Historic Precedent Set for Trafficking Victims

The Southern Poverty Law Center is at it again–this time expanding past enforcement and application of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).

Passed in 2000, the TVPA is landmark federal legislation that is used to prevent trafficking overseas, protect and rehabilitate victims, and prosecute traffickers. Since its inception, the TVPA has only been used to prosecute traffickers for individual cases and coersion has been narrowly interpreted–until now.
A human trafficking lawsuit, involving hundreds of Filipino guestworkers, Louisiana Public Schools and an international trafficking ring run by labor contractors, is the first to utilize the TVPA as a class action suit. The Filipino workers, around 300 of them, will be represented as a group, instead of individuals. As many traffickers victimize more than a single individual, this is a useful precedent for future victims.
The other precedent, a wider interpretation of coersion, is crucial to future protection of victims. To meet the definition of trafficking, it is necessary to prove that the victim(s) were subject to force, fraud or coercion (unless they are minors). While the TVPA widely defines coercion to include “psychological coercion, trickery, and the seizure of documents,” this is the first case to apply and accept these more subtle definitions.
This is wonderful news for the victims of trafficking, and those who work to end human trafficking in our world. Hallelujah!
To read the full article from the Southern Poverty Law Center regarding the case, please click here. Find further resources from the Justice Commission’s Anti Human Trafficking Working Group.
-Elizabeth Fairbairn, St. Joseph Worker & Justice Office Intern

Homeless Memorial March

Last Thursday, the 27th Annual Minnesota Homeless Memorial March was held by Simpson Housing Services. We gathered at the Hennepin County Government Center and each picked up a sign with the name of a person who has died in the past year while experiencing homelessness, experienced homelessness in recent years, or was an advocate for the homeless. I marched for Jessie M. No other information was provided on the sign I chose–no knowledge of Jessie’s age, birth place, societal roles, passions, dreams–only a name.
Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater’s “Luna” was the leader of the silent march down Nicollette Avenue to 28th Street stretching several blocks long. After over an hour of quiet walking and reflecting down a busy street, we entered Simpson United Methodist Church for a Service of Remembrance.
The signs we carried were laid at the foot of the altar while beautiful music set the tone. The program began with a welcome from the pastor of Simpson Church, then was followed by an address from Sen. Jeff Hayden of District 61. The names of the remembered individuals were read and a candle lit for each person. When Jamie M’s name was read and candle lit, my heart fluttered. My only relationship with this person was holding out a name to be remembered, but that was enough of a relationship to feel the loss of life connected to an unjust system.
The most moving part of the service was an open microphone to share a memory. I was struck by the families who mourned the loss of brothers, parents and children. The deep relationships formed between social service workers and the people experiencing homelessness was clear–we are lucky to have such people supporting our community.
For many of the people remembered in the service, this was the only memorial service they would receive. This is not a perfect solution and the need for this type of service points to a deep injustice, but the silent march and Service of Remembrance filled a hole. It provided dignity and honor to a group so often left out.
As one of the organizers stated at the very beginning of the march–tonight is for remembering and reflection, tomorrow is for action. To learn about Simpson Housing’s legislative agenda for 2012 and what steps they’re taking towards action please click here.
If you’re interested in attending in the future, the march occurs on the nearest Thursday before the Winter Solstice.
-Elizabeth Fairbairn, St. Joseph Worker & Justice Office Intern

December Peace Prayer: Advent Vespers & Our Lady of Guadalupe

This past Sunday, the Justice Office co-sponsored the Advent Vespers put on by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet & Consociates, St. Paul Province. It was a celebration of Advent with beautiful singing and quiet moments for meditation–much needed in this peaceful but busy time. During the advent celebration, Our Lady of Guadalupe was held up and celebrated. Her feast day was yesterday (December 12th) and coincided beautifully with the vespers service on Sunday evening.

Karen Kenelly, CSJ, did the reflection for the evening. She shared the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a written account can be found here, as well as the traditions of the Feast Day she experienced while living in Los Angeles. Karen was delighted to find hot chocolate, one of the many traditions, as a part of the reception after the Vespers.

This prayer, found below, was given to attendees as they left the chapel.

Mary, Holy Mother of God, we salute and honor you.
In this season of darkness, we await the coming feast of the birth of God’s Son,
We do pray to you, Mother of the Lord of Light.
Hail to you, Holy Sun Virgin, Our Lady of Guadalupe,
Patroness of the Americas.
We watch the winter sun, our source of heat and light, our calendar maker,
as it wanes and prepares for rebirth.
Holy sun, mystic mother of ages past, be for us a living sign.
Holy Virgin of Tepayac, with the sun as your mantle,
you who are clothed with yellow light, the moon under your feet,
with stars for your crown: we honor you.
Holy earth mother, holy lady of the star-filled night,
mother of the candles and lamps, we praise you.
Thank you for the protection of our land, for your loving kindness and many gifts.
Protect our homes, guard our families,
our world, and our congregation,
watch over us forever. Amen
-Liturgical Service, Mount St. Mary’s, Los Angeles

-Elizabeth Fairbairn, St. Joseph Worker & Justice Office Intern
**Art by Baya Clare, CSJ

Native American Awareness

This is the second year that the Native American Awareness Task Group (NAA) of the Justice Commission has been engaged deepening awareness of issues that are faced by Native Americans.

NAA is also actively involved with Dream of Wild Health in Hugo where the heirloom seeds of Cora Baker are carefully tended, planted, harvested, prepared and consumed by Native American youth from the Twin Cities under the guidance of the staff of Dream of Wild Health and volunteers.
Yesterday, I was privileged to represent the Justice Office at The Circle Breakfast at All Nations Church, Minneapolis featuring Diane Wilson (Executive Director, Dream of Wild Health), author of Beloved Child, A Dakota Way of Life and Jim Northrup, prolific writer and poet who has been writing for The Circle Newspaper for 23 of its 31 years.

I learned from the director of development and programs for the Tiwahe Foundation that “Tiwahe” means “family” in the Dakota language, symbolizing the interconnectedness of all living things and one’s personal responsibility to honor family, community and the environment. 70% of students receiving grants for GED, associate or bachelors degree programs are over age 30.

Also at our table was the project manager for Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota
whose mission is to work in collaboration with communities to create equitable, healthful and sustainable futures for all generations.
I also met two persons from the Minnesota History Center and learned that they preparing an exhibit focusing on the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and its 150th anniversary (2012). 1862 refers to the events known by various names relating to conflicts between Dakota people and white people starting in Minnesota in August 1862, and all that flowed from those events. (http://www.minnesotahistory.net/)

The Circle Newspaper is available in the Justice Resource Room, is highly regarded in the Native Indian Community across the United States, is dedicated to presenting news from a Native American perspective, while granting an equal opportunity to community voices and is a member of the Native American Journalist Association and Minnesota Newspaper Association. (http://www.thecirclenews.org/)

Posted by Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

Image above: Photo featuring a window at First Nations Church with images of the Eagle feather, Peace Pipe, Cross, Earth and Thunderbird taken by Ginger K. Hedstrom