Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bay Area citizens lobby to end human trafficking in government contracts - Oakland sex trafficking |


By: Mark Fisher

Washington, D.C. April 16, 2012. Oakland native and current San Francisco resident Lawrence Thomas joined 22 Californians on Capitol Hill April 16 to advocate for legislation to combat human trafficking. These Californians were part of a congregation of 165 from 40 states participating in a day of advocacy organized by human rights agency International Justice Mission (IJM).

They focused on seeking co-sponsorship from Senate and House legislators on a bi-partisan bill introduced in both houses of Congress on March 26, “End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012,” S. 2234 and H.R. 4259. These bills address reports from the Commission on Wartime Contracting and Defense and State departments that overseas contractors have trafficked third country nationals to work on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thomas’ friend and lobbying partner, San Mateo Resident Francis Tao expressed his shock to learn that taxpayers dollars are being used to support modern day slave traders’ trafficking of vulnerable people in a meeting with Legislative Council Erin Ryan in Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s office.

During IJM training sessions the day before, Tao learned that 250,000 third country nationals who have worked on government contracts outside the U.S. over the last 10 years have not been protected by “zero tolerance” against human trafficking rules that apply to foreign workers inside the U.S. Unscrupulous contractors and sub-contractors have exploited this lack of regulation and oversight by trafficking humans and being paid by the U.S. Government to do so.

Ryan assured Tao that Congresswoman Speier is responsive and committed to fighting human trafficking where it exists and to prevent its occurrence through initiatives. For example, Ryan cited the program that Speier and David Palmatier of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched at San Francisco International Airport last month to train airport personnel to identify and stop human trafficking on commercial airlines.

His friend Thomas was also optimistic of seeing fruits of his lobbying labor by the response he experienced in the offices of Representatives Speier, Garamendi, and Royce as well as Senator Boxer. “I’m very encouraged that this process will make a difference,” he said.

When Thomas stated, “Slavery affects us all. I see it clearly now,” his words were reminiscent of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement that, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

To encourage these modern day abolitionists to be positive yet persistent, IJM Vice President of Government Relations Holly Burkhalter started out this lobbying day by pointing out that D.C. district workers were on holiday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation of slaves in the District of Columbia. Yet the front page headline of The Washington Examiner on the same day read, “Gangs find profits in teen sex trade: pimping kids easier than selling drugs, guns.”

, Oakland Sex Trafficking Examiner

Mark Fisher is an Advocacy Leader for International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of violent oppression. As an activist in the modern abolition movement to end human trafficking, he writes, speaks, leads, advocates, and educates about speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves. A former magazine and book publisher with a master's degree in mass communication, he applies his experience and education to reveal human rights abuses of the vulnerable and exploited and strives to rally us all to rise up and reach out with compassion and commitment. Contact Mark at


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