Recently, Pastor Bob Selle and other representatives from Amigos en Cristo were invited to an invitation only summit on Human Trafficking sponsored by Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida's 25th Congressional District. The summit was held at Ave Maria University. Congressman Diaz-Balart is currently co-sponsoring five pieces of legislation in the United States Congress addressing problems associated with Human Trafficking. The purpose of this summit was to raise the awareness of community leaders as to the magnitude and seriousness of this problem in our community and throughout southwest Florida. In addition to the congressman, speakers at this summit included Anna Rodriguez, Executive Director and Founder, Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking; Doug Molloy, former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney in Fort Myers and Don Hunter, Marco Island Chief of Police and former Collier County Sheriff.
The speakers emphasized that Human Trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Human Trafficking is a $32 billion per year global industry -- second only to drug trafficking -- and there are more slaves today than at any time in human history according to the Department of Homeland Security. Annually, millions of men, women and children are lured from their homes with false promises of well-paying jobs, often by people they trust, to instead find themselves forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude or other types of forced labor. Trafficking victims can be any age, race, gender or nationality -- young or old, U.S. Citizen or foreign nationals, with or without legal status. They can be found in legitimate and illegitimate labor industries, including agriculture, restaurants, hotels and domestic service. Traffickers prey on victims with little or no social safety net. They look for victims who are vulnerable because of their illegal immigration status, limited English proficiency, and those who may be in vulnerable situations due to economic hardship.
The congressman and each of the speakers urged the community leaders at the summit to use the influence of their organizations and their personal contacts to broaden the awareness of this very cruel and inhumane crime in our community. The congressman emphasized that awareness of this crime and an understanding of its magnitude, by ordinary citizens, is the first and most effective step in combating and eliminating Human Trafficking from our community.
If you suspect that a person may be a victim of human trafficking, please call the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations tip-line at 1-866-347-2423. You can also report online at www.ice.gov/tips. However, non-law enforcement personnel should never attempt to directly confront a suspected trafficker or rescue a suspected victim. Doing so could put both you and the victim's safety at risk.