238 – Integrated and Synchronized: Homeland Security launches Center for Countering Human Trafficking

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Dr. Sandie Morgan and Interim Director Angie Salazar discuss the opening of the Center for Countering Human Trafficking, a collaboration of multiple departments with the Department of Homeland Security. Director Salazar describes her goals and plans for the center and the role the center is going to play in the future of combating human trafficking.

Interim Director Angie Salazar

Angie Salazar Interim Director, Center for Countering Human Trafficking As the Interim Director, Ms. Salazar brings nearly two decades of law enforcement experience to  She began her federal law enforcement career with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in California where she investigated human smuggling and trafficking, border violence and money laundering, and has since served in multiple leadership positions throughout HSI, at its headquarters and in domestic and international field offices. During her career, Ms. Salazar has led law enforcement operations; developed policies and initiatives regarding human trafficking investigative programs; coordinated with other U.S. and international government agencies on trafficking investigations and victim services; and conducted training worldwide on best practices to combat human trafficking.

Key Points

  • Interim Director Angie Salazar leads the Center for Countering Human Trafficking, which consists of a collaboration between 16 departments within the Department of Homeland Security.
  • The Center for Countering Human Trafficking is going to be broken down into four sectors: operations, intelligence, victim protection and support, and training and outreach.
  • The Center for Countering Human Trafficking is reviewing existing law enforcement information and will work with partners to modernize, understand needs, and learn best practices to open the lines of communication and be a resource to everyone in the fight to end human trafficking.


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Dave [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast, this is episode number 238, Integrated and Synchronized: Homeland Security Launches Center for Countering Human Trafficking.


Production Credits [00:00:11] Produced by Innovate Learning, Maximizing Human Potential.


Dave [00:00:32] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast, my name is Dave Stachowiak.


Sandie [00:00:37] My name is Sandie Morgan.


Dave [00:00:40] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Today, we are so glad to have with us one of our government partners here in the United States who has just been a tremendous leader and really here to share some exciting updates with us. I’m so glad to welcome to the show today, Angie Salazar. Angie is the Interim Director for the Center for Countering Human Trafficking. And as Interim Director, Ms. Salazar brings nearly two decades of law enforcement experience to her work. She began her federal law enforcement career with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ICE and Homeland Security Investigations HSI in California, where she investigated human smuggling and trafficking, border violence, and money laundering. And she has also served in multiple leadership positions throughout HSI, at its headquarters, and at domestic and international field offices. During her career, Ms. Salazar has led law enforcement operations, develop policies and initiatives regarding human trafficking, investigative programs coordinated with other U.S. and international government agencies on trafficking investigations and victim services, and conducted training worldwide on best practices to combat human trafficking. Director Salazar, we’re so glad to welcome you to the show.


Angie [00:01:56] Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here with the two of you.


Sandie [00:02:00] Well, Angie, you and I co-presented at the faith-based webinar called Serving on the Front Lines The Impact of Faith and Community Leaders in Countering Human Trafficking for over 20 years. And that was last month as we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our Trafficking Victims Protection Act. And I was so excited about your presentation, I couldn’t wait to schedule you to be on the podcast so our listeners can learn more about the innovations that are happening with the center. And if anybody wants to go take a look at that webinar, the link will be in the show notes, as usual. So, let’s just start off and tell us what the Center for Countering Human Trafficking actually is.


Angie [00:02:52] Sure. So, we launched this center on October 20th. Officially, the secretary signed the policy creating the Center for Countering Human Trafficking and committed 16 of the departments, federal agencies to come together and counter human trafficking, both sex trafficking and labor trafficking occurring in the United States. And also, we’re going to be investigating the importation of goods produced with forced labor in foreign countries. We plan on accomplishing this through existing law enforcement programs and then some innovative training and education and of course, working with victim advocacy. So, the department has focused on human trafficking for years. However, the department has is a large department and we have a lot of federal agencies who independently look at indicators of trafficking through each respective agency’s authority. For example, TSA at the airport, they work closely and monitor, and all are trained on what indicators might look like. But now all of these agencies will have a representative who sits at the Center for Countering Human Trafficking that people in the field can call and rely on a real-time basis for support when encountering a potential victim or a potential activity that they believe might be human trafficking.


