April 30th, 2010

APP couldn’t be prouder of our very own Sara Jane Camacho, who led the effort to outlaw human trafficking in Alabama.  Sara Jane is a member of our Emerging Faith Leaders Advisory Group and founder of Freedom to Thrive.  She helped secure passage of HB432, which criminalizes human trafficking and exploitation – or, in less euphemistic termsslavery. Trafficking is defined as “coercion or deception causing a person to work or to perform services…or to perform certain sexual activities… having financial value.”

Alabama was previously one of only seven states that had no formal law recognizing human trafficking. This bill protects victims of trafficking who might actually be punished for coming forward – undocumented laborers who are exploited, or women who are forced into prostitution, for example. Victims of human trafficking are often coerced, controlled, and made powerless by their captors. Instead of being further victimized by facing arrest or (in the case of undocumented workers) deportation if they come forward, these groups will now have the power to seek justice against their captors. And the state will now have a criminal basis to prosecute employers who exploit and traffic human beings.

“It’s a very progressive and comprehensive bill, and we’re just thrilled the legislature viewed it as important and passed it the first year it was introduced. That is huge, and it speaks to the bill itself,” Sara Jane explains. She notes the many who worked hard to create and pass the law, including the District Attorneys Association, The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Polaris Project in DC who helped draft the legislation, Barry Maston, State Representatives Jack Williams and Merika Coleman, and State Senators Wendell Mitchell and Steve French.

In mid-May, Sara Jane and others will celebrate the bill’s passage with a signing event rally for all of the lobbyists, advocates, and organizers who fought hard to get this bill through the legislature. Freedom to Thrive will also train law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers and community members to recognize the indicators of human trafficking and develop system protocols at the state level to process and prosecute human trafficking cases.

Do you know the potential red flags for human trafficking? Here are some warning signs:

Strange behavior

  • Someone who seems fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous
  • Someone who avoids eye contact
  • Someone who shows signs of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Someone who has an inconsistent story or appears to be lying

Employment irregularities

  • Someone who doesn’t leave his or her place of employment or only leaves at odd hours
  • Someone whose boss “holds” or “invests” his or her money for him or her
  • Someone with a boss or manager in prostitution, stripping, or an escort service
  • Someone who hasn’t been paid, has been paid very little, or is paid only in tips
  • Someone who has a very large debt
  • Someone who did not understand the terms or conditions of his or her employment when he or she was recruited

Lack of Control

  • Someone who doesn’t have control of his or her own identification papers
  • Someone who has few or no possessions
  • Someone who is not allowed or able to speak for himself or herself or is made to speak through a translator
  • Someone who is unsure of where he or she is or lives or has no sense of time

Posted by Robyn Hyden