Toolkit will be available to download on or about September 30.
Natural disasters can lead to increases in both labor and sex trafficking, especially among already vulnerable populations displaced by such events. The Mayor’s Office is proactively taking steps to mitigate the potential affect such disasters have on human trafficking by developing a comprehensive response that can serve as a model for future disaster responses both in Houston and in other cities. Our response focuses on both the short-term and long-term and includes preventative direct outreach and corporate engagement around labor trafficking.
This toolkit is expected to include materials for direct outreach with displaced populations, messages to post on social media covering labor and sex trafficking, Watch for Traffick signs that draw attention to the link between emergency disasters and human trafficking, and our protocols and procedures manual.
- Provided information in English and Spanish about the vulnerability of displaced persons to human trafficking in the George R. Brown Convention Center daily newsletter distributed to evacuees. Information warned about recruitment in shelters and the potential for labor trafficking in the coming months as Houston is rebuilt.
- Created and displayed a PowerPoint in the GRB halls that covered the importance of learning about human trafficking in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The slide emphasized the link between natural disasters and an increase in human trafficking, and it drew attention to the situation of workers on H2-B visas who were trafficked after Katrina as they helped rebuild oil and gas assets off the coast of Louisiana. TVs were not available in the dorms to display the slide.
- Coordinated cot-to-cot outreach at the GRB and NRG Center and informed residents about potential recruitment in shelters, job ads to be wary off, and phone numbers to call if they need help. We led outreach at GRB when about 1,400 people were present, who were among the most vulnerable. NRG housed close to 2,600 during our outreach there. Shandra Carter of Freedom Place and survivor advocate Rebecca Bender were instrumental in crafting messaging, and Natasha Paradeshi and her team of staff and volunteers from The Landing significantly boosted our on-the-ground outreach efforts at both locations. We are also thankful for volunteers from United Against Human Trafficking during the last day of outreach at NRG. All volunteers worked to spread the City’s messaging about the nexus between trafficking and the hurricane.
- Working with Deutser to redesign our Watch for Traffick construction-themed billboard to increase awareness of the high-risk nature of this industry after a natural disaster. Once complete, we will purchase billboard space in major locations and hard-hit areas to provide a visual warning to constituents. Clear channel will be able to post these once they have completed a damage assessment and finalized an inventory list.
- Informed human trafficking providers about the link for their clients to register with FEMA and information about a legal hotline for assistance with FEMA and any landlord/tenant issues.
In touch with the International Office of Migration regarding a variety of issues related to the nexus between human trafficking and natural disasters.
- Finalizing an Executive Order for your signature to ensure the City of Houston engages in safe labor contracting practices.
- Developing a long-term corporate education program 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 after Katrina, and to encourage businesses to take minimal risks and ensure oversight for their contracts.
- Planning on engaging in advocacy about the H2-B visa program and needed risk-management/oversight. The DOS will assist the City with this and provide information on applicants, Jones Day has provided funding for the program build out.
- We will also create a forum to share this with consular office so they can also share with their citizens.
- DOL is sending us labor statistics for the Katrina rebuild and for Houston in general so we know which consular offices we need to reach out to, preventative education will be key to preventing trafficking in Houston during the rebuild without slowing it down.
- Talking with the federal government’s Office of Trafficking in Persons; they will increase training for FEMA and their contractors, will provide us technical assistance to develop the corporate education program and print outreach materials.
- We are partnering with Fe Justicia to increase their day laborer outreach and education. May add support staff to their team so that we can multiply their outreach efforts. We will also educate the day laborers about purchasing sex.
- We have seen the online sex ads increase, and seen traffickers posting pictures of them buying supplies for their victims’ children asking others to come and stay with them. All this information has been forwarded to the Montgomery County law enforcement and HPD, the two areas we saw the spikes.
For the latest information please call the Mayor’s Office, Anti-Human Trafficking at 832-393-0977. Please ask for Minal Davis.