The Death of BackPage.com

Yesterday a dream of Beth Klein’s came true, BackPage.com died. The on-line brothel – which has trafficked more than 80% of all victims and where hundreds of missing children were sold – was removed from the web. It happened after a Senate subcommittee released its report and just before a scheduled hearing during which internal operations could have been brought into daylight. The executives of the electronic brothel were too ashamed to talk about their activities, and they all took the 5th.

The website was founded in 2004 and operates in cities around the world. It began as a part of Craigslist. In 2010 Craigslist (and Ebay related company) divested Backpage which operated for profit until yesterday.

“This is a concerted effort to build a business enterprise around the trafficking of human beings,” Yiota Souras, general counsel for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told Newsweek last October. The center has identified more than 420 cases of missing children who wound up in Backpage ads. A separate team led by Arizona State University researchers has found more than 150 Backpage ads that feature minors.

The Report reviewed the company documents, totaling more than 1.1-million pages, and found evidence that Backpage knowingly facilitated prostitution and child sex trafficking. The business was highly profitable and experienced explosive growth, from $5.3 million in gross revenue in 2008 to $135 million in 2014.

Backpage has faced several lawsuits by women who say they were trafficked through the site and calls from The Sheriff of Chicago and others to cease its adult operations. Every lawsuit to shut it down has been dismissed ironically under an internet free speech law that Senator Ron Portman of Oregon sponsored. Ironically, Senator Portman was a co-chair of the anti-Backpage subcommittee. His law 47 U.S.C. 230 (Section 230), passed in 1996 was intended to protect websites from liability for third party content. This very law has protected the crime.

Last October, then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced charges against the website’s chief executive officer, Carl Ferrer, and its founders, James Larkin and Michael Lacey. A judge dismissed those charges in December; about two weeks later, Harris announced new charges against the men.

Back page whined: “For years, the legal system protecting freedom of speech prevailed, but new government tactics, including pressuring credit card companies to cease doing business with Backpage, have left the company with no other choice but to remove the content in the United States.”

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a 53-page report on the findings from its investigation. “The company has long claimed that it is a mere host of content created by others and therefore immune from liability,” the report said. “The internal company documents obtained by the Subcommittee conclusively show that Backpage’s public defense is a fiction.” The report went on to say that Backpage had “concealed evidence of criminality” by editing ads, that it had acknowledged its role in facilitating sex trafficking and that Ferrer, Lacey and Larkin continued to own the website even though they had claimed to have distanced themselves from it.

Senator Claire McCaskill said Monday on Twitter, “It pays to never give up. Congressional investigations matter.” In another tweet, she indicated that the hearing would proceed despite Backpage’s decision to remove its adult ads.

Abolitionists celebrated the page’s death. The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) vowed to “fight back,” saying in a statement:

“It is hard to put into words the intense anxiety, stress and sense of oppression our community is currently experiencing. Right now, thousands of individuals are wondering where they are going to go to earn money they need to pay rent, buy their family’s clothes and food and fill their metro card or gas tank.”

Perhaps a look at the job ads on Craigslist would be a good move.

Resources for Colorado Victims

FRAC Minutes

FRAC Meeting Minutes, Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I. Welcome/Introductions, Human Trafficking Program Manager, Maria Trujillo

II. Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force Updates, Sergeant Dan Steele, Denver Police Department  Sgt. Steele informed the group that the RMILTF has recovered 58 juveniles from January to June, 2016. Among the notable trends are more recoveries of male youth However, he explained that the numbers of arrests are down from previous years due to the increase in MDTs forming across the Denver-metro area and those MDTs making many more requests for interviews with those they have identified as high-risk juveniles. Due to their own capacity limits this has forced the task force to focus more attention to these interviews rather than making arrests of traffickers. It is a workload shift that needs to be examined.

