178 – How to Champion Advocacy in Government

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Dr. Sandie Morgan and Dave Stachowiak invite Sara Catalan, deputy chief of staff, to the show. They discuss women in government and how that impacts human trafficking. As well as how women can take steps to get more engaged with politics.

Key Points

  • When crafting policy for the future, it’s important to know history in order to avoid repeating the mistakes from our past.
  • Modernizing legislation is a critical component in the fight against human trafficking by giving law enforcement the tools they need to stop the traffickers.
  • For young people wanting to make a difference, research and preparation are crucial. It is also important to learn your own interests, motivations, and passions by always accepting any opportunity that comes your way.
  • A great first step for women to get involved in political positions is to get engaged locally through appointed offices.


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Contact us with questions, comments, or suggestions at feedback@endinghumantrafficking.org.


Dave: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 178, How to Champion Advocacy in Government.

Production Credits: [00:00:08] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.

Dave: [00:00:28] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie: [00:00:33] And my name is Sandie Morgan.

Dave: [00:00:36] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Sandie, longtime listeners of this show even listeners who have just come to the show will recall and remember how much we talk about partnership, partnership at every level of organization and in government. And today’s guest I know is going to be helpful to us in really some of the perspective on how to advocate especially in government.

Sandie: [00:01:04] Absolutely. We are so happy to welcome Sara Catalan, deputy chief of staff to Representative Ed Royce to our show. Sarah, thank you for joining us.

Sara: [00:01:17] I’m excited to join you.

Sandie: [00:01:19] Well when I first met you through Congressman Royce’s office you were leading and directing and setting up all kinds of exciting opportunities for our community to engage with your office. And even though the congressman spent most of his time in Washington D.C. and I began to understand the role that you have as very influential and very significant to the issues that your office supports. And it reminded me a few years ago when our U.N. general secretary on International Women’s Day. And I’ve never told you this, Erin I’ve known you now for years, but when he’s said General Ban Ki-Moon said that countries with gender equality with women leaders perform better. I thought of you because you are such a presence in the congressman’s office, and locally in Orange County, and then by extension to Washington D.C. You’ve been a leader in policy advocacy on anti-human trafficking, so kudos to you. How many years have you been in this role?

Sara: [00:02:44] Well thank you, Sandie. That was very nice of you. I’ve worked for the congressman for 16 years.

Sandie: [00:02:49] Wow, that’s pretty outstanding. And when I think about some of the major accomplishments just in anti-human trafficking, I think you are the organizer and maintainer of the advisory committee. Can you talk about that just for a moment?

Sara: [00:03:11] Sure. I think the way that our office approaches human trafficking is a little bit different than some other local representatives and that’s because as you know Congressman Ed Royce is chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. So, in our perspective we always have that kind of international angle, so we focus a little bit more on international trafficking than we do on domestic. But the reason that we decided to kind of jump in this unique way was as I was getting more engaged with the issue of human trafficking I was getting overwhelmed because it’s such a diverse issue from labor trafficking, to sex trafficking, to minors, adults, foreign nationals, native-born, every single subset has their own issues, their own struggles. So, we really kind of grappled with this idea of like how do we get a holistic view of what the problem actually is. So, my solution was to develop a human trafficking congressional advisory committee and so I pulled this board together. And thank you, Dr. Morgan, for sitting on it, you are a critical member to have on the board with your knowledge and your expertise. And the model is just very unique in that we have members from law enforcement, we have social workers, caseworkers. We have members of the nonprofit community that come alongside the county services to provide a lot of services to our survivors of human trafficking. And then we also have the prosecutors and the federal law enforcement represented on the committee as well. And this committee meets with the congressman personally, regularly to keep him abreast of all the issues and all the challenges we’re facing with human trafficking. And as you’ve seen in some of our committee meetings, there are times when the congressman is able to solve a problem there at the meeting.

Sandie: [00:05:01] It’s amazing. We start talking about this problem, and he’s like, “Sara, can we do something about that.” And Sara says, “Well yes.” And the next thing you know someone is making a call and there we have a solution right on the table.

Sara: [00:05:17] Yeah. So, it’s a really unique model but it’s worked very well for us. And I think the other benefit is law enforcement and the non-profit community rarely speaks to one another. So, at these roundtable meetings in addition to communicating with the congressman, as you’ve seen Sandie, they communicate with each other. And there are times when I adjourn the meeting and people will sit in my office for another 30 minutes just to kind of you know catch up with one another because you just don’t have that opportunity when you’re in this full time.

