Ordinary Placerville Citizen Seeks Extraordinary Results at Capitol for Trafficking Victims
Seventeen “ordinary” citizens from northern California gathered in Sacramento with one extraordinary agenda on August 15. These modern abolitionists, most of whom had never lobbied or even visited the Capitol Building, asked legislators to end human trafficking in California.
Considering that California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris states that “human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world today and, unfortunately, has spread its tentacles into communities throughout California,” these amateur lobbyists set their sights on an ambitious goal.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley echoed Harris’ assessment, “To many people, it may be shocking that human trafficking is happening in our community. But I can tell you that the problem is real and it's growing. In the district attorney's office, we're seeing 10 times the caseload of human trafficking cases than we had 15 years ago.”
This “advocacy day” effort was led by Jocelyn White, Church Mobilization Director-West for International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights organization that brings rescue to victims of violent oppression. Although most of the participants had never met White before this event, they responded to her invitation to “save lives and make history.”
In fact, eLearning Developer Brad Schwartz from San Ramon invoked the historical example of William Wilberforce, the Christian abolitionist leader who campaigned against slavery in the British Parliament until passing the Slave Trade Act of 1807.
In a meeting in his district Senator DeSaulnier’s office, Schwartz referred to Wilberforce's 26-year devotion to abolition before the Slave Trade Act was passed to indicate that while this lobbying effort was Schwartz's first, it was far from his last.
Another first-time lobbyist, Debbie Rice, an IT project manager from Placerville, was quite apprehensive about the prospect of appearing before “the powers of government” as a “regular person” and asking them to vote for legislation that she supports.
She was very relieved to be paired up with IJM supporter Jonathan Slater from Patterson because he had lobbied for legislation to combat human trafficking in Washington, D.C.
"I clung to Slater, an experienced IJM volunteer, during our first appointment to Senator Gaines' office. But by my second appointment with Assemblyman Pan’s legislative director, I could have tackled it solo,” Rice said.
The group dispersed to seek votes by their senators and assembly members in over 20 meetings on SB 1193 and AB 1956. AB 1956, Tattoo Removal for Juvenile Victims, would expand existing tattoo removal services provided to rehabilitated former gang members and include sex trafficking victims who were tattooed as a form of “branding” by their exploiters.
SB 1193, Hotline Public Posting Requirement, would require businesses likely to be frequented by trafficking victims to post the telephone number of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a 24 hour “hotline” (888-3737-888). They also thanked legislators for passing Oakland Assemblymember Swanson’s AB 2040, Expungement of Arrest Records for Minor Victims of Sex Trafficking.
But by the end of the day, Rice proclaimed, “I think I was born to do this. I discovered that it’s nothing more than just talking to people who also want to change things for the better. They are regular people just like we are.”
The trepidation factor, which was a common sentiment among this group before the meetings with their senators and assembly members began, faded throughout the morning and was replaced by enthusiasm and confidence.
Schwartz concluded, “I left today with a sense of hope—which I did not have before coming here. That we can make a difference.”