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Immigration

Without long-term support, human trafficking survivors at risk of re-exploitation

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Aug 30 2012 - 8:31am

Some who flee captive labor conditions end up with low-wage jobs, insecure housing

People trafficked into the country receive temporary government and nonprofit social service benefits after rescue or flight from captivity: shelter, health care, counseling, employment and legal help. But once these benefits term out, counter-trafficking specialists worry that victims, who generally have little work experience and weak social and family networks, could fall back into labor conditions as exploitative as the ones they fled. As a victim of international labor trafficking, Lili Samad received government help to stay in the U.S. But she is among hundreds of trafficking survivors each year who end up, months after getting help trying to build a new life, living in marginal housing and working in low-wage jobs.

Infamous Berkeley human trafficking case’s long shadow: KALW News interviews reporter Viji Sundaram

Michael Stoll, SF Public Press — Mar 18 2012 - 5:40pm

The story of Lakireddy Balireddy made international headlines in the early 2000s, but what happened in the decade since then was even more important, said reporter Viji Sundaram of New America Media and part of a team project on human trafficking in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

Last week Sundaram sat down with KALW News host Holly Kernan to discuss her reporting on the history of efforts to battle human trafficking in the Bay Area and California.

Citizen petition claims more than 800,000 signatures for anti-trafficking ballot measure

Barbara Grady, SF Public Press — Mar 16 2012 - 7:00pm

A nearly three-year effort to put a strong anti-human-trafficking law before voters succeeded this week, organizers said, when they counted 873,000 signatures on their petition to put the proposed Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act on the November state ballot. The citizen-led campaign to strengthen criminal penalties against people who traffic teenagers, children and immigrant laborers on the streets of California cities, and over the Internet, has been working on the issue since 2009, when some Fremont residents started a grassroots organizing effort.

Understanding the Bay Area's human trafficking problem: KPFA News interviews reporter Jason Winshell

Michael Stoll, SF Public Press — Mar 14 2012 - 1:21pm

The Public Press’ latest print edition cover story, on California’s uncoordinated attack on the problem of human trafficking, has been picked up in a variety of media since the publication of the special team reporting project in the Spring 2012 edition: “Force, Fraud Coercion: Human Trafficking in the Bay Area.” The project was produced in collaboration with New America Media and El Tecolote, San Francisco’s bilingual newspaper. Last week Public Press reporter Jason Winshell was interviewed on KPFA Radio by producer Anthony Fest. Winshell’s lead story showed that four years after a high-profile state task force issued a study, many of its recommendations for better laws, funding and coordination among agencies have yet to materialize.

U.S. visas help trafficking victims, if applicants can vault legal hurdles

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Feb 21 2012 - 11:58am

Chance for permanent residency, access to federal benefits hinge on cooperating with law enforcement

This special report appeared in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

A special visa created 12 years ago to save thousands of victims of human trafficking and curb international human trafficking has been vastly underutilized. Attorneys for rescued victims seeking residency protection say law enforcement agencies are often unwilling or slow to “certify” victims’ claims of having been brought to the U.S. to work by force, fraud or coercion. Legal experts and social service providers in high-trafficking regions, including the San Francisco Bay Area, suggest that victims are placed in a dangerous dilemma: Promising to cooperate with an investigation could possibly help their visa cases, but it could also expose them and their families back home to retaliation.

Advocates launch campaign to get anti-trafficking bill on state ballot

Elena Shore, New America Media — Jan 12 2012 - 11:43am
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A campaign to get a new measure on the November ballot that would increase penalties against human traffickers in California launched Wednesday in San Francisco. The campaign, announced on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, requires 800,000 signatures to make it into the state ballot. The California Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act would increase prison terms and fines for human traffickers (up to $1.5 million, which would go to fund victim services), remove barriers to prosecute child sex traffickers, require convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and disclose their Internet accounts, mandate training for law enforcement officers, and prohibit the use of the sexual history of trafficked victims in court.

As work conditions shift, inhumanity of immigrant labor becomes human rights concern

Alejandra Cuéllar, SF Public Press — Dec 27 2011 - 12:37pm

Gabriel Thompson worked alongside immigrants in the back of restaurants in New York City and in factories that produced some of the most basic foods in the American diet: lettuce and chicken. Not an immigrant himself, Thompson used his investigative reporting techniques to lift a veil on working conditions that many undocumented immigrants and low-income Americans face daily. His colleagues experienced excruciating soreness from physical labor. They had no employee benefits. And they had to do monotonous and repetitive work, which led to a high rate of injuries. Thompson’s one-year immersion into the lives of working immigrants, documented in his recent book, “Working in the Shadows,” comes at a time when working conditions are changing. The immigrant workers are leaving the workplace under pressure from law enforcement, a trend that is forcing the employers to look for new ways of attracting workers.

A candidate for S.F. prosecutor makes human trafficking an issue in campaign, downplays federal help

Jason Winshell, SF Public Press — Oct 21 2011 - 11:14am
The reorganization of the San Francisco Police Department’s Special Victims Unit has become an issue in the November vote for district attorney — at least for one contender in the race: Sharmin Bock, an Alameda County prosecutor. But in doing so, she clashed with police officials who said they need to rely more on federal investigators’ expertise. She said she has placed most of her emphasis on sex tafficking, but has little experience with labor trafficking.

Facing cuts, nonprofits forced to lobby City Hall to save immigration program

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Aug 17 2011 - 3:33pm

Year after year, private organizations strategize and line up clients to push for last-minute ‘add-backs’

For clients at Self-Help for the Elderly, the citizenship classes taught by volunteer instructor Joanne Lee are a perfect fit: Classes are held at a convenient Chinatown location, senior clientele are easily accommodated and the material is taught in both English and Chinese. It has worked out well for students Sammie Xu, 69, and Nancy Zhang, 64, Chinese immigrants who are studying for their naturalization exam. Before enrolling in classes at the social services agency, the married couple tried others in which teachers only provided instruction books without guidance or taught classes only in English.

S.F. Was Key Juncture for Chinese Immigrants

Justin Allen, The Creosote Journal — Aug 11 2011 - 3:32pm

Conversation with the author of ‘American Chinatown’

In her new book “American Chinatown,” Bonnie Tsui charts the changing landscapes of five American neighborhoods. They are ethnically Chinese, hosting other Asian communities, and often share a tough history of exclusion and poverty, tempered from the beginning with resilience and savvy self-presentation. The five Chinatowns Tsui describes — San Francisco (the oldest), New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Las Vegas (the newest) — have been places of constant reinvention: immigrants coming to build new lives and identities, urban neighborhoods in economic and cultural flux. Today more than ever, they’re a portrait of changing urban dynamics and intergenerational complexity. 

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