DALLAS — Houston has become a “hub” for trafficking children and young women into the U.S. from Mexico, Central America and even Asia, U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, from Texas’ second district Friday told The Trucker here at the Great American Trucking Show.
Traffickers have become so bold that they are branding their victims, some as young as seven years old, and have gone so far as to put bar codes on them, Poe said at an event unveiling a first-of-its-kind, 48-foot Great Dane trailer wrapped with Truckers Against Trafficking’s new Freedom Drivers Project. Inside the trailer are educational materials and displays portraying the scope of trafficking, what Poe called a “scourge,” and what truck drivers are doing to combat it through Truckers Against Trafficking or TAT.
TAT bought the trailer and will soon be taking it to schools, communities and trucking events to help spread the word that human slavery is going on in nearly every town and community in the U.S. right under our noses. But it goes on in secret and most people don’t see it.
TAT Executive Director Kendis Paris said the Freedom Drivers Project makes the trafficking issue real and educates people about the problem but also makes it clear that “the trucking industry is driving change” on the issue. Truckers are making calls to the hotline (888-3737-888) and as a result pimps are being arrested and women and children victims are being restored, she said.
Inside the trailer, TV monitors display videos showing how truckers and other industry stakeholders are making a difference in the fight against trafficking, Paris said. Trucking is the “model” for other industries to follow, she noted.
Trafficking is the second most lucrative crime, second only to drugs, Poe said, and the Mexican drug cartels are finding out they can bring trafficking victims across the border to Houston, from where they are taken to points across the U.S. They’ve found they can sell children over and over, unlike drugs, Poe added.
And, he said, “that’s where truckers come in because they have the pulse on what happens in America; they use their expertise to spot what is not right” at truck stops, industrial sites and other places they travel to. And because of TAT they know to report these anomalies to the trafficking hotline.
“That’s good news for victims and bad for traffickers. I hope the Freedom Drivers Project rolls through every town in the U.S.,” Poe said.
The Freedom Drivers Project will visit a trucking conference in Toledo, Ohio, in mid September as well as a human trafficking awareness event in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Corporate sponsors of the project include Ryder, Bridgestone, Freightliner, Volvo, Morgan, Great Dane, Bendix, Cummins, Carrier Transicold United Technologies, CAST, ColoGraphic, Mansfield, Meritor, Palfinger, SC Supreme, WALTCO and Utility Trailers.
For more information or to schedule a Freedom Project Event call Paris at (720) 202-1037 or got to firstname.lastname@example.org.