Efforts to ensure that shelter evacuees understood the nexus between natural disasters and human trafficking included various ways to educate shelter residents. An anti-trafficking team ensured that George R. Brown Convention Center shelter residents received information in a daily newsletter, and information was displayed in the halls on all monitors and screens. The mayor’s trafficking team and volunteers also went cot to cot to place notes in English and Spanish, warning residents about any traffickers recruiting in the shelters or through social media with offers to stay with people who may later make them ‘pay’ by forcing them into prostitution, stripping or pornography.
Information also warned about the false job offers that may lead to labor trafficking, and let displaced persons know that there is help available should they find themselves in these situations. The same cot notes were distributed at the NRG shelter.
In the long term, the mayor’s office is focusing on developing a robust labor trafficking prevention response in conjunction with community groups that work with day laborers.
The mayor’s office is also working with the federal government to supplement the long-standing sex-trafficking response while doing what it can to mitigate the rise in sex for sale. Mayor Turner wants to take all preventative action to mitigate labor and sex trafficking to the extent possible. To that effect, the Mayor’s Office is focusing on:
1. Redesigning its Watch for Traffick media campaign to indicate the nexus between natural disasters and a rise in trafficking.
2. Finalizing an Executive Order to ensure the City of Houston engages in safe labor contracting practices.
3. Developing a long-term effort to educate businesses about the David, et al. v. Signal International, LLC, et al. case in which Indian guest workers were trafficked for their labor afterHurricane Katrina through abuse of the H2B visa program, and encourage businesses
4. The U.S. Department of State will assist the city with this and provide information on H2B visa applicants so the education efforts are strategic.
5. Creating a forum to share this information with the relevant consular offices so they can also share with their citizens.
6. The Mayor’s Office is also collecting labor statistics for the hurricane recovery and for Houston in general so we know which consular offices to reach out to as we determine what countries workers were from.
8. Tracking an increase in online sex ads and traffickers posting pictures of themselves buying supplies for their victims’ children. The information has been forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
For more information contact:
Minal Patel Davis
Special Advisor to the Mayor on Human Trafficking
Office of Mayor Sylvester Turner
(832) 393-0977 (Office)