Oct 20, 2020
DHS Sec. Chad Wolf Press Conference Transcript: Plan to Combat Human Trafficking
DHS Sec. Chad Wolf announced a plan to combat human trafficking on October 20. Read the transcript of the event with remarks from officials here.
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Tony Pham: (00:00)
… are committed to supporting this effort and are sending personnel to the center. The work we’ll do here together embodies the spirit of one DHS, a whole of department solution to a problem no one can ignore. The center will provide specialized training and increase key operational partnerships with other government agencies, private sector industry, and non-governmental organizations. By combining these collective resources, the center will serve as a central hub for victim and investigative support, data collection and analysis, as well as training and outreach for law enforcement partners and the public. Those of us in federal law enforcement know all too well that individuals and organizations seeking to exploit the most vulnerable among us are profiting off the forced labor and prostitution of their victims through physical, mental, and sexual abuse. Those who use threats of harm and deportation, false promises, economic and psychological manipulation and cruelty are a blight on our society.
Tony Pham: (01:12)
And we have an obligation to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Our ongoing commitment to ending these monstrous crimes is one reason the ICE and Homeland Security Investigations Workforce was tapped to lead the department’s combined efforts to monitor and support DHS, counter human trafficking operations across the country and globally. With a singular purpose The Center for Countering Human Trafficking was conceived, planned, funded, and stood up within the same fiscal year, a remarkable achievement and a testament to the acting secretary’s vision for our department and the vital work we do every day. This integrated effort will allow DHS to better investigate, interdict and prosecute perpetrators of human trafficking crimes, identify and assist victims, and most importantly, educate local leaders on how to help prevent these mantras crimes from infesting our communities.
Tony Pham: (02:13)
The center will also help raise public awareness about the issue of human trafficking and how to identify and report suspected human trafficking activity to appropriate law enforcement officials. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry and it can take place anywhere. By combining our collective expertise and efforts in creating this center, we are working toward a safer world and protecting those vulnerable to exploitation. Thank you once again for joining us for this very important event, ending human trafficking is a fight worth fighting and a fight we must win. At this time please join me in welcoming to the podium, the Department of Homeland Security acting secretary Chad Wolf, whose vision and leadership led to this remarkable moment. Mr. Secretary.
Chad Wolf: (03:09)
Well, good morning everyone. Tony, I appreciate those remarks and thank you all for attending this special and important event. It’s my distinct honor to be with you today as we formerly launched the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking. I want to thank our distinguished guests for joining us to mark this historic occasion. I’d also like to pay special recognition to two remarkable women joining us today, Tanya Gold, and Toleda Haville, both survivors of human trafficking who you’ll have the opportunity to hear from a little bit later. Your courage is an inspiration to all of us. I commend each of you for telling your story and helping us put an end to this horrific crime, so thank you again for being here. Human trafficking is modern day slavery, there’s just no other way to say it.
Chad Wolf: (03:56)
The words are strong because the actions are evil. The forms of exploitation, sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude that constitute human trafficking are antithetical in every way to the principles of human dignity that Americans hold dear. Since founding of DHS 17 years ago, we’ve been involved in fighting the scourge, but too often these efforts though well intentioned we’re fragmented across the department. This administration is putting an end to that. We are gathered here today to say no more, no more to the sexual exploitation of vulnerable women and children. No more to the victimization of innocent people through forced labor, no more to the gross abuse of human rights and dignity resulting from this despicable crime. The launch of the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking represents the investment of resources, attention and time by this department and this administration to combat and dismantle all forms of human trafficking.
Chad Wolf: (04:58)
In January, this administration took two important steps towards this goal. First, I announced the department’s intention to create the center during an event to release the DHS strategy to combat human trafficking, the importation of goods produced with forced labor and child sexual exploitation. Shortly thereafter, President Trump established government wide efforts through his executive order on combating human trafficking and online child exploitation in the United States, which called on government to vigorously prosecute offenders, to assist victims and to provide prevention education. Those are the aims of this center led. By ICE HSI with staff expertise and legal authorities gathered from components across DHS enterprise to include customs and border protection, the blue campaign, coast guard, United States citizenship, immigration services, and the transportation security administration.