III. Colorado Trafficking & Organized Crime Coalition (CTOCC) Updates  No update was provided as a CTOCC representative was absent. IV. Colorado Human Trafficking Council Updates Maria Trujillo, CHTC Program Manager  Ms. Trujillo informed the group that the Council is entering the end of their year where they make final recommendations for its 2016 report to the General Assembly. The Council’s three task forces have made steady progress and have final work products to present to the Council at their August 26th meeting.  The Training Task Force has completed the development of a HT 101 Core Training Curriculum and Facilitator’s Guide, which is a two hour program. They are currently working on finalizing a Law Enforcement training program.  The Standards Task Force has completed the developed of standards for Community Based Victim Advocates and Mental/Behavioral Health Providers.  The Data and Research Task force is working on developing a prosecution survey to better understand the awareness-level prosecutors have on human trafficking and the new statutes, the tools and resources they use to prosecute a case as well as the partnerships they developed in their community in order to be successful with human trafficking case.  Ms. Trujillo invited everyone to attend the August 26th meeting and informed the group that this would be a good meeting to attend as all the Task Forces will be presenting their final work products and recommendations to the Council. The meeting begins at 9am and takes place at the Jefferson County Human Services Bldg (900 Jefferson County Parkway) V. Featured Presenter: A Discussion of the Colorado Project’s Action Plan Launch, Mary Durant, Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking  Ms. Durant provided a brief history of the Colorado Project, its main objectives and the overall outcomes, which primarily led to the development of the Action Plan  Ms. Durant explained that the Action Plan is a blueprint for the state on how to combat human trafficking collaboratively and the components of the Action Plan are divided by the 4P model.  In total the Action Plan provides 14 recommendations with 48 activities. Ms. Durant provided an example of a recommendation under each of the 4Ps.  The purpose of the Action Plan launch is to be able to catalogue the work that people are doing across and/or want to do that fall under the Action Plan. Ms. Durant explained that not only do they want to know what folks are doing but how they are doing it. They will collect all this information and provide an annual report of their findings.  The official Action Plan launch will take place on October 20th at 5 sites: Denver, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, Boulder and Greeley. VII. Partnerships: Each representative made their respective announcements. For more information, please contact directly. 

Klein Frank Foundation Supports Vetted Refugees

President Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect on Friday night. Fully vetted refugees who were airborne on flights on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports.

Legal challenges and a request for class action certification to release the detained refugees was filed. The complaints were filed by American Civil Liberties Union, the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, the National Immigration Law Center, Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization and the firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

Klein Frank is going to join in the effort and provide funding and support to the family of Mr. Alshawi  in Houston.  If you would like to donate for this effort, please contact Beth Klein Boulder Attorney 303-448-8884

The president’s order also blocks the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The lawyers said that one of the Iraqis detained at Kennedy Airport, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, had worked on behalf of the United States government in Iraq for 10 years. The other, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was coming to the United States to join his wife, who had worked for an American contractor, and young son, the lawyers said. They said both men had been detained at the airport on Friday night after arriving on separate flights.

“These are people with valid visas and legitimate refugee claims who have already been determined by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to be admissible and to be allowed to enter the U.S. and now are being unlawfully detained,” Mr. Doss said.

According to the filing, Mr. Darweesh was granted a special immigrant visa on Jan. 20, the same day Mr. Trump was sworn in as president. Mr. Darweesh worked with the United States in Iraq in a variety of jobs — as an interpreter, engineer and contractor — over the course of roughly a decade.

Mr. Darweesh worked as an interpreter for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad and Mosul starting shortly after the invasion of Iraq on April 1, 2003. The filing said he had been directly targeted twice for working with the United States military.
Brandon Friedman, who worked with Mr. Darweesh as an infantry lieutenant with the 101st Airborne, praised Mr. Darweesh’s work.

“This is a guy that this country owes a debt of gratitude to,” Mr. Friedman said. “There are not many Americans who have done as much for this country as he has. He’s put himself on the line. He’s put his family on the line to help U.S. soldiers in combat, and it is astonishing to me that this country would suddenly not allow people like that in.”

Mr. Friedman, who is the chief executive of the McPherson Square Group, a communications firm in Washington, added, “We have a moral obligation to protect and repay these people who risked their lives for U.S. troops.”

