BSCC 20th Anniversary

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The 20th anniversary celebration of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition at the EastLake-Torrey Pines Church was an unqualified success. There were moments to celebrate and moments to reflect upon.

Among them:

The introduction of a sweet, 3-year-old boy who is the BSCC’s “grandchild,” whose  mother is a victim of trafficking.

A warm thank you to a long- time friend of BSCC, Chris Tenorio, who is going to Washington,D.C. as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice.
 NBC7 anchor Monica Dean was honored for “Stolen,: her breakthrough series on trafficking.
NBC7 anchor Monica Dean was honored for “Stolen,: her breakthrough series on trafficking.

President of BSCC’s  Board of Directors Anne Hoiberg, one of the originating founders of the organization, kicked off the celebration with a welcome to the event’s moderator and hostess, San Diego County’s District Attorney Summer Stephen.

Stephan is a long-time leader in the fight against trafficking. In her opening remarks, Stephan noted that the pandemic led to an increase in trafficking of children—more so than of adults.

A frightening reality surfaced in that predators saw the pandemic as providing a perfect set of conditions where “our kids were spending more time on their tablets, on phones at home, unsupervised.” She explained that predators “saw an opportunity to come in and really escalate their exploitation and human trafficking activities against our children.”  She mentioned a recent case of a 13-year- old recruited and befriended through an online game. The police received an earlier ”heads-up” and rescued the girl. 

Said Stephan,

“We need to do better as we come out of this pandemic; we need to build the resiliency in our children to fight sex trafficking, human trafficking; we need to tell them the truth about what is happening across their devices, they’re smart; we need to trust them with real information, rather than stay stuck in the past.”

She cautioned that just warning children of ”stranger danger” is not going to get the job done these days.  

She also believes the community is not fully aware of the depth of the problem, the serious nature of labor trafficking. From a law enforcement perspective she said, “Labor trafficking is even tougher than sex trafficking to fight.” 

BSCC Executive Director Marisa Ugarte concurred and stated that labor trafficking is a major focus of concern for the organization.  In fact, BSCC is one of the leading NGOs in this battle to stop indentured servitude, massage parlor crime, and other forms of labor trafficking.

“This is a serious crime against people who may not know they have rights nor understand what they can do to protect themselves from abuse.”

Paul Chang from the United States Department of Labor received an Angel Award for his agency’s work in exposing and helping bring prosecutions against traffickers.  He said it was vital that the public and nonprofits like BSCC advocate for more resources to fight the labor crimes because “labor trafficking involves hundreds, if not thousands, of victims at a time when there is no venue to take care of the victims.”  He says there is not an infrastructure in place to handle the victims. “It’s up to you, in the community, to advocate for those types of resources” in order to prosecute the criminals involved. He accepted the Angel Award on behalf of his staff and investigators who “work tirelessly” to pursue labor traffickers.

A special award was given to Chris Tenorio, who for more than 20 years was instrumental in providing the founders of the BSCC a game plan to attack trafficking.  It was his insightfulness about trafficking that helped our organization create an impactful game plan to attack the problem.  And it’s his work for the Department of Justice that has made him one of the most respected and knowledgeable prosecutors of trafficking in the country. 

“Chris has has been a tireless advocate for victims,” said San Diego’s U.S. Attorney 

Randy Grossman in his introduction of Tenorio.  He spoke of the years of exemplary service he’s provided in San Diego. And he told the audience that Tenorio has received the highest honor the department offered attorneys, the John Marshall Award, “for extraordinary contributions to the enforcement of our nation’s laws.”

Tenorio was rewarded with loud applause as well his Angel Award as he recalled the path he had taken. He recalled how years earlier his career course was set in a prosecution in South Florida which involved the largest number of individuals in a slavery case up to that time. It involved “the recruitment of young women and girls from Mexico with promises of being maids and nannies if they come to the United States. And then when they were brought here, they were forced into prostitution.”  His efforts helped lead to the federal trafficking act of 2000, signed by former President Bill Clinton and other presidents would continue to extend the act. The bill provided for the first time legal protections for victims of severe forms of trafficking and violence.

He has led efforts across the county and the nation to recognize the inherent criminality of trafficking. Tenorio mentioned that it wasn’t always an easy sell in the early days.

“People would brush us off and say, well, yeah, that’s alien smuggling. It’s like no, it’s not even, this is something different. These are people who are being compelled, being coerced, being forced. And that force isn’t always physical, it could be psychological. And sometimes that’s even harder to prove—it has a harder grip on what they do.” 

He says he never forgets “the real difficult things here are those victims that come forward and have to overcome what they’ve been through.” 

Anchor Monica Dean thanked the BSCC for the recognition but she also thanked the victims of the crime to help her tell the story to San Diego. ”I’m incredibly grateful to survivors, those who have lived the experience, who shared their story and their hearts with me.”

BSCC thanks the EastLake Church for the beautiful venue and its partnership that provides the funding to establish and maintain “a safe house for victims of human trafficking, where they are provided a safe and secure environment as well as counseling, training, and encouragement.”