Chad Wolf: (05:57)
This integrated center will be the first of its kind. By aggregating these resources the center will serve as a central hub for victim support, investigative operations, intelligence and data collection and analysis and training and outreach of law enforcement partners, civil society, and the public. I’m proud to report 16 DHS components and headquarters offices will be working in cooperation to pull our resources and to staff the center. And the center will monitor and support DHS counter human trafficking operations across the country and globally. The center allows us to better investigate, interdict and prosecute human trafficking crimes, identify and assist victims and educate communities on prevention methods. When addressing any problem, particularly one of this magnitude, it’s critical for the public to understand what it is. There are two predominant forms of human trafficking, sex trafficking and forced labor, both involve the use of force fraud or coercion to obtain some type of commercial sex act or labor from a victim.
Chad Wolf: (07:05)
The word trafficking often leads to a misconception that this activity requires crossing an international or state border, it does not. Most ICE HSI investigations involve human trafficking that is entirely domestic with most victims being U.S. citizens. Leveraging years of experience in combating these crimes, ICE HSI employees a victim centered approach, placing equal value on the identification and stabilization of victims, as well as on the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers and child sex offenders. This victim centric approach to safety and justice is part of the very DNA of DHS, while counter terrorism efforts are top of mind for many folks when they think of the department, DHS does so much more. Each and every day, men and women within DHS are seeking to investigate and prosecute those who violate human rights of vulnerable individuals trapped in the cycles of exploitation. DHS personnel stedfast commitment to safety, to dignity and justice cannot and will not be forgotten as threats to the Homeland shift and evolve the tools and actions of our department must evolve as well.
Chad Wolf: (08:18)
Human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights abuses of our time, and we will not stop fighting until we eradicate it, until every person is safe and free. I’m grateful to ICE acting director Tony Fam and HSI executive associate director, Derek Benner, where’s Derek? Is he here? There he is, Derek, for spearheading the establishment of the center implementation of the center and all the great work that ICE has been doing to stand this up. As it’s being stood up, HSI’s senior executive service criminal investigator, Angie Salazar, where’s Angie? There we go, will be leading the center and you’ll hear from her a little bit later. Angie’s worked in the field at headquarters and overseas investigating human trafficking and supervising and developing related policy. Angie’s dedicated her life to helping survivors of this horrendous crime and I believe there’s no one better qualified than to run and lead the center, so thank you.
Chad Wolf: (09:20)
Staff members joining Angie include both law enforcement and non law enforcement personnel who will support sex trafficking investigations, victim assistance, and outreach. While each of these members have a unique background and skillset, they are United in their passion for this tremendously important issue. I commend reach of these remarkable professionals and thank you all for dedicating yourselves to the noble fight and continuing the pursuit of justice for the sake of survivors and the prevention of any future victims of this terrible crime. With the support of President Trump, the leadership of ICE, cooperation across all of DHS I firmly believe the center’s work will play a critical role in one day bringing an end to human trafficking in America.
Chad Wolf: (10:02)
… and one day bringing an end to human trafficking in America. Let me just also point out before this event, we had a round table with a number of folks from the department including Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan from CVP. From the private sector, NGOs, our survivors, a great conversation about how, again, to move this horrendous crime into the forefront of what the vast majority of people I don’t believe know is going on. And so what I heard in that round table was a lot of passion, the talk of relationships and building those relationships, improving on those relationships and really just continuing to work together as a team with the department, but with our private sector and NGO partners as well. So very excited about the future work that we can do. With that, let me welcome Dr. Julia Nesheiwat, the deputy assistant to the president and Senior Director for Homeland Security and Resilience on the National Security Council. We’re just really thrilled to have Julia here today. She’s played a critical role within the administration of combating human trafficking. So it’s an honor to have her today. Dr, floor’s yours.
