Thursday, January 22, 2015

Center for Global Justice Attends Kids are Not for Sale Press Conference

Photo courtesy of Kids Are Not for Sale
Yesterday Virginian Assemblyman and the Kids Are Not for Sale in Virginia (KANFS) Coalition held a press conference regarding a stand-alone sex trafficking bill.

Virginia Delegate Timothy Hugo and Senator Mark Obenshain introduced HB 1964 (Hugo) and SB 1188 (Obenshain).  If passed, this bill will be a vital tool for Virginia prosecutors, law enforcement, and advocacy groups. Not only does the bill clearly define the offense of sex trafficking, it provides critical protections for minor victims by eliminating the requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion and by establishing mandatory minimum sentences.

Virginia is the only state in the nation without a stand-alone human trafficking law. Ernie Walton, Administrative Director of the Center for Global Justice, attended yesterday's press conference. Walton stated,
As a Virginian and a lawyer, I am proud that my state legislature does not simply follow the political sentiments of the day and pass new statutes just because an issue is trending across the country. Passing redundant statutes restricts freedom and creates serious legal problems. But sex trafficking—as we now understand the crime—is not adequately addressed by the Virginia Code, and failing to address the issue head-on only contributes to the enslavement of the victims in our state. Sex trafficking must be addressed with its own comprehensive statute, and this bill finally does that. Accordingly, I applaud our lawmakers for considering this piece of legislation and urge them to take the final step and pass it.
The Center for Global Justice is a member of the Kids are Not for Sale Coalition, which is a collective effort between Virginia law enforcement, prosecutors, and advocacy groups to advocate for the passage and enactment of a sex trafficking statute, filling a key gap in Virginia’s response to sex trafficking.

The Center Student Staff is supporting the Coalition with legal research, seeking to provide answers to potential objections of Assemblyman when the bill is in committee. Next week, the bill will likely be up in the Criminal Law Subcommittee and potentially the Courts of Justice Full Committee.

Below is some recent media coverage the press conference on HB 1964 / SB1188:

Update from Center for Global Justice Alum at Tiny Hands International

Center for Global Justice alum Kirk Schweitzer ('13) (pictured) shares an encouraging story of the arrest and conviction of a couple of traffickers as a result of the work at Tiny Hands International.  The Center currently has three members of our Student Staff (Ra Hee Jeon, Kraig Smikel, and Elissa Polley) who are also supporting Tiny Hands with a legal research project that will enable Tiny Hands to determine whether they can expand their work to the United States.
In October of 2013, our border staff at the Biratnagar Border Station intercepted a young girl. She was traveling with a trafficker to India. After hearing her story we realized that the man she was traveling with was a lower-level trafficker and the higher-level trafficker was in Kathmandu. The girl filed a human trafficking case and an arrest warrant was issued for this high-level trafficker in Kathmandu. 
Leaving work one day in Kathmandu, our lead investigator had memorized the license plate number of the trafficker. Pulling up behind a car in the middle of Kathmandu (a packed city full of vehicles and motorcycles), he recognized the license plate as that of the high-level trafficker and followed him home. We now had this trafficker’s home address. 
It turned out that the trafficker only frequented this house a few times a month and he would normally arrive in the middle of the night and only spend a few hours at the house. For this reason, it was difficult to coordinate his arrest with the police. But after many months, an informant tipped off our investigators when the trafficker returned home late one night and the trafficker was arrested. 
After he was transferred to the border where the intercept originally happened, a group of thugs immediately began threatening our border staff, the victim, and her family. In the midst of this, the trial moved forward. Of course, we always worry about delays and the potential for corruption. However, on December 2, 2014 both the low and high-level traffickers were convicted. This was a great victory for us. 
In the meantime, the girl came to know the Lord and now works for Tiny Hands as a border guard where she helps prevent other girls like herself from being trafficked.

How encouraging to see the fruit of the Center in the work of alumni!  Click here to sign up to receive updates from Tiny Hands International

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kids Are Not for Sale in Virginia Press Conference Today

Today is the day.  The Kids Are Not For Sale in Virginia Coalition (KANFS) is an advocacy campaign to pass sex trafficking legislation in Virginia, one of the last states in the nation to make it a crime to traffic humans for commercial sex acts, like prostitution, pornography, and sexual performance.

As a member of the Coalition, the Center for Global Justice will be attending today's press conference and we invite you to join us in prayer for this effort.

