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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Activities & Organizations

Texas is hub for human trafficking


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GCSW students hosted the screening and expert panel discussion to shine a light on human trafficking.  | Courtesy of Esmeralda Sotelo

A group of five students from the Graduate College of Social Work will host a human trafficking awareness event from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in the GCSW Auditorium, Room 101.
To raise awareness, the film “Slavery Out of the Shadows: Spotlight on Human Trafficking” will be screened, followed by a discussion panel with representatives from law enforcement agencies and anti-trafficking organizations from the Houston area. Social work graduate student Esmeralda Sotelo hopes this will shine a spotlight on the issue in a local context.
“The goal of the event is to raise awareness about human trafficking and to emphasize the different ways the Houston community can take a stand against the issue, which is very prevalent in our city,” Sotelo said.
For Dixie Hairston, a second-year social work graduate student, the discussion will further the event’s mission because of the great minds they were able to attract.
“We (are bringing) experts in the field, including city officials, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, as well as an anti-trafficking art installation to campus in order to raise awareness among the student body,” Hairston said.
The after-movie panel will be composed of experts on the topic, including Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Social Responsibility Director of the Trafficked Persons Assistance Program of YMCA International Constance Rossiter and the Senior Staff Attorney for Children at Risk Dawn Lew.
Texas holds 25 percent of human trafficking cases in the United States, with most of the incidents occurring in Houston, according to the Office of Administration for Children & Families Rescue and Restore campaign fact sheet. Houston is particularly susceptible to human trafficking because of its proximity to the Mexican border and industrial ports.
Second-year social work graduate student Jenna Cooper said she felt this caused the issue to hit home and pushed her to help organize the event by bringing the panel together.
“It is because of our  passion that we’re able to bring together several of the organizations in our community that play a key role in the fight against human trafficking,” Cooper said. “We didn’t simply just pass out fliers and make a Facebook page about human trafficking; we are uniting together under one roof to educate students and the community about this serious issue and show them what they can do in the fight.”
There will also be exhibitors attending to promote different aspects of human trafficking awareness. Vendors include 2nd Cup Coffee, Redeemed Ministries, Free the Captives, YMCA International and Houston Love Project, among others.
“There will also be a marketplace of fair trade businesses and anti-trafficking organizations throughout the evening,” Cooper said. “The marketplace will be a way for attendees to interact with the experts and find out ways in which they can be a part of the anti-trafficking movement.”
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