Dr. Julia Nesheiwat: (11:17)
Good afternoon, everyone. On behalf of President Trump and Ambassador O’Brian at the National Security Council, I’d like to start by thanking Acting Secretary Wolf with his leadership, as well as the men and women here at DHS for their valiant efforts and commitment in preventing human trafficking, prosecuting traffickers and supporting and empowering survivors. The Trump administration has made a fight against human trafficking one of its highest priorities. And the opening of this center here today is only the latest of the many actions President Trump has taken to combat human trafficking. For example, just yesterday, I attended, along with acting Secretary Wolf, the president’s interagency task force to monitor and combat trafficking in persons. And we announced the national action plan to combat human trafficking. The first of its kind. Here it demonstrates this whole of government approach and response to being more collaborative, if you will.
Dr. Julia Nesheiwat: (12:18)
And again, the first of its kind in taking on human trafficking as well as forced labor. And the Department of Homeland Security will continue to play such a major role in this effort. So again, I thank each and every one of you. Also, just recently the White House launched a partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to prevent attacks from online predators as well as sex traffickers. This new initiative will help parents, educators and other caregivers learn about the risks that children face online and empower children to respond to those risks safely. President Trump signed four human trafficking bills which tightened the criteria for whether countries are meeting standards for eliminating trafficking, strengthening programs, supporting survivors, establishing a new prevention, prosecution and collaboration initiative and authorized $430 million to fight sex and labor trafficking respectively.
Dr. Julia Nesheiwat: (13:22)
Again, under the president’s leadership, prosecutors charged more defendants in human trafficking cases in 2019 than were charged during the first five years of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. President Trump has worked to secure our borders and boost Latin American economies so that individuals are incentivized to seek employment closer to home. Finally, the president has taken unprecedented action to combat forced labor and human trafficking internationally. That includes preventing China from profiting from horrific human rights abuses by blocking imports made from forced labor. President Trump has made it clear that the United States will not be complicit in modern day slavery. Thank you again, Secretary Wolf and the Department of Homeland Security for being excellent partners in our common cause to bring the full force of the United States government aided by this very center. And again, to combat this heinous crime. Thank you again. Thank you very much.
Tanya Gould: (14:51)
Good afternoon. My name is Tanya Gould and I’m a member of the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking as well as a founder of Identifiable Me, an nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the emotional and mental health of victims of trafficking and other related sexual violences and moving them towards self-discovery and their life’s purposes. My unfortunate story of being domestically traffic was turned around when a law enforcement officer saw me not just with his eyes, but with his heart. I will never forget when a buyer threw me out of his car in the middle of the DMV area. I was lost. I had no way of contacting anyone and I had no identification on me and it was in the middle of the night. So I screamed out realizing my dilemma and thinking that no one would have heard me, but fortunately, a police officer heard me and came over to where I was and recognized my condition immediately.
Tanya Gould: (15:50)
Instead of interrogating me on the spot, he carefully began to communicate to me with words filled with dignity and understanding. I heard him like he was my big brother, as he asked me, “What are you doing out here?” He knew full well what I was doing. And after a pause, I cried and he let me. I cried like a baby. If it wasn’t for that police officer that night, I have no doubt that my life would have been different. He was there at the right time. He paid for my bus ticket home after he made me promise to never come back again. Even so many years afterwards, I still close my eyes and try to remember the name on his badge. I hope one day he hears my story and remembers me, finds me just so I can tell him how thankful I am for seeing me not as a criminal, but as a victim. He knew my story without me having to explain it to him and that is what we as survivors need.