Sandie: [00:05:51] Well and I have to tell you before the meeting starts in the little waiting area as we arrive, I’ve gotten in the habit of getting there as early as I can because that’s a chance to see people I don’t ordinarily see and find out what’s going on in their world. So yeah, congratulations on such a good job on that. You know the other thing that has always stood out to me is how you’ve used your position to educate in the community and to extend advocacy on behalf of women. And you know I’m a professor at a university, so I have a lot of young women and you’ve been on campus and I mean they look at me and I’m you know I have grandchildren they look at you in there like I want to be that. And so, I kind of want to start back from the beginning of how you prepared to do something. I’ve had so many students who tell me I’m passionate and not just students, people in the community, people from the faith-based community from nonprofits and their idea about fighting human trafficking is maybe well we’re going to open another home although we need more beds but maybe that’s not the best place to go. And they get discouraged. So, tell me a little bit more about how you prepared and what you would say to that young person.

Sara: [00:07:23] Yeah, I think the word preparation is critical. I would add one other word to that, and that’s research. You have to do your research. So, when I was figuring out my career path, which I did at a much younger age than normal, I think it’s very normal for young people to feel passionate about an issue and not be sure how they want to get engaged. So, I think that is fine. It’s wonderful, you have all this energy you just need to focus it in the right direction. So, I have a lot of interns who come through here as well. And what I always recommend to them is just volunteer, if there is an opportunity take it. If it’s something you’re not sure about you might be interested in it and you might not take it. And always accept any opportunity that comes your way. That’s been my kind of mantra and it will open up your eyes to different aspects that maybe you didn’t even know you were interested in. So, if there is a volunteer opportunity I think you should take it, if there is an internship opportunity you should take it. If you are a university student look at the opportunities, Vanguard’s a wonderful university they already have a lot of opportunities in place. You don’t necessarily have to go out and create something from scratch. You just have to take the initiative to go in, to speak to your teachers, to speak to your counselors, to figure out what opportunities are there. And just really try it out. I mean nobody knows what they want to do for the rest of their life at 18 and 19 and 21. You’ve got to try these things out. And I think you’ll be surprised at what you learn and be surprised at the things that interest you and maybe pull at your heartstrings and motivate you that maybe you never even really thought about before. For me, I decided to go to a university that was very close to the state capital because I decided that through various volunteer opportunities that I wanted to get involved in government service. So, I did that because it opened the door for me to then work at the Capitol full time while I was putting myself through school full time. So that was what worked for me. A lot of other universities will have D.C. programs where you can go intern in Washington D.C. or maybe intern for the Foreign Affairs Committee or intern for a think tank. I mean there’s a lot of different ways to get involved outside of as you mentioned you know trying to start a group home which is an extremely challenging endeavor and incredibly important that it be done properly. So, I mean there’s so many ways you can get involved. You can start with one hour a week and just really get engaged from there. There are a lot of opportunities to get involved. You just really need to dive in, do your research, figure out what’s out there and really try it all out and you never know what you’re going to love.

Sandie: [00:10:09] So how did you decide to become a history major?

Sara: [00:10:14] It’s always been of interest to me. And I did take several political science classes, but history really, I felt like was the most critical component to shaping policy. So, in political science, you learn a lot of strategies, things like the science part of political science and it’s incredibly important. And I did take many of those classes. But for me, knowing your history, knowing the world’s history, was more important in crafting policy for the future and making sure that we don’t repeat mistakes from the past and learning from the past and learning what worked and building on that going forward.

Sandie: [00:10:55] So how does that influence your approach to fighting human trafficking?

