Sunday, January 22, 2012


Hawaii shame: Human trafficking bills face triple referrals while problem continues

by Larry Geller

Kathryn Xian, executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, did an interview with Radio Australia on the subject of Hawaii’s ongoing human trafficking problem and the status of recent and pending legislation.

The interview transcript is here.

A snip, a response to the interviewer’s question:

XIAN: We get unfortunately, because of our geographical location and many other aspects, we see all types of human trafficking. Most of it was is the agricultural community, because our soil is very rich, so where there's a lot of agriculture there'll be trafficking, farm workers that are exploited and definitely the sex industry, because we attract the military and a lot of military exercises as well as we are a tourist destination for the world.

[ABC, Radio Australia, Further legislation planned in Hawaii to cut human trafficking, 1/23/2012]

Will the bills in the current legislative session pass?

XIAN: We have just started, legislature opened last Wednesday, so right now is the hearing process for the bills and most of the bills have been signed. Three hearings as opposed to two which is a bit of a battle.

COUTTS [Interviewer]: Why the additional hearing?

XIAN: The legislature felt that a lot of the bills require a financial component.

COUTTS: Meaning what?

XIAN: A fiscal appropriation from the legislature in order to make the services happen.

COUTTS: So support services for the victims?

XIAN: Right, and we don't disagree. We think that that is the end goal is to be able to have the legislature and the government provide services for these victims. However, we feel that at the very minimum since we are in a recession. Hawaii is still in a recession that might kill the bills.

When the legislature wants a bill passed, it usually gives the bill only one or two referrals.

Regardless of whether the state legislature passes the bills, federal trials scheduled for this year will go forward. The Global Horizons case will go to trial in federal court later this year. Three defendants have already pled guilty in what has been billed as the largest human trafficking case in US history. The EEOC has filed civil suits against several Hawaii farms in what it also claims is its largest human trafficking case. None of the farms has been prosecuted at the state level.

What is missing if the feds clean up our mess is that the victims will have to get medical and social services as would indigent citizens of Hawaii, an expense that these bills would minimize.

It’s also about time (and a growing shame) that the state has done essentially nothing to clean up its human trafficking problem. The inaction can be viewed as tolerance for these crimes, and waiting for the federal government to do the state’s job just underlines the state’s lack of interest in the plight of these workers. It also indicates that Hawaii’s agriculture is essentially unregulated and uninspected, a food safety issue.

In addition to the Radio Australia story, a shorter story was posted on the Radio New Zealand website. KITV ran a story last week,  Hawaii Human Trafficking Bills Get Another Chance (KITV, 1/19/2012) (includes video).


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