17 Feb 2017
- By Junhan B. Todiño - firstname.lastname@example.org - Variety News Staff
HUMAN traffickers are bringing their victims into the CNMI as tourists or CW-1 permit holders, Pacific Ombudsman for Humanitarian Law executive director Pamela Brown said on Thursday.
“Right now, what we normally see in the CNMI is a mixture of sex trafficking and labor trafficking,” she added.
Karidat Social Services executive director Lauri Ogumoro said there are also cases of human trafficking from Micronesia in which the victims are brought to the mainland U.S. or Guam.
“The traffickers could be your neighbor or relative,” she added.
Brown and Ogumoro were the guest speakers for a panel discussion on human trafficking sponsored by Soroptimist International of the Northern Mariana Islands at the Hyatt’s Giovanni’s Restaurant.
They spoke of ways to identify possible human trafficking victims and how to get involved in the campaign to stop such illegal activities which are now considered the second largest criminal enterprise in the world next to drugs, earning exploiters more than $150 billion a year.
“We are relying on the community to be vigilant. With your help we could help victims better,” said Brown, the current president of the Soroptimist International of the NMI.
“Our ultimate goal is to stop traffickers,” Ogumoro said.
She said human trafficking starts with the recruitment process.
The victim is usually desperately poor and willing to grab a job opportunity abroad even though the recruiter-trafficker asks for an “outrageous” fee.
Later, Ogumoro said some family members of the victims are threatened by human traffickers in their home country.
“They have people going to the houses and cutting off the fingers of the victim’s parents.”
Brown said the CNMI has had a fair amount of success in going after human traffickers, but “often cases are not prosecuted because traffickers are smart.”
She said the vast majority of the human trafficking victims are immigrants.
“When they come here they don’t have status,” she said, adding that victims are usually offered jobs in hotels, restaurants, massage parlors, taxi cab operations and other types of business.
“Once you’ve been recruited and brought in here with false promises that’s human trafficking.”
Brown said some of those who come to Saipan as CW-1 permit holders may have a “fake” employer or the employer listed in the permit may not know he is being used by the local contact of the traffickers.
Ogumoro said victims of human trafficking may get a special parole for work in the CNMI if the federal government wants to investigate the case.
According to Brown, the U.S. government gives relief to human trafficking victims through the T-visa with the possibility of a pathway to citizenship.
There’s a cap for the number of T-visas, but the CNMI has not reached the cap yet, she said.
Ogumoro said the church-based Karidat Social Services spends $14,000 a month to attend to the needs of human trafficking victims for their food, housing and medical care.
“We have lots of victims. Mostly men — and one woman,” she said.
Ogumoro added that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should look into the labor trafficking cases in the CNMI.
“Something is going on here. Legitimate businesses are having problems bringing in legitimate workers,” she said.
In an interview, Brown said most of the victims they’ve documented are from the Philippines, India, China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
But she cannot determine the number of cases in the CNMI, saying there are many agencies working on them.
She thanked the CNMI government for its continued support in the campaign against human trafficking.
In a separate interview, Soroptimist International of Northern Marianas Island president-elect Maureen Sebangiol said they plan to educate workers about human trafficking.
“It’s a frightening thing,” she said.