I would bet that, if asked whether slavery exists in the United States, most people would answer “no.” And they would be correct, to an extent. After all, the institution of slavery was made illegal 150 years ago, beginning with President Lincoln’s signature on the Emancipation Proclamation. But a form of slavery does exist here, and efforts are increasing to bring the victims out of the shadows and to deliver justice for them and for their enslavers.
The Judges’ Journal endeavors to assist these efforts by providing information to our readership about the scope of human trafficking and solutions that are working. We are a part of a recent major thrust to recognize the breadth and depth of the problem. This issue is the direct result of ABA President Laurel G. Bellow’s goal to highlight and combat human trafficking in the United States during her term. And with the eloquence we have come to expect, President Obama targeted a bright spotlight on the topic with a speech in September 2012—a speech we found so inspiring that we have included in this issue. But 30,000-foot views are just the beginning. Within this issue, you will find articles by experts in the battle’s trenches that both inform and inspire. There is also a glossary of terms and links to organizations and additional materials. And if you attend the ABA Midyear Meeting in Dallas, be sure to include the Judicial Division program “Human Trafficking 101 for Lawyers and Judges: Understanding the Issue—Exploring Solutions” on your schedule.
My first real awareness of human trafficking was not the result of my professional life, but rather the personal. About 10 years ago, a close friend, the former youth pastor at our church, took a position with the International Justice Mission (IJM), a unique organization that works within the legal systems of other countries to enforce laws against forced labor and other unjust practices. The eyes of my family were opened by Rev. Martin’s work, and the issues made very real when we met two young Thai women, former victims of forced prostitution, who IJM had helped escape. These brave young women now help others recover from the experiences that they have overcome.
All citizens should be knowledgeable about this problem because victims are indeed hidden in plain sight in our communities. But there is a special need for judicial education. When a lawyer dons a judicial robe, she does not shed her role as an advocate—there is just a change of clients. If our justice system is to have integrity, judges must be advocates for justice. It is particularly important that, in our roles as presiding court officers and community leaders, we are well versed in the criminal enterprise known as human trafficking. Otherwise, the court systems that we lead are vulnerable to misidentifying victims as criminals and to unwittingly supporting the traffickers.
Throughout the United States and the world, in countries like Thailand, and in our own cities, brave and committed people are working to bring justice to the victims of human trafficking. We hope this issue will inspire you and give you tools to join this worthy fight.