes crimes and actions, such as forced labor, sexual exploitation, commercial sexual exploitation of minors, debt bondage, and forced marriage by use of fraud or coercion; and
WHEREAS, trafficking in persons is now the world’s second largest and fastest growing underground economy; and
WHEREAS, King County has long been a hotspot in the international trafficking of persons, due to our region’s ports, proximity to Canada, Sea-Tac International Airport, and access to Interstate 5; and
WHEREAS, in 2003, Washington State became the first state in the United States to criminalize human trafficking and continues to be a leader among states in adopting some of the most comprehensive laws against these heinous crimes; and
WHEREAS, in January 2013, King County launched a public awareness campaign to highlight the fight against human trafficking, using advertisements on Metro buses, billboards, radio, and TV to inform victims and the public that help is available; and
WHEREAS, numerous King County staff, law enforcement officers, and prosecutors participate in several programs to rescue trafficking victims, and
WHEREAS, Susana Remerata Blackwell, her unborn child, and friends Phoebe Dizon and Veronica Laureta were killed by Ms. Blackwell’s estranged and abusive husband inside the King County Courthouse, an incident that sparked a movement to find ways to reduce human trafficking and aid the survivors of human trafficking; and
WHEREAS, combatting the crime of human trafficking needs increased public awareness and outreach, and January 11th has been named National Human Trafficking Awareness Day;
NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Metropolitan King County Council, proclaim the month of January 2017 as
|HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS MONTH
in King County to call attention to this important issue.
DATED this ninth day of January, 2017.