GAIN Offers Safety Net to Immigrant Trafficking Victims
By Cara Hergenroether
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of what the Department of Homeland Security calls modern day slavery, both around the world and in the city of Atlanta. In recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’re recognizing Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network (GAIN), one of the Junior League of Atlanta’s community partners that is on a mission to ensure that trafficking victims get a fresh start in the United States.
- But first, what is human trafficking? Human trafficking is the illegal exploitation of a person, specifically inducing a commercial sex act from a person under 18 years old, inducing a person over 18 years old into commercial sex through force, fraud or coercion, or using force, fraud or coercion to make a child or adult perform labor or services(1). Trafficking is not the same thing as human smuggling but the two crimes do overlap. The stories of trafficking survivors show a variety of experiences, from a well-educated Indonesian woman who believed she was coming to the United States legally for a hotel job but was forced into commercial sex to foreign workers promised U.S citizenship but left with debt and fear.
According to the Polaris Project, traffickers lure the vulnerable into labor or commercial sex trafficking. Once in the trafficker’s snares, the victims’ vulnerabilities are used against them to create a sense of indebtedness to or fear of their traffickers. If a person finds themselves free of their trafficker, they may face a language barrier, missing documentation, and a lack of resources and safety net.
Through its Victims of Violence Project, GAIN provides legal representation to immigrant victims of human trafficking (along with other crimes). GAIN recruits, trains and mentors pro bono attorneys to provide thoughtful representation to those trafficking victims and other immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship.
Originally called the Atlanta Bar Asylum Project, GAIN was formed in 2005 by the Atlanta Bar Association, Catholic Charities and attorneys from several Atlanta law firms. These groups recognized the need for pro bono legal representation for unrepresented immigrants proceeding through the U.S. immigration system as well as guidance and supervision for the pro bono attorneys who took on these cases. Eventually, GAIN became a formal pro bono referral organization and expanded its services to immigrants who have been victimized upon arriving in the United States.
In 2013, the JLA membership voted to adopt commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking as an area of focus with the goal of eliminating sexual exploitation and human trafficking of women and children. However, JLA was aware that to be impactful, it would need partners with the necessary expertise. One of these partners was GAIN, who has been a JLA community partner for four years. Currently, two JLA members, Genevieve Holmes and Andrea Smith, sit on the GAIN Board of Directors.
JLA and GAIN are in the process of hammering out the details of a partnership connecting GAIN with JLA members who are attorneys. This program would allow JLA members to satisfy their JLA placement hours through pro bono work with GAIN.
GAIN and JLA have also partnered up for a Networking & Awareness Event on January 24 at the offices of Troutman Sanders. The event will include an interdisciplinary panel discussion about human trafficking and generational poverty in Atlanta. More information will be provided closer to the event date: http://georgiaasylum.org/2016/12/28/join-the-junior-league-of-atlanta-and-gain-on-jan-24th/