Human Trafficking

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The ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law held a conference this month to address human trafficking and the need to coordinate laws to fight this crime. Daniel Rothenberg, professor of Practice at the college, talks about the dialogue that took place.


José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. I'm José Cárdenas. Human trafficking and the need to coordinate strategy and laws to address the crime was the focus of a recent conference held at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. With me to talk about the conference is Daniel Rothenberg, professor of practice at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. Daniel welcome to "Horizonte."

Daniel Rothenberg: Thank you so much.

José Cárdenas: The whole subject is hot right now, the subject of trafficking. But tell us what was the impetus of putting on this conference at ASU?

Daniel Rothenberg: The conference began with actually on my second day on the job. I was called in by Dean Paul Berman and to meet with a few colleagues Professor Laura Dickenson, Professor Sarah Beal and also our distinguished justice, Justice Ruth McGregor former chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court and we began talking about the subject of human trafficking and trying to integrate that with the question, how do you deal with coordination between different bodies of law, international, federal, state and local.

José Cárdenas: One of the issues with respect to the topics you just addressed is how you define human trafficking.

Daniel Rothenberg: It is a big question because there isn't a single coordinated definition. And it's an appropriate time to raise these questions because the crime itself and the phenomenon, even if it's gone on a long time the legal definitions are relatively new. This is really an issue of just the last decade.

José Cárdenas: And why is it important to have a coordinated definition of trafficking? We know it's a problem, it's been a problem for a long time. Why address is now at this level of detail?

Daniel Rothenberg: Part of what law does is it constructs an understanding of a social problem. So it wasn't that long ago that we didn't understand sexual harassment, have any legal basis and now it's taken for granted, this something that's actionable. And trafficking is like this, human trafficking is a longstanding problem but if we done have a single-- if we don't have coherent understandings and definitions it's difficult to act coherently. And when you can't act coherently on an issue that is global, it makes it difficult to have sort of a commonality of practice and sometimes difficult to achieve really the goals of combating the - you know this crime.

José Cárdenas: As I understand it, while there's a lot of ambiguity, one distinction that is made is between human smuggling and human trafficking. What is that?

Daniel Rothenberg: The key issue is coercion. Then there's a subset of definitions but the real question, for something to be trafficking, there has to be coercion and there's a distinction types of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation or labor exploitation, but the key distinction between simply crossing the U.S. border with a Coyote and being trafficked has to do with the level of coercion that's involved.

José Cárdenas: let's talk about the conference. Who attended, who were the speakers, and when was it held?

Daniel Rothenberg: March 11 and had around 400 people attending the conference. It was a public conference and we opened the door to all sorts of folks. To faculty, students, staff, members of the community and law enforcement and the speakers were a collection of -- law enforcement and the speakers were experts and we went out and brought in people from the international community, a judge from Argentina action a prosecutor from Taiwan, an activist from the Philippines and the department of homeland security and department of justice, the Phoenix police department and academics from different school appearance state judges and it was really -- it was an attempt to bring together a lot of different experts, each of whom could speak about a particular part of this problem as it plays out in different bodies of law.

José Cárdenas: Argentina and Taiwan are not places you normally think of when the subject of trafficking comes up. How was it that you brought in speakers from that part of the world?

Daniel Rothenberg: Usually through contacts that helped us find folks who had something specific to offer. So actually -- trafficking is a global phenomenon and many people don't know this, but the U.S. state department has a special office the GTIP office, or the Global Trafficking in Persons Office and it's compiled based on federal law. It's requires to compile a report based on all the countries in the world and their trafficking practices and to rank them. It's one of the few crime where the government ranks all countries in terms of their -- the prevalence of the issue and the way in which the government addresses it and in fact there's a global awareness about trafficking and the issue is gaining sort of traction and different judicial systems and it is useful in illuminating in fact to have people from different countries to come and speak about the particular challenges that they face when they engage in prosecution, they engage in victims services and I think it was exciting for a lot of the members of the audience to hear these international perspectives, particularly those who were grounded in how the practice plays out in Phoenix.

José Cárdenas: Do you have a good sense, and I realize there's a problem here with data definitions, but a good sense for how significant a problem this is for the states as a whole and Arizona specifically?

Daniel Rothenberg: Well the data on trafficking is -- this is an evolving phenomenon. There's not yet truly accurate data. Each year it's getting better and we had the U.S. expert on data within our country. And how big of a problem is it? Well, it's a serious problem. It's commonly understood to be a growing problem and, of course, Arizona being a border state means it's of great significance. This is a state where there's a significant amount of trafficking and interestingly a state where there is a taskforce to combat trafficking that is among -- widely recognized as one the most effective and best organized.

José Cárdenas: And why is that?

Daniel Rothenberg: It has do with the individuals who ware there and the way in which they work together. ASU and the law school has been attending these taskforce meetings which are ran out of the U.S. Attorney's Office and one thing you see is there's a great deal concern at multiple levels within the community and -- that bodes well for being able to address the problem.

José Cárdenas: So the taskforce includes not only law enforcement but laypersons.

Daniel Rothenberg: And community service folks and different levels of government both federal and state and local.

José Cárdenas: And Mexican.

Daniel Rothenberg: Interestingly so, one of the-- we have some representative from the Mexican consulate attending our conference and it's certainly one of the areas where you see some very positive activity so the U.S. attorney for example, works closely with counterparts in Mexico to manage those cases that involve border crossing and having to deal with different definitions and gathering evidence and managing coordination between the law enforcement on both sides of the border.

José Cárdenas: Any sense of the level of commitment at both the state and federal level to addressing this problem?

Daniel Rothenberg: I think there's a growing commitment, a growing interest, although one of the issues that our conference focused on is the degree to which there needs to be clear and improved coordination--so that there's a common understanding of the problem common and integrated ways to combat trafficking. Locally, at the state level, federally and internationally.

José Cárdenas: The problem itself may have been here for a long time. Trafficking -- however, defined. But the internet added a new element to it.

Daniel Rothenberg: That's certainly right for trafficking for sexual exploitation because the internet is a mechanism through which people find victims through which people engaging in all sorts of communications that lead to -- at the foundation of a whole series of exploitive practices.

José Cárdenas: The people who attended the conference, what did they get out of it?

Daniel Rothenberg: That's a good question. We tried it as a public conference. We invited as many people as we could through our various networks and we have a strong student interest. We have a group going to different countries to work on trafficking projects and we have a group of students who created their own anti-trafficking organization and we have a series of seminars on trafficking and some independent studies so there's a strong student interest and very strong community interest. There's sort of faith-based community engagement trafficking, there's law enforcement engaged in trafficking and representatives of those groups and then we had all sorts of folks from the community.

José Cárdenas: We're almost out of time. I understand one of follow-ups though will be a white paper?

Daniel Rothenberg: Right, so along with the public event on Friday, March 11th, we had sort of closed door policy session on that Saturday, the 12th and out of that we're producing a white paper that focuses specifically on the issue of international, federal, state and local coordination as regards to prosecution of human trafficking.

José Cárdenas: Daniel Rothenberg, ASU professor of practice at the law school, Thank you for joining us.

Daniel Rothenberg: Thanks you so much for the opportunity.

Daniel Rothenberg:Professor of Practice, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, ASU;

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