In commemoration of the World Day Against Trafficking of Persons, on July 29th the Franciscan Network for Migrants hosted a conversation on the ways that frontline workers are promoting human rights by addressing human trafficking. Moderated by Fr. Jaime Campos ofm, the conversation featured Mari Snyder, a franciscan missioner with Franciscan Mission Service who is working on the border of Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Mexico, and José Barjau, a human rights attorney who works with La 72 Migrant and Refugee Shelter on the border of Mexico and Guatemala in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico. 

Mari summarized the US government’s policies to address human trafficking, the “3 Ps”:  Prosecution, Protection, and Prevention. She shared her work with Marriot Hotel in the hospitality industry where she and her team developed a training on how to identify people who are being trafficked. This training was shared at no cost to the entire hotel industry and academia. To date, 1.1 million Marriot hotel workers and an additional 900,000 hospitality professionals and others are now trained to spot the signs that a person is being trafficked. She emphasized the importance of working with partners, the 4th P, who can expand the work you are doing to sectors of society that can extend the impact. She forged a relationship with the University of Maryland to support and empower survivors to become productive and healthy citizens. Marriot has now taken this a step further by creating a trauma-informed job readiness training program for survivors. The program not only trains survivors to work in the hospitality industry, but teaches them transferable skills that can be used in many other sectors.

José shared how his team is working directly with people who disclose that they are being trafficked when they arrive at the shelter in Tenosique. José described how human trafficking has been normalized, and that the financial vulnerability and social disadvantages of adolescent girls who are traveling leads to them to be trafficked into prostitution. The main actor in this is the Jalisco Cartel. He noted that it is frustrating because prosecutor’s office does not recognize the connection between prostitution and trafficking; instead of seeing them as victims, they are treated as criminals. The crimes against them are often not reported, and if they are, they are often not addressed. The authorities do not investigate or prosecute these crimes. The victims themselves also come to see this as a job. It is a very profitable business for the criminal organizations and they use physical force to keep the victims working. La 72, with its very limited resources, provides them with shelter, immediate psychological support with in-house or allied organizations, and then conducts and an investigation. 

You can hear the entire webinar here:

English-Protecting Human Rights by Combating Human Trafficking

Human trafficking training curriculum:      We Are Pact

Statistics on human trafficking shared in the webinar:    Spanish          English

Lori Winther, National Coordinator, RFM-USA
Vianey Martinez,  Executive Secretary, RFM-Americas