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Modern-Day Slavery

Last fall I attended a conference organized by the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking (SFCAHT). Human trafficking, often described as modern-day slavery, is a crime in which people are forced to do work or prostitute themselves for the benefit of the person who is victimizing them. Sometimes victims are manipulated and controlled through fear of violence, or, if they are immigrants, fear of deportation. Sometimes they are victimized because they owe a lot of money.

There were many wonderful speakers and panelists at the conference, including Nancy O’Malley, District Attorney for Alameda County; San Francisco City Supervisor Katy Tang; Ryan Spradlin, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge; William Scott, San Francisco Police Chief, and many more. But the most moving presentation of all was from a former victim of trafficking and now advocate: Harold D’Souza.

Harold D’Souza and his family moved to the United States after obtaining what they thought was a position at a manufacturing company. However, when the D’Souzas arrived in Ohio, they were brought to a restaurant and forced to work long hours to pay off their debt to the people who brought them to the states. They also learned that they were in the U.S. illegally and that they risked deportation if they spoke up. The family lived in an unfurnished apartment, their sons coming home empty-bellied after school and having to sleep on the floor. For 19 long months the family was trapped, forever in debt to their boss, a man they feared they might never be able to repay.

With the help of law enforcement, the D’Souzas eventually escaped the clutches of their employer. Now, Harold D’Souza is committed to making sure no other family has to endure the hardships his experienced. He shares his story around the country to raise awareness, speaking regularly at colleges and community forums. D’Souza was appointed in 2015 by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

SFCAHT holds an annual teen poster and writing contest to promote awareness of human trafficking. This year, the theme of the contest is "Open your eyes to the signs of hidden slavery". The deadline for submissions is February 12, 2018 at 5:00 pm. I haven’t decided whether or not to enter this year, but you can download the contest rules for further details on submissions, selections and recognitions here:
Writing Contest Rules and Instructions







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