Sara: [00:11:02] Well I think we’ve seen through global history, I mean we’ve seen examples of the best and the worst. I mean we’ve seen societies where women and children specifically, who tend to be the most vulnerable, how they can be treated. And how when a society does evolve, and start passing democratic reforms, and they start instituting rights for women and children and how that can move a society forward. And you mentioned that those societies that perform well are usually those that have a more gender equality format. Those are also the societies that tend to have the least amount of conflict and go to wars less often and things like that. So, I think if you study history you learn that model and you learn the importance of global rights for women and for children. And just a quick example of that. You’d be hard pressed to find a better student of history than the chairman Ed Royce. And that was a big reason behind his push for international rights for women starting with just it seems like a very simple concept but the birth registry. There are many many countries in this world that do not register the birth of girls and obviously that creates a huge problem as you’re going forward, if you try to get any sort of documentation, if you end up being a refugee for any reason, you have no proof of who you are or where you were born or when you were born. How are you ever going to get the proper paperwork to emigrate to become a refugee to join a refugee camp. Anything like that. So, he looked at that situation and realized that a lot of the problems that lead to trafficking that leads to exploitation of women and children stem from the fact that they don’t even have the most basic fundamental human rights in many nations.

Sandie: [00:12:57] That was such an amazing step forward to get that passed. When you think about the fact that there are girls whose birth was never registered, you have to then look back at statistics that say this percentage of girls are getting an education. But if half of the girls in that community were never registered, then they’re not even being counted in that. So back to my philosophy is never trust statistics. So, tell me one of your favorite legislative agendas that you’ve got to help push forward?

Sara: [00:13:35] Yeah, I mean there’s so many. Most of them stem from being engaged in advancing women’s rights. I think also probably one of the most influential if I can just use that answer would be affecting the TIP Report. You know the report very well. Trafficking in Persons Reports that are produced and we’ve seen previously that it wasn’t really significant, countries didn’t really care about where they were on the TIP Report. And we’ve seen that change and we’ve seen now where nations will come to the State Department or come to different representatives and say I don’t want to be a Tier 3 country, what do I have to do to move up to tier 2. And I think that’s extremely significant and I think it gives us an excellent negotiating aspect when we’re dealing with these countries who are Tier 3 or Tier 2 countries. It’s not sanctioned, it’s not you know avoiding conflict. It’s just this other kind of carrot that we can put on the table where we say you know if you work on weeding out corruption in your law enforcement, if you work on establishing more of an independent judiciary, if you work on some of these just basic reforms you know we can actually bump you up and it increases your world standing things like that. I think that’s incredibly important. But I think the most significant piece of legislation would be the reauthorization of the TVPA or now the TVPRA, which is the main legislation that governs all federal law for human trafficking. As you know, that landmark piece of legislation was many decades old and needed to be revitalized. And getting that landmark piece of legislation through our committee was definitely the most significant.

Sandie: [00:15:22] So give us like three highlights of that change in the reauthorization. Yeah, I think the main points in that bill was just to modernize it. You know when we started looking at human trafficking in the 90s and think about our society, think about how digital we are now, how different law enforcement is now, how different the tactics are now. We were looking at victims of human trafficking in the 90s, especially sex trafficking as prostitutes, and just think of the shift where we have gone now where we realize them for what they are which is victims. And getting the resources in that bill to move them from victims to survivors. That’s the most significant thing for me to try to reauthorize programs that are already working and to provide for the establishment of new programs to try to meet the need where there are no resources currently on the ground. But also, just modernizing the legislation, giving law enforcement the tools they need to go after the traffickers to try to shut down the online trafficking as you know the chairman talks about endlessly. That’s just a critical component that will be involved in our fight against human trafficking for as long as I’m alive, I’m sure of it.

Sandie: [00:16:39] Absolutely and modernizing and having tools that are contemporary. Those are critical aspects towards strategies to really make a difference from the prosecution perspective. And the victim-centered emphasis in the reauthorization really improved resources for survivors and is beginning to also creep into the first p, you know we have prevention, protection, prosecution, of prevention and seeing more legislation now trickle down and impact state legislation to do more for prevention of domestic human trafficking. And I’m really thankful for his leadership and yours in that.

Sara: [00:17:30] I think we will see some more reforms to domestic prevention when it comes to things like foster care. And trying to shut down that horrible pipeline where we have kids that we lose in the system, that recent FBI raid showed that 80 percent of the victims they rescued had either recently been or were a product of the foster care system. So, I mean that’s a huge problem that we have in the nation with domestic trafficking that we need to shut down.

Sandie: [00:17:59] And that’s going to take a lot more local significance. The other thing that you were part of as a partner in representative Royce’s district was a women’s annual event. Can you talk about that a little bit? We just finished another podcast about how do we empower women?

