Human Trafficking

It’s right here among us, and it’s for real
BY: REN DRAKE HILL

Representatives from the International Network of Hearts and the Casa del Jardin spoke at  a recent breakfast meeting of FRAO (Foreign Resident’s Office), in Rosarito Beach, raising our awareness of the uglyness going on so close to us.

girls_0.jpgIt’s a fast-growing problem here in northern Baja; human trafficking. Human trafficing is described as “the illegal trade of human beings…modern-day slavery.” It doesn’t always pertain to prostitution, but addresses people forced to work in trades or factories under less than free conditions.  Other illicit professions include exotic dancing, pornography, working in massage parlors, or on webcam sites; any segment of the sex industry. In some cases, the girls are forced into indentured servitude, that may include forced housekeeping or restaurant work.

At this meeting we were told that human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal trade in the world, second only to the illegal drug industry and tied with arms-running. 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked world-wide annually. There are more than 21 million modern day slaves in the $32 billion industry. Many of these are children aged 12 to 14, but can be much younger. Our border here, the Tijuana/San Diego border, is a major gateway for trafficking victims on their journey to bad lives in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. It is estimated that 20,000 women and girls are trafficked annually over this border alone. Trafficked victims are forced to participate in many illicit activities, including, but not limited to sexual exploitation. When they are no longer useful, the victims are sometimes killed, and sometimes their organs are harvested for sale on the black market.

The International Network of Hearts is a bi-national (US/MX) organization chartered to counter human being trafficking providing protection and educational programs to help victims reintegrate into society. Their primary charter is to support the Casa del Jardin group home created in the Tijuana/Rosarito area just to help these unfortunates.

The Casa del Jardin offers a nurturing and structured environment where survivors can recover from years of trauma. Here, the young female residents develop skills in preparation for adulthood as well as building their confidence for their return to society. For security reasons, the girls can no longer attend public schools, so the home provides education for the girls, as well as a staff doctor, social worker, counselors, and an attorney and psychologist when needed. Activities include arts & crafts, sports, Zumba, and conversational English.  After testifying in court and with their lives threatened, the girls have a safe haven in the Casa.

The Casa del Jardin serves previously trafficked girls, aged 14 to 24, sometimes younger. Quality is valued over quantity, so only 15 to 20 are housed at any time. More than 50 have been helped by the Casa del Jardin so far, which is one of only three shelters of this kind in Mexico, and the only one in Baja.

Of course money is needed to continue care. A new location is being sought, as the group is being evicted from their current locale. Funds and gift cards (Walmart & Target) are also needed for daily necessities such as groceries and household items.  A full list, including educational consumables and personal care items is available. Volunteers are always appreciated, and there are many different opportunities for involvement.

The International Network of Hearts is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, so donations are US tax-deductible. To donate money through PayPal, to volunteer, or for more information go to  www.inhearts.org;  Email: info@inhearts.org. Facebook: “International Network of Hearts.” Donations may be made in US dollars or Mexican pesos, as there are bank accounts in both countries. Receipts are available for US tax records.

FRAO meets each month at 9:00 am on the third Thursday at the Rosarito Beach Hotel. For more information check out  FRAO@Rosarito.Gob.Mx.