Kids Are Not for Sale in Virginia (KANFS) PRESS CONFERENCE

When: Wednesday, January 21 | 10:30am

Where: Virginia General Assembly – House Briefing Room, 201 N. 9th Street, Richmond, VA 23219

Speakers: Virginia Delegate Tim Hugo & Senator Mark D. Obenshain

Virginia Delegate Tim Hugo & Senator Mark D. Obenshain introduced HB 1964 (Hugo) and SB 1188 (Obenshain) to establish a standalone sex trafficking statute, filling a key gap in Virginia’s response to sex trafficking.

This law can be a vital tool for Virginia prosecutors, law enforcement, and advocacy groups, ensuring better protection of children and deterring the migration of the crime to Virginia.
In addition to local prosecutors and law enforcement, current advocacy groups and schools that are part of the Coalition include: Regent University School of LawVirginia Beach Justice InitiativeRichmond Justice InitiativeVessels of Mercy Intl.NOVA Human Trafficking InitiativeCourtney's HouseThe Gray Haven Project.

You can also download the latest KANFS bill issue brief, bill summary, fact sheet, and social media lobby day instructions from their website: 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Regent Law Degree "Fun for the Whole Family"

Underground trading. Secret online message boards. Clandestine deals. Sounds more like a best-selling book series than a growing adoption trend in the United States.

But according to a 2013 Reuters report titled The Child Exchange: Inside America's Underground Market for Adopted Children, an eight-part investigative series delving into the dark side of adoption cases, the truth is stranger and oftentimes more dangerous than fiction. Especially where international adoption is concerned.

This is where Regent University School of Law comes in. During the summer of 2014, Rebecca Lawrence '14 (pictured) interned with the Virginia Commission on Youth and was charged with the task of researching adoption cases in Virginia, particularly those considered to fall under the term "re-homing."

The phenomenon involves the extraction of adopted children from the home of one family and given to another without following legal adoptive procedures.

"There were times when it worked out just fine, but the whole point of the [Reuters] report was that there was one specific woman who was seeking these children out," said Lawrence. "She had already been stripped of her rights as a parent once before and she was regularly living with sex offenders and pedophiles."

That's not all. Children who have been "re-homed" without proper legal procedure are also at risk to be swept into several dangers, including human trafficking.

The Commission on Youth adopted Lawrence's recommendations based off her report on the "Unlawful Adoption of a Child" study. The study will aid in the investigation of these laws and help legislators see the need for protecting these children.

"I'll likely never see a child that was necessarily aided by this, but knowing that there are kids who will never have to is a very rewarding feeling," said Lawrence.

And though this facet of practice was not a part of law she originally set out to develop her skills in, for Lawrence, issues concerning adoption are "near and dear" to her heart, coming from a family whose mother was adopted, and having a 10-year-old daughter of her own. 

"No matter how frustrated I get as a mother it would never be an option for me to say, 'you know what? This is too hard, let me just give you up," said Lawrence. "And I feel like that's so unfair to see that happen to these adopted kids." 

As a result of her time in law school and the passion that weaves in and out of her life as a result, her priorities lie where she's learned to place them: God first, spouse and family second, then the rule of law.

"As long as we do that we'll continue to glorify God," said Lawrence. "And, it's true. He'll bless our efforts and our endeavors."

Learn more about Regent University School of Law. 

By Brett Wilson

Monday, January 12, 2015

Our Kids Are Not for Sale in Virginia

The Kids Are Not For Sale in Virginia Coalition  (KANFS) is a collective effort between Virginia law enforcement, prosecutors, and advocacy groups to advocate for the passage and enactment of a sex trafficking statute during the 2015 Virginia General Assembly Session.  As a member of the Coalition, the Center for Global Justice invites you to join KANFS for their upcoming “Social Media Lobby Day.” 

This sex trafficking standalone bill is to be introduced by Delegate Hugo (40th District) and Senator Obenshain (26th District), and will establish the criminal offense of sex trafficking in Virginia. A wide coalition advocating for this important piece of legislation demonstrates the commitment Virginians have to ending sex trafficking in their state.

Ways you can support the Kids Are Not for Sale in VA Campaign
  1. Sign up for the Thunderclap, which will go live on Wednesday, January 21, at 10:30am EST. Thunderclap is a free social media service that allows KANFS to simultaneously broadcast a message on hundreds of Facebook and Twitter accounts, reaching an audience of the combined followers of all the Twitter and Facebook accounts who broadcasted the message.