Sara: [00:18:23] Yeah it was really really wonderful. It was my chief of staff’s idea to have a women’s conference and every year we would plan a large annual conference. We would have a keynote speaker and we would do a half day conference, so we wouldn’t take over your whole day, but we would try to touch on all the topics that women are concerned about in their daily life. So, it was everything from education, to finance, to women’s health. And we tried to tailor it to everybody. So, I even had a panel one year that was reintegration into the workforce because we were seeing studies of baby boomers who you know maybe didn’t plan for retirement or maybe took a break to raise their children and are now trying to re-enter the workforce. It’s a very different need, they have a very different skill set than somebody who is coming right out of college. So, we tried to do certain panels that would affect those women and try to re-educate them and try to explain the differences. And we even had a resume writing workshop and we had members of our local financial institutions and credit unions who would come and talk to women about saving for retirement, planning for retirement. And we ended up realizing that a lot of women in Orange County are very sophisticated when it comes to their financial And then there are a lot of recent college graduates who are not as sophisticated. So, we’ve split that panel out into a financial literacy program for women 1.0 and 2.0. So, 1.0 was here’s your FICO score, this is why it’s important, this is why you need to know it, this is what you can do with it. And 2.0 was ere you prepared for retirement? We’re living longer now, women are in the workforce more and longer now, are you planning for that properly? Are you prepared or are you set up for success in your long term? And then after that, you know kind of working session in the morning we would all come together and have a keynote speaker at the end and actually several of them have focused on human trafficking. We had Kristen Bell who is an actress who is very involved with Joseph Kony and the invisible children and trying to deal with the child soldier issue on the African continent. She was our speaker for one year. We had Angie Harmon who’s an orphan actress as a UNICEF ambassador. She was talking about human trafficking. And then we had Condoleezza Rice and she just also gave a tremendous motivating, empowering speech to all the women in the audience about why they need to get involved and why a woman’s voice is so critical to have at the table. And she definitely in the nine years that I did the conference she definitely will go down as my favorite keynote speaker.

Sandie: [00:21:13] I was there that year and I have to tell you every year I’ve gone people are lined up around the building just to get in at a very early hour because it is so powerful, and the workshops are so intentional about improving things like financial literacy. And it was so well done because it addressed such a broad spectrum of issues and levels of competency, so people would be able to improve no matter where they were. So, kudos to you.

Sara: [00:21:49] Thank you, I appreciate it.

Sandie: [00:21:50] So ending up on Condoleezza Rice is such a good place to be because empowering women in this patriarchal society that we’ve grown up in and we’ve expected there will be more men than women in leadership. We look at our legislative bodies and women aren’t even in them. I’ll just tell you this, the first time I went to Iraq I visited the Kurdistan Regional Government Parliament and the first thing that the equivalent of the speaker of the House, said to me was we have 30 percent women and you only have 16.9 percent women. And I was just, I mean I was on the defensive right away. And there are a whole lot of other grey areas around that, but what is the next step?

Sara: [00:22:44] The next step to getting more women engaged. I do think we’re moving there as a society and I think from my parent’s generation to now views on women in leadership have changed dramatically. So, I take no credit for any of that, but I will fully exploit the benefit of it. But I think as a society we’re becoming much more comfortable with that. I think you have more than 50 percent of college graduates are women now and that’s now moving into the graduate degree area. And I think as that continues and we keep that pipeline to upper management flooded with women I think that that will change. But I think we’ve also seen different organizations pop up. I used to be the president of a statewide organization that was the California Women’s Leadership Association. And it was dedicated to getting women more involved in politics. Not every woman wants to run for office, it is an extremely challenging line of work. But I think if we get more women engaged just being more educated voters, volunteering more, showing up to these events and learning more, meeting candidates, going to coffees meeting your local representatives, the more women get engaged the more likely we are even to get 20 more percent or 25 percent more women who raise their hand say I am maybe crazy enough to just maybe want to give this a shot. But I think we can’t go from where we are now to saying I want more women elected because all that produces are women candidates who are placeholders. And that doesn’t help us, that doesn’t move society forward and it doesn’t move our cause forward of getting more qualified women elected. It really needs to start by getting them engaged first of all.