Sandie [00:04:25] So when I first heard about this center, I thought that the agencies that were gathering were really the same agencies that sit around the table on the interagency task force. But then I began to understand that the Department of Homeland Security isn’t just one office or one building, but there are 16 DHS programs. Can you give me some categories for what those programs include? You mentioned already TSA that we see at the airport. That’s something we all know about.


Angie [00:05:03] Right. So, the department has more than 16 agencies, but we decided that for the Center for Countering Human Trafficking there are 16 that more specifically align with this crime and investigating it. So, I mentioned TSA, but both Immigration and Customs Enforcement, we’ll have ourselves a Homeland Security investigation, U.S. Coast Guard is going to sit with US Customs and Border Protection, both the Office of Border Patrol, also the Office of Field Operations. So, the folks in blue uniform that you see at the ports of entry and then the folks that are in green uniforms who sit in between and guard the land in between ports of entry. Also, Customs and Border Protection, Office of Trade, those folks looking at all the importations coming in. And who many of you may have seen in the news recently for issuing the withhold release orders on goods produced with forced labor, FEMA, Secret Service, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, to name a few of the law enforcement agencies who will now have someone assigned to the center.


Sandie [00:06:19] So tell us from your perspective what the significance is of convening those kinds of resources in one place.


Angie [00:06:30] So for those who’ve investigated this crime in the field, we all start somewhere. And I specifically remember getting the lead, the first human trafficking case I ever worked on in San Diego, California. And it was someone reporting it was actually the consulate of Mexico letting us know that they believe some folks are being forced to work without pay. And as a new investigator, you often wish you had a center or, you know, someone specific that you could go to for all the things you might need to investigate these very complicated cases. And I know the center is going to be that center for law enforcement, a place you can call and find out more about the potential perpetrator that you’re looking at. But we’re going to have four different sections at the center. One is going to be operations, which is going to be subject matter experts sitting and working with our field offices to further human-forced labor sex trafficking cases. We’re going to have another section for intelligence. We already have over 10 analysts sitting at our center looking at cases and helping field offices who have ongoing investigations to further identify who the perpetrators are, what the links might be, and really build out these cases to make sure that we look at all the potential victims in the field and then also make sure that all the perpetrators responsible for the activity are being looked at. Also, the third section is victim protection and support. We’re going to work with our existing HSI Victim Assistance Program to make sure that as we’re pursuing these cases and as our investigators in the field are investigating the crime, that we make sure that they’re paralleling the investigation with the victims, the survivors, and making sure that we’re doing our part to stabilize them and make sure that they get the services that they’re entitled to. And then the fourth section of the center will be training and outreach. And right now, we’re working on cataloging all of the different agencies that I mentioned, existing training and outreach to catalog what it is that we have, what exists, who have we given it to, what works, what needs improvement, and then build the catalog that all of the existing agencies can continue to give independently, but that we can make sure we have some metrics behind it. Also, the blue campaign will now be co-located at the center. So, they’ve done a magnificent job of raising awareness and providing materials really globally. And we expect them to just align more closely with the law enforcement side of the house now and just make the outreach even better.


Sandie [00:09:27] That is so good. And Blue Campaign is one of my favorite things to participate in every January. We’ll put a link to that. My favorite 30 minute get up to speed on how to identify trafficking is the blue campaign video because you can’t go forward. Remember, I’m a teacher until you answer the quiz questions in the online training. So, it’s terrific. So, when you’re talking about these sections and integrating and synchronizing on a case, how would local or state investigations, how would they be integrated?


