San Jose Airport Workers Trained to Detect Human Trafficking

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and heads of organizations against human trafficking attended a training session in San Jose Thursday for airport and airline employees on how to spot young victims of trafficking at airports or on planes.

Honda, prior to the training class held at Mineta San Jose International Airport, said that more than 293,000 American children and young adults are subjected to forced sexual activity or labor within the United States.

"Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery," Honda said. "Trafficking and preying on the most vulnerable is unacceptable in this country and contrary to its most sacred rights."

Honda was joined at the airport today by Nancy Rivard, a former airline stewardess and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Airline Ambassadors International, which is seeking to educate airline employees about recognizing children who may be victims of trafficking.

Also at the training session were Betty Ann Boeving, founder of the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition, and Cheryl Hock, co-founder of The Nest, a home created last fall at an undisclosed place in Santa Clara County for youths rescued from trafficking.

Boeving said that the trafficking of children and young adults is a $32 billion industry and that 40 percent of all trafficking victims on the West Coast come through the Bay Area, frequently at the major airports in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.

"What we are saying is we've got to cut off these major points of entry and exit so that victims are not able to enter into the Bay Area," Boeving said.

The training session at San Jose airport today was meant to educate airport and flight workers on how to identify and report children and young adults who might be enslaved, Boeving said.

Many of the youths, some even in groups, being moved by their older adult captors through airports could be recognized and saved by airport or airline personnel, or the public, if they were to report their suspicions to authorities, Boeving said.

"It's about people in the airport that notice that something is a little off of what we would call familial or familiar relationships," Boeving said.

Human trafficking is "a global epidemic that has landed on (American) soil" and is the fastest growing criminal enterprise worldwide, behind only the drug and weapons trade in profits for criminals, Boeving said.

Youths, male and female, are being captured and used as entertainers in strip clubs, as domestic servants, exploited agriculture and restaurant workers and workers in wealthy neighborhoods who are not being paid or being abused in homes, Boeving said.

"These are young women and young boys who are potential runaways, they are kids connected to the foster care system, and we all have a duty to look at those vulnerable populations within our communities to be able to ask how we can make them not become trafficking victims," Boeving said.

While many of the victims are exploited for sexual purposes, "this it not just the issue of sex trafficking, this is the issue of labor trafficking," Boeving said.

Most trafficking cases in the Bay Area involve restaurants and other jobs, Boeving said.

In one 2006 incident, workers from Thailand who were brought in to work on the recently completed expansion of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge were in many cases forced to work without pay in restaurants instead and live in squalid conditions, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The San Jose Police Department's Humans Trafficking Task Force investigates trafficking cases, including in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, and also works with federal agencies on investigations, police Sgt. Kyle Oki said.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline for victims to seek help or for the public to report trafficking cases is 1-888-3737-888.

A panel discussion on human trafficking and forced labor in the South Bay Area, hosted by the Santa Clara Office of Women's Policy and other groups, and to include Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, was set to take place at 3 p.m. today at the County Government Auditorium, 70 W. Hedding St. in San Jose.

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