On January 29, the Support, Advocacy, Freedom, and Empowerment (SAFE) Center for Human Trafficking Survivors hosted a strategic symposium on labor trafficking to highlight the enactment of Maryland’s first labor trafficking law, the Anti-Exploitation Act of 2019, which the SAFE Center advocated for in the Maryland General Assembly. University of Maryland School of Public Health Dean Boris Lushniak and SAFE Center Founder and Director Ambassador Susan Esserman opened the conference, which aimed to raise awareness about labor trafficking in Maryland and encourage the investigations necessary to bring trafficking victims out of the shadows.
Labor trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry in which an estimated 16 million people around the world are forced and coerced to work for little to no pay, without freedom, for the profit of traffickers. About 40% of cases at the SAFE Center are labor trafficking in which people are forced to work in restaurants, hotels, farms, and in homes as domestic workers.
Keynote speaker Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh encouraged attendees to bring labor trafficking cases to his office for prosecution. The new labor trafficking law gives the Attorney General, as well as the state’s attorneys offices, enforcement authority.
The symposium included two panels, moderated by Prince George’s County Human Trafficking Task Force Chair Renee Battle-Brooks and SAFE Center Deputy Director Laura Ardito, that highlighted harrowing case studies on labor trafficking in Maryland and other areas of the U.S., as well as innovative ways to identify and disrupt labor trafficking.