Metropolitan State University to host U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking regional meeting and town hall
Metropolitan State University will host the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking during a three-day visit to Minnesota for a regional meeting to discuss and deliberate ways to meaningfully engage survivors of human trafficking. The meeting will also educate, empower and create awareness for those survivors.
Five members of the visiting council will meet with survivors in Minnesota, as well as with representatives from the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force, the Minnesota Department of Health, the International Institute of Minnesota, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and state sheriffs and county attorneys. Over the course of the visit, from July 23-25, councilmembers will identify and discuss key objectives for the council's 2017 report.
The regional meeting will culminate with a public town hall, 1 to 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 25, hosted at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul. Expected speakers include State Senator Foung Hawj of District 67, Saint Paul City Council member Jane Prince of Ward 7, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Anne Saunders of the Minneapolis Field Office, Lauren Ryan, JD, director of Safe Harbor/No Wrong Door at the Minnesota Department of Health, and university President Virginia "Ginny" Arthur. The event is open to news media and will also be livestreamed to the council's Facebook page.
The council was formed in 2015 under the U.S. Department of State to "provide a formal platform for trafficking survivors to advise and make recommendations on federal anti-trafficking policies to the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF)."
The council is made up of 11 selected volunteers who are survivors of human trafficking. Its purpose is to provide recommendations to the U.S. government to strengthen federal policy and programming efforts that reflect the best practices in the field. The council meets in person three times annually. An initial report from the council was delivered last year.
- In January 2009, the FBI identified the Twin Cities as one of 13 U.S. cities with a high incidence rate of child prostitution.
- By very conservative measures, a November 2010 study found that each month in Minnesota at least 213 girls are sold for sex an average of five times per day through the Internet and escort services. This number does not include hotel, street or gang activity.
- A November 2010 study found that on any given weekend night in Minnesota, 45 girls under age 18 are sold for sex through the Internet, classified websites and escort services.
- In 2010, investigators from three states determined that Minneapolis was the home base of a large domestic prostitution (sex trafficking) ring comprised of three generations of one Minnesota family that was prostituting (trafficking) mostly young girls across the United States.
- About 50 percent of adult women interviewed as part of a 2010 study focused on North Minneapolis stated that they were first traded for sex when they were under the age of 18, with the average age at 13 years.
- In just one 72-hour sting in summer 2013, an FBI-led operation rescued 105 children and netted 152 pimps in 76 cities nationwide, including four alleged pimps in the Twin Cities.
* "Get the Facts," Women's Foundation of Minnesota
Selected nationally, the appointees are from diverse backgrounds and bring personal experiences of human trafficking to the council. They were also selected for their ongoing work and leadership in their local communities against human trafficking.
The council includes Bukola Oriola, a spring 2017 graduate of Metropolitan State. In 2016, she was appointed to a two-year term on the council. In that year, she attended an inaugural meeting in Washington, D.C., with the council and then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. She also serves as the council's secretary.
Other councilmembers to attend are:
- Harold D'Souza; a survivor, spokesperson and advocate. D'Souza is a senior supply chain associate for Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, a position he has held since 2008. He is also a co-founder of Eyes Open International, a founding member of the National Survivor Network and is active with End Slavery Cincinnati.
- Ronny Marty; an independent consultant and speaker to combat human trafficking.
- Flor Molina; founding member of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) Survivor Leadership Program and a member of the National Survivor Network. She has advocated for policies to combat human trafficking since 2002.
- Evelyn Chumbow; a project assistant at Baker & McKenzie LLP. Since 2014, Chumbow has been an advocate with the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST). She was recently awarded the Presbyterian Peaceseeker Award for her efforts to combat human trafficking.
Oriola, a Nigerian-born journalist who came to Minnesota in 2005 to meet her husband for the first time, was instead held hostage and forced into labor in his Ramsey home. She suffered mental and physical abuse over the next two years.
Oriola has spoken about her experience since 2009. In September 2016, she traveled to her native Nigeria to speak out about the problem of human trafficking. Over 11 days, she met with university students and the international media there to tell her story and experience as a victim of human trafficking, as well as to bring a different understanding and dialogue about the forms that human trafficking can manifest.