The Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center, a legal program of the Santa Clara University School of Law, has been awarded a $300,000, two-year grant from the US Department of Justice to help victims of human trafficking, a little-known but persistent problem in the South Bay area.
For the past six years, KGACLC has been a member of the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking, which includes at least a half-dozen law enforcement agencies, divisions and task forces. KGACLC provides immigration-related legal representation to victims, who are typically entitled to legal residency if their case is validated and pursued by law enforcement.
Locally, victims of human trafficking tend to be immigrants brought to the U.S. (legally or illegally) under false pretenses by friends, relatives or purported employers, only to be forced to work excessively long hours at little or no pay. KGACLC has counseled more than a dozen such victims who worked in local restaurants, homes, agricultural settings or in sex trades. Victims are men, women, and children from countries throughout the world, but can also include citizens and residents of the United States.
The $300,000 grant will be used partly to continue the work of the South Bay Coalition in conjunction with the Santa Clara County’s Office of Women’s Policy. The remainder will be shared jointly by KGACLC, Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, Community Solutions, and the YWCA Rape Crisis Center in order to provide comprehensive, coordinated legal and social services to victims of human trafficking.
The Coalition (http://www.sbcteht.com) works in partnership with the San Jose Police Department Human Trafficking Task Force (http://www.sjpd.org/StopHT/), which comprises the San Jose Police Department, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Attorney’s Office, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, and other law enforcement agencies. The Coalition and Task Force work closely to identify and serve victims of human trafficking through a victim-centered approach.
“This is the closest thing we have in America to modern-day slavery,’’ said Lynette Parker, immigration law attorney with the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center. “This grant honors the hard work of both the county-wide task force and law enforcement officials in San Jose and Santa Clara County who strive to combat this problem in a highly coordinated, cooperative way. ”
The funding is expected to facilitate better tracking of services provided to victims, establish more long-range policies and procedures, and identify and close any potential gaps in services.
Patty Bennett, an Advocacy Manager at Next Door Solutions said the grant will take the Coalition to “the next level of coordination and service” and also help victims with “empowerment money” –to buy clothes and the basic necessities for her clients “to make life just a little easier after their ordeal.”