Local & State Voices

A bipartisan opportunity: Fight human trafficking

Joy Anderson is a survivor of human sex trafficking. Today she helps other victims in Cabarrus County.
Joy Anderson is a survivor of human sex trafficking. Today she helps other victims in Cabarrus County. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Human trafficking, the modern-day slavery. We’ve heard this phrase many times. It is sobering to know the city of Charlotte ranks number 1 in human trafficking within North Carolina and our state ranks 10th in the nation, advocacy groups say. The average age a child enters sex trafficking is between 12 and 14. These statistics should cause us great alarm.

At the Mecklenburg Evening Republican Women’s Club, we’ve heard from organizations such as Redeeming Joy Ministries, Lily Pad Haven and others. These organizations are doing a great job rescuing and supporting victims. Unfortunately, they are limited by lack of financial resources.

N.C. Rep. Bill Brawley tried to get funding; he was the chief sponsor of HB 910, which would have provided $56 million to help victims, provide education and more. Unfortunately, it didn’t pass and while I am grateful that some measures were taken, we could do so much more.

Sadly, Rep. Brawley, who fought hard for girls and women, was defeated in the midterm election. Human trafficking is a non-partisan issue that Democrats and Republicans should tackle in 2019. We call upon Brawley’s successor, Democrat Rachel Hunt, to take the baton from Rep. Brawley and lead this effort.

Homeland Security, ICE in particular, has had great success combating human trafficking.

According to ICE:

“According to the U.S. Department of State, the United States is a destination country for thousands of men, women, and children trafficked from all areas of the world. These victims are trafficked for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. Many of these victims are lured from their homes with false promises of well-paying jobs; instead, they are forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor or other types of forced labor. Victims often find themselves in a foreign country and cannot speak the language. Traffickers frequently take away the victims’ travel and identity documents, telling them that if they attempt to escape, the victims or their families back home will be harmed, or the victims’ families will assume the debt. We recognize that men, women and children that are encountered in brothels, sweat shops, massage parlors, agricultural fields and other labor markets may be forced or coerced into those situations and potentially are trafficking victims.”

With this week’s news that Mecklenburg Sheriff Garry McFadden has decided to end the 287(g) program between Homeland Security and the Sheriff’s office, I am concerned about the impact this decision will have in Mecklenburg County’s efforts to combat human trafficking. The 287(g) program allowed for extensive communication between the sheriff’s department and immigration authorities. ICE has had great success combating human trafficking, arresting 2,000 people for trafficking last year. I sincerely hope Sheriff McFadden would reconsider his decision, given the potential consequences ending 287(g) may have on our fight to end human trafficking.

Miller is president of the Mecklenburg Evening Republican Women’s Club. Email: dzmiller81@gmail.com