Harris County Gets Legal Assistance On Human Trafficking
by: Bill Stamps, August 15, 2011 1:08:00 am
Authorities say human trafficking normally happens like this: Someone helps people come into the U.S. from countries like Mexico, Guatemala, or Honduras, and tells them they’ll help them find a job cleaning houses.
This is Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan:
"The women are usually victims of being either brought here thinking they’re just illegally immigrating to the United States, or being brought here to this country thinking they’re going to be domestic servants of some sort, and they’re instead put into situations of sex trade."
The women may work in massage parlors or made to walk the streets. The women are threatened physically and also told if they don’t cooperate, they’ll be turned into authorities who will put them in jail for coming to the U.S. illegally.
It’s estimated more than three thousand of these sex slaves are brought into Texas each year. Now Harris County is getting some help fighting the problem: ten volunteer attorneys.
"These are private attorneys who are volunteering — in one case, a retired judge in fact — who is volunteering their time, pro bono to this effort.
Once they’ve been trained they will be assigned individual cases and then actually take those cases to court to close down the business in the civil courts."
Ryan says a large portion of the woman caught up in this criminal web end up working in Houston area massage parlors. So those are the places the volunteer attorneys will be targeting.
"What we focus on are the businesses that again, you see them all over town the flashing massage parlor signs. Often more often than not that is a place of prostitution and more often than not, the women who are there have been brought into this country illegally and not expecting that that is the business they were going into."
County Attorney Ryan believes the ten volunteer attorneys will be an added boost to the department; however, he says they could still use even more volunteers if someone is interested.