Tanya Gould: (16:59)
We deal with shame, confusion, manipulation, and threats. And there are so many things in our world that we cannot explain and feel as though we have no control over. I believe that this coordinated effort with the CCHT and United States government to combat human trafficking and forced labor will help bring resources together and be a model of what it means to work together. We currently have resources, however, but some may not provide services with a trauma lens. Aligned training and provision of care and services must be coordinated for best practices. We need to feel safe just like I did when I had my police interaction. We need to be able to trust law enforcement and understand that they have our best interests at heart and in their mind. We need to keep law enforcement to feel confident in their approach to human trafficking efforts. As a survivor, as you can imagine, we are faced with traffickers who are our authority. They tell us what to do, they tell us how to live, where to go and so on. We should be able to, like me, be as vulnerable as we really are and see law enforcement as I did, someone I could cry on, someone I could be vulnerable with and feel safe. He was someone I could ask for help and that was his job and that’s what he did. Having a facility that equips those in this field to do their job well is a brilliant idea. I like it and I’m grateful to be a part of this historic moment. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (19:19)
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is [inaudible 00:19:22] here is my story. 12 years ago, I was under control of my trafficker and have no hope for my future. Is began while I was living in Thailand with my son. I have a dream to come to United States, get a good job and bring my son to United States and live happy. I found people who say they would help me, but I never know what those people really had in mind. I was promised a way into the United States and a job when I arrived. They were so nice to me-
Speaker 1: (20:03)
… and a job when I arrived. They were so nice to me. I was so excited. Then I arrived to find out I owe so much more money to this organization. And to pay that money back, I would have to work in the sex industry. This [inaudible 00:20:24]. I was forced to do what the madam told me to do. The debt never seemed to get smaller. The hours only seemed to get longer. I never thought this would end. When would I see my son again?
Speaker 1: (20:44)
Eventually, Homeland Security Investigations, Special Agent Munson and his team rescued me out of the situation. I was traumatized at that time because I had nowhere to go, no money, and no one to turn to. HSI Agent applied for my [inaudible 00:21:10] status year, connected me to social service agency, where I received basic needs, such as food, shelter, counseling, an access to free legal.
Speaker 1: (21:23)
After being rescued and receiving assistance from social services agency, I went back to school and got a job as a nursing assistant. Daily I took care of elderly people at nursing home. I want to tell everyone that I love my job. And I was proud what I was doing, is what a job that not only gave me a living wage, it’s also made me a better person. It motivated me to give back to a community. Two years ago, I participating in anti-human trafficking survivor leadership program at API Chaya agency. It’s nonprofit government organization that seek to send systemic violence in our community. There I had the opportunity to live, receiving training on leadership skill, advocacy skill and communication organizing skill. This training allowed me to become more involved with the anti-human trafficking work, supporting survivor and educating the community on human trafficking issue. As a human trafficking survivor leader, I coordinate activity for the human trafficking survivor support group at API Chaya?
Speaker 1: (22:55)
[inaudible 00:22:55] I applied to become an intern advocate at API Chaya, and my application was accepted. I hope to be able to develop my advocacy skills so that it can become more effective in supporting all the anti-human trafficking survivor from a victor, a survivor and a survivor leader.
Speaker 1: (23:20)
Here I am today, a survivor advocate intern, step by step. I am getting closer to my dream, which is to become anti-human trafficking survivor advocate. I am very grateful for all the opportunity I have. Without the work of HSI agency, especially Special Agent Steve Munson, I am not even sure if I would be alive to talk to you all here today. Thank you for everything you do and thanks listening to me. Have a great afternoon. Thank you.
Dr. Julia Nesheiwat: (24:20)
Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Secretary and Director Pham for the opportunity to provide remarks. I am Angie Salazar, the interim director for the Center for Countering Human Trafficking. I’m delighted to share this moment with Ms. Gould, Ms. Havill and Ms. [inaudible 00:04:38].
