Forum Set on Human Trafficking, Refugees

NEWS RELEASE (updated)

For immediate use

June 17, 2019

Contact: Chuck Isenhart, 563-599-8839

Gretchen Brown-Waech, victim rights and human trafficking coordinator for Attorney General Tom Miller, will visit Dubuque on Thursday, June 20, to speak about the reality of and response to human trafficking in Iowa.

Also presenting will be Neil Wellner, homeland security coordinator for the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

State Rep. Chuck Isenhart will host the speakers, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Northeast Iowa Community College Town Clock Center, 680 Main Street. The public is invited.

Suzie Wright of Set Free Dubuque and members of the Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Slavery will brief attendees on their work in the Dubuque area. Isenhart will discuss the status of legislation introduced with Rep. Lindsay James to provide incentives to lodging facilities that educate their employees on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking.

The event has been planned to observe World Refugee Day in support of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT).

According to the Catholic Sisters’ group, an unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under 18. Every 15 minutes a family is forced to flee their homeland.

“There is a strong link between forced migration and human trafficking. Men, women, and children are made vulnerable to human trafficking by the mass displacement caused by violence, extreme poverty, humanitarian crises, climate change, natural disasters, and conflict. Impoverished, vulnerable families are targeted by traffickers who promise to provide education and opportunity only to exploit them through forced labor, sexual exploitation, enslavement, or organ theft,” according to USCSAHT.

Brown-Waech will discuss the roles of the Iowa Department of Justice. The attorney general’s Crime Victim Assistance Division supports direct services around the state for people affected by human trafficking, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, homicide, and other violent crimes.

Wellner will discuss the role of the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Office to Combat Human Trafficking in holding accountable those who exploit the vulnerabilities of others. The office has been tasked with providing a comprehensive and coordinated response to labor and sex trafficking in Iowa.