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ST. THOMAS – Members of the 32nd Legislature, led by Sen. Jean Forde presented the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. St. Thomas Alumnae Chapter “Forum on Human Trafficking,” on Friday at the Capitol Building.

“Human trafficking as we know is real and it is taking place in plain sight. Today, we will explore the ramifications and solutions to address Human trafficking,” said Sen. Forde.

Alaine Lockhart-Mollah, Vice President of V.I. Social Action Coordinator said, “Slavery is an ancient trade that has been abolished throughout the world. Modern day slavery such as human trafficking, is an act in which human beings has lost their freedom.” She continued, “Human beings are being trafficked for as low as $90.00 per person. This can happen in a home in which the parents are trafficking their child. Human trafficking happens in plain sight.”

Columbia, Santo Domingo, Jamaica, Antigua, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and Florida are some of the places in which victims has been trafficked from and transported to a new location; according to the testimony of Keisha Culpepper-Smith, President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

“How severe is the problem with human smuggling that leads to human trafficking?” asked Sen. Forde. Eugene Thomas, Resident Charge for Homeland Security on St. Croix said, “There are cases that starts out as human smuggling then eventually leads to human trafficking.” Sen Forde inquired, “What are the statistics of these types of cases?” Thomas stated that most of the cases are not reported. Therefore, it is hard to track cases in which individuals are enslaved.

Sen. Tregenza Roach asked, “Does the Victim Protection Act of 2000, have dual persecution for victims who were first smuggled and then later trafficked?” Christian Fisanick, Esq. Assistant U.S. Attorney said, “There are statues that allows for persecution per crime against criminals.”

Sen. Brian Smith said, “We have a tremendous problem on our hands with human trafficking. The lack of identification of what’s really happening to a victim can cause someone to overlook the situation.” He asked, “How many cases did you persecute in the Virgin Islands?” In response, Attorney Fisanick said, “There has been a total of two cases persecuted locally and they were domestic related.” Vivianne St. Juste, Executive Director of the Family Resource Center added, “It’s hard to put a number when there are victims who are unable to identify exactly what was happening to them. This occurs when victims are unaware of these types of crimes.”

Sen. Dwayne DeGraff asked, “What were some of the factors that helped the Office of the U.S. Attorney get a conviction on the human trafficking cases?” Attorney Fisanick stated that in one of the cases the mother had a written contract to prostitute her daughter.

Sen. Forde stated that the next step is for lawmakers to collaborate with the various agencies to strengthen legislation against human trafficking in the Territory.                                                                                                                                 ###