When people read or hear about the U.S. State Department grants awarded to Concerned Women for America and Dr. Janice Crouse to combat sex trafficking in Mexico, they often ask, “Why Mexico?”
The answer is twofold. First, because the United States shares a border with Mexico, its problems with trafficking may well become our problems. Not that trafficking is isolated to the United States and Mexico; this modern-day slavery plagues most nations. The U.S. Department of State’s 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report estimates that each year 600,000 to 800,000 women and children (and some men) are trafficked across international borders. Some 14,500 to 17,500 enter the United States, most of them through Mexico.
The second reason is the complexity of Mexico’s problem: It is a source country, a destination country and a transit country. As a source country, many Mexicans are vulnerable to being taken out of Mexico for slavery in other countries (many to the U.S.). As a destination country, Mexico’s cities are becoming heavily traveled by sex tourists (many Americans), especially for child sex tourism. As a transit country, Mexico is a gateway for slaves to be smuggled across the Guatemalan border or to be flown into Mexico from Europe, Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, and then transported to other countries (again, many to the U.S.).
The State Department awarded the first grant in November 2004 for The Bridge Project, which was held at the CWA National Headquarters in Washington, D.C., on April 11-15, 2005. CWA presented training for 15 grassroots, pro-family leaders from Mexico. The carefully chosen participants learned the history of human trafficking, about ongoing projects worldwide assisting victims and pursuing perpetrators, domestic legislative efforts to fight it, and strategies to use in Mexico to combat this modern-day slavery.
The training sessions focused on five main topics: awareness, prevention, protection, prosecution and victim assistance. The group heard from leading experts including Assistant Attorney General R. Alex Acosta, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), a San Diego County (California) deputy sheriff who uncovered and disbanded a sex trafficking ring, a representative from the Salvation Army, and a professor of women’s studies.
By the end of the week, these 15 people would never be the same. They realized that they are the ones who must stand up and fight this atrocity in their country. They returned to Mexico with a fire in their bellies and a determination to begin combating sex trafficking immediately. To that end, they each used their gifts and talents to create five projects to attack this problem. Their hard work and resolve are the basis of the project’s second phase, Crossing the Bridge.
Dr. Janice Crouse received funding for Crossing the Bridge in September 2005 and the projects have begun. Five nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are working on the projects throughout 2006 and the Mexican pro-family coalition Red Familia (Family Network), which encompasses 360 groups, is overseeing them. The coalition has chosen Luis Antonio Marquez Heine, a Harvard-educated businessman in Mexico City, to run the day-to-day operations.
The project of Casa Sobre La Roca (House on the Rock), founded by Alejandro and Rosa Maria Orozco, will focus on the victims. Casa Sobre La Roca, with over 6,000 members, has a strong presence throughout Mexico. Its local leaders will identify high-risk locations and then train their members for rescue efforts. They will build a safe and secure shelter where 12 rescued victims will receive counseling and training to help restore them, enabling them to leave behind the nightmare of sex trafficking.
In addition, this program will enrich and strengthen training programs for legislative lobbyists and for citizen involvement and leadership. These programs will enable supporters at the grassroots to educate the public about the dangers of sex trafficking and to influence legislation to combat it.
Comision Mexicana de Derechos Humanos (Mexican Human Rights Commission), chaired by Eugenia Diez, will compile a report and professional analysis of the trends in human trafficking in Mexico. Legislators, law enforcement officials and policy makers will use this information to understand the problem and as a baseline against which to measure future endeavors. The comprehensive report will provide data on victims and an analysis and interpretation of it; a record of pending legislation, laws and policies that affect trafficking and abuse of minors; policy and program content recommendations to address the most important problems; and a comprehensive list of successful programs, authorities and experts in the areas of rescue and restoration. This report will be a tremendous resource for anti-trafficking efforts.
Familias y Sociedad (Families and Society), under the project management of Sandra Herrera, will launch a campaign to influence public opinion and shape legislation. Project workers will interview past and current victims of sex trafficking, as well as public policy personnel who interact with victims, in order to understand the real-life issues they face and how to create effective public policy to help them. Once the data from the interviews is compiled, project workers will produce and publish a public policy statement and release it through a media campaign. They will enlist dignitaries to sign onto the public policy presented in the “white paper.”
Red Retos y Rutas (Challenges and Methods Network), under the direction of Alejandra Zafra, will focus on community education and training through the Internet. This project will create two training workshops, one for law enforcement officers and one for citizen lobbyists. The regularly updated Web site will provide a tool for disbursing anti-trafficking information throughout Mexico, because increasing awareness about the horrors of sex trafficking is an important step in combating it.
Fundacion Infantia (Children’s Foundation), headed by Rosa Martha Brown, will focus its project on preventing Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC). This project will target four cities with workshops to raise awareness of the problem. These cities are Tapachula, Tijuana, Puerto Vallarte and Distrito Federal in Mexico City, border towns and tourist cities that have the highest incidence of CSEC because of the ease with which those who exploit and solicit children may meet and transact business. A radio campaign of public service announcements and the distribution of information fliers will precede each workshop.
Each of these projects begins with raising awareness about sex trafficking. The first step in combating this evil is making people aware of its existence, sometimes right next door. Sex trafficking is not limited to other countries, other states or other neighborhoods. Every person can be an abolitionist in this fight, right in their own neighborhoods.
Beginning in early 2006, the Beverly LaHaye Institute’s Web page we will have a section devoted to information about sex trafficking. Regular updates on the Crossing the Bridge Project will appear throughout the year. Please pray for the people working on the project and for the children, women and men enslaved worldwide solely for the pleasures and profits of their oppressors.
For more information about sex trafficking, read CWA’s articles:
- Christians Shine the Light on Sex Trafficking
- Ending Modern-Day Slavery: Some Solutions to Sex Trafficking
- The Horrifying Reality of Sex Trafficking
- Trafficking in Sex: Turning the American Dream Into a Nightmare
- The Scourge of Sexual Trafficking
- The Sex Fields of San Diego
The State Department Web site (www.state.gov/g/tip) is also an excellent source for information and resources.
Brenda Zurita is Coordinator for CWA’s Crossing the Bridge Project.