Dr. Julia Nesheiwat: (24:40)
You have heard from the Secretary and Director about the focus and goals for the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking. I started my career as a special agent almost two decades ago in San Ysidro, California, where I encountered the crime of human trafficking for the first time. Let me emphasize there isn’t a law enforcement academy or a formal education that can properly prepare you to bear witness to the horrific actions criminals will take in order to make a profit. In San Ysidro, we found grown men held against their will, working day in and day out, year after year, in fear their families would be harmed if they stopped.
Dr. Julia Nesheiwat: (25:22)
There weren’t any chains or locks to keep them there, but the fear of harm to their family members was so great they stayed in a modern day slavery nightmare for years. I also worked with survivors who could not even comprehend they were being sold for commercial sex. They had been completely isolated and brainwashed by criminal organizations and were convinced their existence of being raped in the name of love was the only option they had.
Dr. Julia Nesheiwat: (25:50)
I have been assigned to Homeland Security Investigations foreign offices where working with our counterparts, we were able provide best practices that led to the recovery of countless minor children being raped by sex tourists from the United States.
Dr. Julia Nesheiwat: (26:08)
As a first generation American, whose dad came here to pursue the American dream, and who always reminded me to treat others as I expect to be treated, I could not be more honored to have been able to bring human traffickers to justice and identify and support victim survivors.
Dr. Julia Nesheiwat: (26:26)
When I was asked to serve as the interim director, I felt my house had come full circle. It is my passion to combat trafficking, and I am proud to serve as the interim director, alongside officers, agents, analysts, and attorneys from all DHS agencies to stand up this Center together. Not only has DHS created the Center, but we will be doing exactly what I had hoped for, supporting ongoing investigations to recover victims and prosecute perpetrators. We will also investigate those involved in importing goods produced with forced labor abroad. We will be protecting the most vulnerable populations in the most horrific situations.
Dr. Julia Nesheiwat: (27:09)
I also know that it will be critical to our success to join with non-governmental organizations, the private sector, all of law enforcement, intelligence community, and other partners to build teams with the common goal of combating trafficking. I will conclude by saying those of us who have been combating human trafficking are acutely aware that no single agency, NGO, or country can combat this alone. And the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking will work with all partners and all sectors to help ensure the end of modern day slavery. Thank you.
Aliyah Osawe: (27:46)
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Aliyah Osawe. I just want to take a moment to thank our survivors for sharing your story. Very brave. Thank you.
Aliyah Osawe: (28:15)
It’s an honor to be here today in what is considered a very important, critical and exciting time in the anti-human trafficking movement. My work in human trafficking began over 15 years ago, and it is unbelievable to see how far we’ve come. I’ve served as the victim assistance specialist for 10 years out of my 15 years of working with survivors of both sex and labor trafficking.
Aliyah Osawe: (28:41)
No day is ever the same in my line of work. One day I may be involved in a search warrant in which I’m first to communicate with the victim, working to establish a rapport in order to get them comfortable in speaking with us further and sharing some of their most intimate and traumatic experiences. Another day, I may be partnering with a social service organization so that I can gather the appropriate resources for these survivors. Some days I’m out conducting trainings and outreach on human trafficking and educating the public. And then there are days where I’m sitting in a courtroom, comforting a victim before they take the stand to testify before their trafficker.
Aliyah Osawe: (29:25)
One case that sticks out in my mind is that of a 21- year-old Nigerian woman who had the hopes of living the American dream. She was promised a job in Atlanta, Georgia to work as a nanny. She was also promised that she would be paid adequately and would be able to send money back home to her family. She was promised to be enrolled in school and was told by her trafficker that they would eventually hire an immigration attorney to adjust her status so that she could permanently live here in the United States. Unfortunately-
Aliyah Osawe: (30:02)
… we live here in the United States. Unfortunately, this young lady’s worst nightmare occurred. Not only was she now in a country adjusting to the American way of living, but she was suddenly, in a matter of days, treated inhumanely and like an animal. She was made to sleep in the garage, bathe out of a bucket, eat rotten and spoiled food that would make her sick, and her traffickers even forced her to eat her own vomit for creating a mess. I wish I could say that the abuse and manipulation ended there, however it did not. Her trafficker shaved her hair so that she would not take any time away from her daily duties by tending to herself. Furthermore, these duties were far more than what she agreed upon before arriving to the United States. She was caring for the family’s children, cooking, cleaning, tending to laundry and doing yard work. The victim was made to hand-wash every item of clothing by hand, because if she were to use the washing machine, she would be considered spoiled. Yard work. She was not just asked to maintain the yard, she was not allowed to use the lawn mower and was forced instead to get on her knees and cut the grass using scissors and a machete.