“He is a brave individual, and he cares about Iraq and he cares about the U.S.,” he said of Mr. Darweesh.

Mr. Alshawi was supposed to be reunited with his wife, who has been living in Texas. The wife, who asked to be identified by her first initial, D., out of concern for her family’s safety, wiped away tears as she sat on a couch in her sister’s house early Saturday in a Houston suburb.

“He gave his package and his passport to an airport officer, and they didn’t talk to him, they just put him in a room,” his wife said. “He told me that they forced him to get back to Iraq. He asked for his lawyer and to apply for an asylum case. And they told him, ‘You can’t do that. You need to go back to your country.’”

She said the authorities at the airport had told him that the president’s signing of the executive order was the reason he could not proceed to Houston.
“They told him it’s the president’s decision,” she said.

Women of Vision

Beth Klein had the honor of speaking with Half the Sky’s Sheryl Wu Dunn to the Colorado Women of Vision.  Look how far they flew!  This link will take you to the video of all they accomplished.

Colorado Women of Vision

From the Director Robin Black:

This video will be broadcast on channels 56 and 57 through Denver Open Media. Because the station is a “project of the Open Media Foundation.”

Hopefully having this message broadcast in the Denver area will help the cause of eradicating child trafficking.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Beth Klein for attending our event

Please share the video and VOTE because it helps the station to broadcast it more often!

 

Beth Klein Boulder Bar HT Presentation

On Thursday, January 12, 2017 at noon, Beth Klein, the Boulder Bar Co-Chair of the Civil Litigation Division will host a presentation on Human Trafficking at the Boulder District Court in the East Training Room.

Brad Riley from I-Empathize and Janet Drake Assistant Colorado Attorney General will discuss prevention and prosecution strategies and legislative updates.

Please contact Beth Klein 303-448-8884, if you would like to attend. CLE is available.

Colorado HT Activities

Opportunity to Join the Crime Victim Services Advisory Board
The Crime Victim Services (CVS) Advisory Board is looking to add two new members to the CVS board. They are seeking a representative from a tribal government as well as a representative from an under-served population (i.e. populations who face barriers in accessing and using victim services). Interested applicants can learn more by visiting the CVS Board web page.

Emergency Fund for Crime Victims Webinar
As a result of the statewide needs assessment conducted by the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ), emergency funds for victims of crime was identified as a Special Project for the use of Victims of Crime Act (VOCA funds). DCJ’s Office for Victims Programs is working collaboratively with the Colorado Organization for Victims Assistance (COVA) and other stakeholders to address this need through the establishment of the Emergency Fund Program.

To learn more about how victim service organizations can access financial support for crime victims join the webinar being hosted on January 11th from 2:00 – 4:00 PM.  Register for the webinar here.  If you have any questions regarding this webinar contact Ashley Riley Lopes at ashley.lopes@state.co.us.

Save the Date – Human Trafficking Legislative Day
February 16th: The Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado will be hosting its annual Human Trafficking Legislative Day at the West Foyer of the Colorado State Capitol. This year’s event will focus on law enforcement. The State Calendar will be updated when we receive more information about the event.

New Anti-Human Trafficking Job!

We are excited to announce that the Colorado Department of Public Safety (CDPS) is hiring a Training Specialist for the Division of Criminal Justice’s Human Trafficking Program. This position is an exempt, part-time position with an end date of 12/31/2017. If you are interested in joining a new and dynamic team working to combat human trafficking in our state this may be the job for you.

The announcement closes on January 6, 2017. To learn more about this position, visit the state’s official job board.   Here

Beth Klein Boulder – How2Help Refugees

“Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.”
― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

As America balances on the head of the pin of the future, two camps firmly believe in polar opposite scenarios. And each camp is entrenched in a siloed world view, and the silos must be broken. Over the past year nationalism has vilified terrified Syrians running for their lives and made them virtual human punching bags with a tiny chance of fleeing to the United States. So little truth is known, but red-Americans firmly believe that the United States’ interests are served by shutting out the terrified refugees. Helping refugees and ensuring education and safety is the better path. Beth Klein Boulder’s suggestions on how to get into action instead of just believing are at the bottom of this essay.