Angie [00:10:08] So this new center really relies heavily on the existing homeland security investigations field offices, we have offices throughout the United States, and we have 80 offices abroad. So, in the US, we would expect that state and local continue their work with their local office uninterrupted. But if they don’t have that connection, then the center will help bridge that gap and make sure that we link up HSI and all the other DHS agencies with task forces that exist or with task forces that are looking to be created. I was just on the phone with the federal law enforcement training center. They do the specific state and local training, I believe, quarterly now and now that the center exists, that same training is going to be a part of the center. And we’re going to make sure that we work with state and locals to get them the training they need. And often we are relying on state and locals to understand what’s happening in these communities or counties. And so, we hope that by the center’s existence, we will continue to improve the partnerships on a state and local level.


Sandie [00:11:29] I think that’s a really exciting initiative because there has been a sense that sometimes state and local and federal aren’t always in the same room together. And but they’re working on some of the same cases, especially when we’re talking about cases with crossover that are international. So, you have 80 international offices. That’s amazing reach. And I’m sure that local communities, coalitions, and task-forces will need to learn how they can better connect with the center. So, can you give us maybe some examples of what that might look like? Would it be just somebody calling your office or initiating and build out a case study?


Angie [00:12:23] Sure. So, we have the email, which is for anyone to reach out to us at ccht@hq.dhs.gov And anyone can reach out to us for any specific needs that they have. But some of the things that we’re doing to try and make sure that we are not duplicating and working more efficiently is looking at our existing investigations ongoing throughout the world and figuring out what are the demographics of the victims in those cases, what are the demographics of the traffickers and what is the method of operations that are being most commonly used in ongoing cases today? And then we plan on sharing that information on a real-time basis with our law enforcement partners, either through the DHS Office of State and Local Law Enforcement or through our respective federal agencies who are sitting at the center releasing it to all of their partners. But our goal is really to increase communication and share what we know and in turn, ask for state and local share back what they’re seeing. I think there’s nothing better to improve prevention than sharing this specific real-time information. If it’s law enforcement sensitive or if there are other sensitivities around it, of course we will protect it. However, we can share general information and methods of operation with the general public so we can better protect a potential person susceptible to, you know, a new M.O. that traffickers are using, whether it be runaway kids or images being taken or any of that information that we can share to increase prevention, we hope to do.


Sandie [00:14:17] So, I sat up straighter and I was like, oh my gosh, this is astounding. Real-time evidence or maybe not evidence so much as intelligence about methodology. I know that sometimes I go to a training and someone is using a slide deck from 15 years ago. And I’m sitting there thinking, oh, my gosh, the traffickers haven’t used that method in years because they already know that we know how to catch them that way. So, they come up with new patterns and we have to stay up to speed on that. And so, this is especially really helpful because the local person is only going to know what’s happening there. So, if somebody from another state. Or another country comes to our area, it’s going to look all new to us, so this is amazing.


Angie [00:15:14] It’s definitely a huge undertaking. But I believe if we’re really going to get in the space of prevention, it’s something that has to be done and we have to be able to share it, obviously, within all the rules. Right. But I don’t think we should hold back from telling the public that runaway youth is especially at risk of a specific type of trafficking method. So that’s our goal. Hopefully more to come soon.


Sandie [00:15:45] That is so exciting. The other thing you mentioned that captured my attention is the focus on labor trafficking. Can you expand a little bit more on that? I feel like it’s like a sleeping giant, especially out here in California where I live.


Angie [00:16:02] So our forced labor cases that we see, they vary. Sometimes we have one forced labor case where there is a domestic servant, but we’ve seen large scale forced labor cases at agricultural farms, at chicken farms, all different types. We are making sure that our agents in the field and our law enforcement partners understand the crime and that we’re looking for it. We’ve even seen where prosecutors charge forced labor on commercial sex cases. But what’s new to the center is that we’re also looking at forced labor abroad that results in supply chain goods coming into the United States. So, as I mentioned, CBP, Office of Trade, they look at and they receive allegations of goods that are being imported into the United States and that were produced with forced labor abroad. We will be working on those cases also. So, looking at what companies are benefiting and knowingly having goods made abroad for-profit and having those goods made with forced labor and then turning around and importing them into the United States.


