At long last a step in the right direction! With the heart wrenching crisis in Haiti reaching its apex and human atrocities being plastered across every television screen and front page daily, abducting those vulnerable and defenseless Haitian children was a very dumb idea. Yet again, maybe not... And not for the reasons you think.
After four years of grueling investigative research at great personal cost I am now just beginning to see the light. Across movie screens, television sets, new and traditional media the issue of sex slavery or child trafficking as it is most commonly referred to, is finally out in the open and beginning to pick up speed. Most recently, the U.S. Congress agreed to address the issue.
Last week during an off the record meeting at The Hill, I was assured that child trafficking in America is a subject worthy of an audience. The downside of course is that politically it is very much a hot potato with obvious long-term repercussions for anyone who takes it on.
Until our government is well and ready to honestly tackle the issues of: immigration, child pornography on the Internet, Internet security, national security, child prostitution, homeland and border patrol, Mexican drug cartels, money laundering, law enforcement, the administration of T and U Visas, training and recruiting, education and everything in between, Congress cannot have a transparent dialogue that will lead to the creation of valuable laws that protect, prevent, and stringently prosecute. Today there exist only two. "The Mann Act of 1910" and the "Trafficking Victims Protection Act" (TVPA) of 2000. Both Acts in need of serious revision.
The Miami Herald finally exposed only a week ago, the story of a 2008 raid where agents arrested a ring of child traffickers operating out of a tony West Palm Beach neighborhood. Why did it take so long? Maybe it was economics driven by fear. The thought of real estate prices plummeting even further south in the area probably hit the panic button at the local government level.
For over a year I have been calling Maria Villafana's office the Assistant U.S. Attorney, to give her inside information about a number of active "stash houses" in the area (brothels where they prostitute trafficked children). No response. I had acquired this information while interviewing one of the convicted traffickers arrested during that raid. He wants to negotiate his sentence and was ready to sing.
A few weeks after Ms. Villafana did not return my calls I turned the list over to an undercover agent working on a similar case. Luckily, at the insistence of my friend and colleague Renee Morrison, The Palm Beach Post finally broke the story.
At school I was taught that "every cloud has a silver lining". Today, I'm praying that on the backs of those most unfortunate Haitian children the light might have begun to shine. It is time for our Government to move forward and help right this terrible wrong. Because in the long run the children who are trafficked, the government who stays silent and the predators who abuse the children will all pay the same price.