Houston Rescue and Restore says that human trafficking is the real deal in the nation's fourth-largest city and its international population. For an hour on Tuesday morning, this issue was explored inside of Houston City Hall during the "I Fight for Freedom" press conference that kicked off the coalition's Human Trafficking Awareness Month, which will take place throughout September.
Along with Rescue and Restore Executive Director Maria A. Trujillo, various politicians and judicial servants took turns at the podium to speak about "ending slavery in our local community."
"A victim of a [human trafficking] crime is not a criminal. Traffickers are the criminals," said U.S. House of Representatives member Ted Poe, who also opined that the Feds need to step it up and shine a light on the industry. Meanwhile, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan claimed that he and his people have conducted citywide shutdowns of cantinas and parlors that house human-trafficking victims.
Other speakers included Judge Michael Schneider, who chatted at length about the efforts of curbing "prostitution and delinquent behavior" by juveniles, as well as former Houston Police Department officer and current City of Houston council member Ed Gonzalez.
One thing that went unmentioned was actual statistics, which, according to a Village Voice Media investigation, have been bloated nationally, especially in the sex-trafficking industry. Instead, each speaker spoke on behalf of the nonprofit (which began in 2005 as a volunteer group) that educates the greater Houston area about human-trafficking issues.
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The organization's Human Trafficking Awareness Month will include a full slate of community events, such as the "Human Trafficking Film Series," an abolitionist workshop and a 5K.