About 5 million Syrians have fled since the war began in 2011. The U.S., which took in only about 2,000 refugees in the first several years of the war, has increased the number to about 12,000 this year. The federal resettlement program is administered via nine agencies that depend on the work of volunteers.

More than 4.5 million refugees from Syria are in just five countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt:

Turkey hosts 2.5 million refugees from Syria, more than any other country worldwide

Lebanon hosts approximately 1.1 million refugees from Syria which amounts to around one in five people in the country

Jordan hosts approximately 635,324 refugees from Syria, which amounts to about 10% of the population

Iraq where 3.9 million people are already internally displaced hosts 245,022 refugees from Syria

Egypt hosts 117,658 refugees from Syria
The UN’s 2015 humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees was just 61% funded by the end of the year. Funding shortages mean that the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon receive just $21.60 per person month or around US$0.70 cent a day for food assistance, well below the UN’s poverty line of $1.90. 86% of Syrian refugees in urban areas in Jordan are living below the local poverty line.

Selfish memes garner electronic blue thumbs up on Facebook. Then sorrowful memes of pictures of dead children – how did we stand by and watch this happen? Neither are useful to middle class people reduced to nothing and starving. Action matters.

How can we, the privileged and “exceptional”, be debating hope in the face of Aleppo and the Syrian diaspora. How can kind people become so fearful, that they turn away from kindness? When kindness turns away, a violence becomes a reality. Violence becomes the norm birthed from fear and horror.

Sunday, 47 children inside the orphanage near the front line in eastern Aleppo some in “critical condition from injuries and dehydration” were bused out of hell There are many other “vulnerable children” among untold thousands of people still inside eastern Aleppo, according to estimates from the U.N. and humanitarian agencies.

France’s U.N. ambassador , Francois Delattre, urged immediate deployment of U.N. monitors to former rebel-held eastern Aleppo to avoid new atrocities. The goal of the French-Russian compromise resolution adopted Monday is to avoid a repetition of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of nearly 8,000 Bosnian Muslims – “to avoid new mass atrocities by the forces on the ground and the militias in particular.”

On Monday buses drove residents toward the western countryside, where aid workers greeted them. Many were exhausted and distressed after a nightmarish journey from an area that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has described as a “synonym for hell. About 5,000 people have been bused out since midnight, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, bringing the total number of evacuees to 15,000. Buses are expected to run through the night.

Despite what is said by France, the Russian Federation denies and questions reports of “mass atrocities every day.” But today, solitary men on shoestring budgets can bring superpowers to the knee for a time – with violence and horror.

The UN human rights office said it had reliable evidence that up to 82 civilians were shot on the spot by government and allied forces who entered their homes, or at gunpoint in the streets, over the past few hours.

“The reports that civilians – including children – are being massacred in cold blood in their homes by Syrian government forces are deeply shocking but not unexpected given their conduct to date. Such extrajudicial executions would amount to war crimes,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International’s Beirut Regional office.

“Throughout the conflict Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, have repeatedly displayed a callous disregard for international humanitarian law and utter disdain for the fate of civilians. In fact, they have regularly targeted civilians as a strategy, both during military operations and through the mass-scale use of arbitrary detention, disappearances and torture and other ill-treatment. As government forces gain full control of eastern Aleppo the risk that they will commit further atrocities raises grave fears for thousands of civilians still trapped.

Consider:

Donate or Volunteer With the International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee works globally and has been providing critical humanitarian aid to Syrians since 2012. They provide services from cash vouchers for Syrians to purchase food, legal assistance, employment, and education.

The IRC will be providing $100 to 500 of the most vulnerable families fleeing the current situation in Aleppo. While supporting 12 health facilities in Idleb governorate and five schools providing an education for 4,000 children.

In the United States, you can sign up to volunteer at a local resettlement office.