Aliyah Osawe: (31:26)
This young lady endured so much pain, suffering, physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. When I was called out to meet this young lady, who made an outcry to a local church, her first words were, “I’ve been sent angel.” I will never forget those words. I immediately went on to locate shelter for her and made sure that she was being assisted with direct services and case management through a local nonprofit that assists survivors of human trafficking.
Aliyah Osawe: (31:57)
As you can see, the work of a victim assistance specialist is not an easy one, but certainly a necessary one. We support the victims in every way possible along their journey. Serving others and being a part of the process of their hope, recovery, and healing is quite rewarding. And for that, I’m forever grateful.
Aliyah Osawe: (32:20)
The Center for Countering Human Trafficking will be an incredible resource to access. Seeing how the entire Department of Homeland Security can come together collectively will prove to be invaluable. Each of the different departments within Homeland Security will have the opportunity to bring their resources and expertise to the table, and I believe this will be a unique approach in how we tackle these complex cases. Improving our data collection, trends, and intelligence will aid the ability of the investigation. Furthermore, the Center will allow for more opportunities to train others, both domestically and internationally, on how to recognize human trafficking. We will have more tools and resources to identify products that are produced by labor trafficking victims, which will allow us to expand our focus on more labor trafficking cases.
Aliyah Osawe: (33:12)
And finally, by having the Center for Countering Human Trafficking, we will accomplish our ultimate goal of detecting victims and offering them the deserved protection and assistance they desperately need. As a victim assistance specialist, I look forward to seeing the centralized and joint efforts that the Center for Countering Human Trafficking will hold. I believe that the center will help me carry out my daily duties of continuing to serve survivors of human trafficking. And I’m committed to helping Homeland Security eradicate this horrific crime. Thank you
Speaker 2: (33:55)
To the speakers, thank you so much for sharing your kind words today. Ms. Gold, Ms. Havel, thank you for your courage for sharing your powerful testimony of survival with the listeners here today. At this time, I’d like to invite Mr. Secretary to endorse the proclamation, thereby launching the Center.
Speaker 2: (34:12)
Speaker 3: (35:19)
Ladies and gentleman, please remain in your seats for the next portion of our [inaudible 00:35:19] ceremony.
Speaker 3: (35:19)
Speaker 4: (35:37)
… you. We will now start the Q&A portion of our next segment for the rest of the event. If you are taking questions, if you would, please make your way to the stage.
Speaker 5: (36:20)
Sure. And Mr. [Benner 00:36:22].
Speaker 6: (36:25)
Mr. Benner [inaudible 00:36:25] also. Yeah.
Speaker 5: (36:34)
Let’s see if [inaudible 00:00:36:29].
Speaker 7: (36:34)
I don’t think so.
Speaker 5: (36:36)
[inaudible 00:36:33]. I feel like everyday I’m on the [inaudible 00:36:38].
Speaker 6: (36:37)
I feel good about-
Speaker 4: (36:40)
Okay, for reporters, please wait until we have the microphone to you to be able to answer a question. Please state your name and which your outlet you’re from. Thank you. Okay. Do we have any questions to start? Do we have any reporters interested in follow-up questions? Just to be clear, give a couple… Okay. Great. I see none.
Speaker 5: (37:18)
Easy. All right. Well, great.
Speaker 6: (37:21)
Speaker 4: (37:23)
Thank you all for being here.