Sara: [00:24:36] So one of the things that CWLA, the Women’s Leadership Association that I just referenced, we had a luncheon that we’ve done every year for gosh I want to say about 10 years where we were encouraging women to seek appointed office. And that can be a very interesting kind of first foray into politics that’s less intimidating and just more acceptable to women who often have a full-time job in addition to wanting to get more engaged locally and maybe have a family to take care of and things like that as well as women we juggle it all. I have a family, a full-time job, and I volunteer in a lot of other nonprofit areas. So, there’s a lot going on for women. So, what we encourage them to do is to look at appointed offices. So, every city, every county, every state, wherever you live across the country has local commissions local boards and they’re appointed. So, you don’t have to run for office, you don’t have to raise money, you don’t have to pay for political mailers and smear campaigns, you can just apply just send in your resumé. And that’s how most women today that are involved in politics got involved. There is an issue that bothered them. They wanted a stop sign on their street. They got involved with the PTA or they got involved in you know tax reform for their business. And that made them want to fix the problem that they identified. I feel like at the core women tend to be more collaborative but we’re also very pragmatic and we like to solve problems. And that’s why I feel like we’re the best legislators. We want to get in there and fix it, but it can be very intimidating it’s a very crazy world. And if you’re watching the news right now it can be intimidating for somebody who’s not currently involved. So, I think taking that first step, applying for a commission sitting on a board is a very easy transition than to running for office.

Sandie: [00:26:34] I like that. And what a great message for young people for college students for people trying to decide how am I going to make a difference in the issues that underlie human trafficking. It’s complex. If you’re working towards a degree where you’re going to work in our social welfare system with our foster youth, those are all pieces of this very complex puzzles, so I love how you framed that. Sarah thank you so much for joining us today. Do you have a final word you want to say to our listeners about ending human trafficking?

Sara: [00:27:18] Yeah. Thank you so much again, Sandie, for this opportunity. And I think human trafficking obviously is the challenge of our time and it is overwhelming, and it is a complex problem. But the way that I believe we solve this problem is by engaging as many people as possible and we do it one step at a time. If you look at the issue of human trafficking it can be very overwhelming, and I think by taking one step by getting involved by getting engaged by volunteering in some way that’s how I think we turn the tide. We’ve already turned public opinion to be more educated and more focused on helping these survivors. And I think by now mobilizing those more educated citizens into volunteers, that’s really how we’re going to solve the problem. And I look forward to being one of those foot soldiers and one of the volunteers.

Sara: [00:28:14] And where will we find you next as Congressman Roy steps away from the political center?

Sara: [00:28:19] Yeah, I’m going to be transitioning to be the chief of staff for a local state senator, her name is Ling Ling Chang. And she’s located right here in North Orange County, in L.A. County, and a little bit of San Bernardino County. So, I’m not stepping out of this fight. I’m just switching from the federal to the state and I’m excited about that because I think there’s a whole different set of challenges at the state level. A lot of which tends to focus around funding and I’m excited to jump on that fight and do the best I can to try to continue to help those survivors.

Sandie: [00:28:53] Well, congratulations. And you can be sure that we’re going to be following you and staying engaged.

Sara: [00:29:00] Thank you.

Dave: [00:29:01] Sandie and Sarah, you know you’re both just such an inspiration for the partnership that we talk about so much on the show. And Sandie, it’s such a central mission for the Global Center for Women and Justice, the partnership that’s talked about in the TIP Report that Sarah mentioned. And just the importance of collaboration is such a theme of this conversation and we are inviting you as well to take that first step. If you’ve been inspired by what Sara said and you’re ready to do some of that research that came up in the first part of the conversation, I hope you’ll take the first step today of hopping online and downloading a copy of Sandie’s book, The Five Things You Must Know, a quick start guide to ending human trafficking. It will teach you the five critical things that Sandie and our team at the Global Center for Women and Justice here at Vanguard University have identified that you should know before you join the fight against human trafficking. There’s so much on studying the issues, in order to be a voice and make a difference on this that that guide will help with. You can get access to that right now by visiting endinghumantrafficking.org. In addition, all of our podcast resources and show notes are posted there as well for all the episodes that we air. And if today’s conversation has generated a question for you, you can send it to us at feedback@endinghumantrafficking.org. We’d love to hear from you and learn how we can help more. Sandie, I’ll look forward to seeing you again in two weeks.

Sandie: [00:30:34] Thanks, Dave.

Dave: [00:30:35] Take care, everyone.

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