  2. Become an On Call Advocate by attending the committee meeting when the sex trafficking bill is up for a vote.  In order to show the Virginia General Assembly that Virginians support this important legislation, KANFS needs advocates who are willing to be "on call" to attend the committee meeting when the bill is up for a vote. If you are interested in becoming an on call advocate, please email with the subject line "On call advocate," to be notified when the committee meeting is scheduled.

  3. Call your Virginia legislators today, and ask them to vote in favor of the bill and serve as a Co-Patron. One of the most important ways you can support this legislation is to contact your state delegate and senator to let him or her know that you, as their constituent, would like them to vote in favor of the bill.
  4. Call, email, or tweet your legislator! Find your representative's contact information for the House or Senate. If you are uncertain who your legislators are, follow this link, and type in your address.

  5. Spread the word to your family, friends, faith community, neighbors, and coworkers! 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Symposium Registration Now Open!

Around the world, a culture shift toward sexuality is distorting our view of the rights of all human beings. Will this slippery slope cripple how we protect children and others who are most at risk?

The Center for Global Justice invites you to join us, along with other human rights advocates, as we continue to seek justice, both locally and globally. This symposium will kick off in the morning with panel discussions on the roots of human rights and crucial questions for which the law sorely needs direction: How should the law address the “right to sex” when this leads to sex as a business? What should the law provide when these asserted rights involve treating children as property? Answers to these questions go hand in hand with fighting human trafficking and protecting those now defenseless.

This important event will conclude with an evening banquet at The Founders Inn featuring Benjamin Nolot from Exodus Cry. Banquet proceeds will benefit the Center for Global Justice internship grant program and other human rights projects.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Small-Town Girl Advocates in a Political World

Her name was Dekha Hassan-Mohamed.

As a Somali fleeing the nation for refusing a marriage proposal from a member of the Al-Shabaab—a violent Islamic sect that doesn't take kindly to subversion—her story sounds more like the beginnings of a dissonant fairy tale rather than the reality she and countless women in her home nation face.

After her brother was brutally murdered by Islamic extremists, Hassan-Mohamed escaped Somalia, making her way through Ethiopia, Brazil, and on to Mexico. She eventually reached the international bridge where she sought peace and safety in the United States, but was detained due to lack of identification.

"The problem is that in a country like Somalia there hasn't been a stable government in so long; and they're not exactly concerned with giving you a birth certificate," said Emily Arthur '15 (pictured), a third-year student in Regent University's School of Law.  Emily is also a graduate assistant, student staff member, and two-time intern with the Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law.

That's where the rule of law steps in. In 2014, Arthur spent her summer as a Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law intern, working with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center attorneys in El Paso, Texas.

There, Arthur worked with the non-profit alongside the attorneys, working on each of the petitions and motions as they advocated for Hassan-Mohamed's asylum on the grounds of political opinion.

"We told the judge that her refusal of marriage wasn't because she just wasn't interested," explained Arthur. "By saying 'no' she was disagreeing with the Al-Shabaab both ideologically and religiously, and the Somali government was unwilling to intervene."

Hassan-Mohamed's case was eventually won, and Arthur was able to revel in the fact that the work she supported helped not only win three asylum cases, but also confirm a distinct calling on her life.

"It was great because immigration issues are so prominent in the media these days, and I felt like I was just right there in the middle of it all."

Arthur has always loved being "in the middle" of advocacy, and all-things-international, even in the midst of her small-town upbringing in Palestine, West Virginia. Despite the international-tone of the rural town's name, Arthur says that it's made up of less than 5,000 people who grow up there and stay put.

Before attending law school, Arthur had nearly resolved to do the same, and upon graduation from college, was set to take a position at the town's only high school teaching Spanish. But the day before the position closed, a candidate for the job, an out-of-towner with a Ph.D., beat Arthur out.

"It was the strangest thing, because nobody comes into our little town, especially with a doctorate degree," said Arthur. "He was probably the only person in town who had one."

Arthur took that as confirmation she was meant to hone the skills of seeking justice and advocating on behalf of the oppressed, a task that she knows will lead her to a fulfilling career in the future, no matter where in the world she goes.

"This has never been about power or résumé building for me, it's been about doing what I enjoy," said Arthur. "I want to go into work every day and enjoy what I do and get meaning out of it."

Learn more about Regent University School of Law and the Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law.

By Brett Wilson