MIAMI, Fla, January 2022— The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Miami and Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) will continue their joint efforts in combating human trafficking across Florida after being awarded a total of $2,366,666 to fund multi-year anti-trafficking programming. These funds have been awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. While the formal partnership between IRC and MDPD commenced in 2008 when the agencies were awarded their first joint grant from the DOJ, the agencies have closely collaborated since IRC began working with survivors of human trafficking in 2003. The new awards will support anti-trafficking efforts that include: public education on human trafficking, social services supporting survivors, connecting survivors to community resources, and investigative activities to ensure perpetrators of human trafficking are indicted and convicted.
Florencia Dominguez, IRC’s Safety and Protection Program Manager in Miami said, “Our anti-trafficking programs are critical to survivors seeking to heal and rebuild their lives. This funding and our partnership with community groups and law-enforcement agencies that share our victim-center and trauma-informed approach to care is critical to the overall well-being of those we serve, and it allows us to take on more cases, enhancing our scope of services.”
Efforts to combat human trafficking across South Florida are among the top priories for many top officials. “Miami-Dade County continues our fight to end human trafficking. Throughout my career I have championed public awareness and action. As Mayor I remain committed to supporting and promoting our multiagency work to stop this crime that overwhelmingly affects women and girls,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.“I am extremely proud of the work the Miami-Dade Police Department has done to end trafficking, becoming a lead law enforcement agency for the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force, and I am excited for their increased impact thanks to this new funding.”
Director Alfredo Ramirez III, MDPD, said"I am very proud of the collaborative efforts with the International Rescue Committee. This partnership is an example of how the public and private sectors come together with a unified mission for the betterment of humankind.”
The IRC in Miami’s Anti-trafficking program aligns with IRC’s global mission of responding to the world's worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Survivors of trafficking are from all walks of life, from various nationalities, ethnicities and socio-economic groups. Many survivors who have fled conflict areas, disasters or have experienced poverty and homelessness are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Florida ranks third in reported case of human trafficking, with South Florida being the epicenter of trafficking activity. “South Florida is a hot spot, providing ideal conditions for traffickers to maneuver vulnerable victims, due to proximity to vast, unrestricted international waters. Traffickers continuously operate along these coasts with straightforward availability to major transportation hubs and infrastructure. In addition, South Florida has a thriving leisure tourism industry and an economic market that promotes demand for hospitality, agricultural, domestic and sex industry workers.” said David Oliver, IRC’s Deputy Director in Miami.
In response to the growing cases of human trafficking, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community groups and law-enforcement agencies have collaborated across South Florida to combat human trafficking. In 2008, the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force (SFHTTF) was established in partnership between these stakeholders to develop a coordinated and comprehensive response to human trafficking.
The SFHTTF is a joint project of the IRC and MDPD and is jointly funded by the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). The Task Force also works in partnership with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Miami Office; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Office. The SFHTTF’s victim-centered and trauma-informed approach to service provision for survivors, and its multidisciplinary response framework is embodied by its members representing over 400 local, state, and federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations.
Caridad Mas-Batchelor, SFHTTF Coordinator, said "The success of the SFHTTF to continue to combat human trafficking in our community has depended on the multidisciplinary partners within it. It is through collaboration amongst all of our partners that the needs of survivors can be met, cases can be investigated, and traffickers can be prosecuted.”
“Human trafficking is a global problem that harms our South Florida communities, causing unimaginable suffering to victims and their loved ones,” said Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “Since the inception of South Florida’s Human Trafficking task force, my office has worked hand-in-hand with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to shut down human trafficking organizations and ensure justice for victims. My office is fully committed to this important work, as is the whole of the Department of Justice. The grants being announced today reflect that ongoing commitment.”
“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents work in our communities and around the world to identify, disrupt and dismantle human trafficking organizations every day,” said Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Miami. “In order to be successful it takes collaboration with our federal, state, local law enforcement, our non-governmental partners and the public to truly fight this heinous crime.”
“Human trafficking is modern day slavery. We must do everything we can to end it,” said George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami. “This grant money will significantly aid the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force in the fight against this scourge. The FBI applauds this partnership and fully supports its work.”
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundlesaid, “All human trafficking is intended to strip each victim of their individual humanity while demeaning them as they are sold for easy cash. The more partnerships each of us in law enforcement can develop, the greater our ultimate impact will be on ending these ugly, exploitative crimes.”
January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about the different forms of human trafficking, also known as modern slavery, and educating people about this crime and how to spot it. Director Alfredo Ramirez III, MDPD, said “Increasing the community’s awareness is vital in the fight against human trafficking. Our Human Trafficking Unit will continue to work tirelessly to bring these individuals to justice.”
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava is encouraging all South Floridians to join the fight to end this atrocious crime in South Florida communities. For more information about National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, click here.
South Floridians can learn more about how to spot and report human trafficking by visiting Humantraffickinghotline.org. Anyone who encounters someone who appears to be a victim of trafficking should call local law enforcement immediately, and then report the incident to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1(888) 373-7888.