Sandie [00:17:23] The first time that CBP, tell us what those initials mean.


Angie [00:17:27] Customs and Border Protection.


Sandie [00:17:30] Right. It was on the tip of my tongue. And I want to make sure everybody knows the first time at our port close to Vanguard that they actually didn’t allow goods in. We wanted to celebrate because in California we passed the Supply Chain Transparency Act back in 2010. But there are no real teeth. Just community leaders and businesses are required to do supply chain transparency. But now a business, it doesn’t matter where you are. If you’ve ordered goods coming in through the port and they aren’t allowed into the country, next time you’re going to check your supply chain before you order. So, the deterrents actually end up amplifying prevention back in a country that we may never visit. So that’s really exciting news. And when we think about synchronized, when I heard that word and I was reading through things, tell me what that looks like in the center.


Angie [00:18:35] Well, the first time we synchronized DHS agencies under one or for one specific purpose before, but it’s the first time that the department is doing it to combat human trafficking. And so, all of the federal agents I mentioned, agencies have very specific authority and their own data, and their own information and even their own training to combat human trafficking exist based on what they do day in and day out and their job responsibilities. So, bringing all of that together looks like a lot of information, a lot of authority, all focused around one thing, ending human trafficking, making sure that we all bring together our expertise to find new and innovative ways on how to think outside the box, to look at these investigations, look at the intelligence. We have some folks who have come in, Coast Guard just came in. We’re looking at the fishing industry and how kids are losing limbs and fingers abroad, trying to make a living and, you know, coast guards talking about their authority in the water and how do we use all of that together to do good, really to just do better around the world when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable populations.


Sandie [00:20:07] That’s. So, encouraging. Let me ask you how you envision community participation, I think one of the things that captured my attention was that public and NGO partners are included in your mission statement.


Angie [00:20:25] Yes. So, we’re really clear. And I said at the opening of the announcement of the center, those of us who work in this realm to end human trafficking are acutely aware that we cannot win this battle without everyone sitting at the table. And a big part of that is the community, whether it’s the general public sharing information, telling us what they see or whether it’s the NGO community helping in different sectors. We have NGOs specifically looking at training, others at just supporting victims, others that are trying to curb demand. So immediately speaking all the resources that we’ve had and developed, such as, you know, how to report suspicious activity or materials produced from the blue campaign or training requests, none of that is changing. We are continuing to do all of that. But one of the things we really want to do better and improve is having, for lack of a better word right now, something like committees, like subcommittees of the center focused on those specific tracks that we can partner with so that we government and law enforcement, it isn’t working in a silo or operating in a silo, and that we’re having real conversations to make sure that what we’re doing is best for everyone and isn’t outdated or irrelevant today. So that’s one way we plan on engaging the community.


Sandie [00:22:05] That sounds amazing. I know I’m part of a little working group trying to develop screening tools to identify child victims of labor trafficking here in the US. And we have mostly anecdotal evidence but developing screening tools. Once we got into it, we identified very quickly that the screening tools would need to be sector specific. So, a child in labor trafficking in an agricultural area will present differently than in domestic servitude and that sort of thing. Are there already existing trainings that will be sorted through and synchronized and integrated with all of those things that you said earlier that actually break up training by sectors already?


Angie [00:23:04] Yes. So that’s what we hope to discover as we start really reviewing all of the training. Right. That’s more advanced as well as outreach because we do both. We’ve done both around the world at different levels. We have some training programs that are really advanced and then we have different training for different audiences. So, we really hope to look at what exists and then categorize it by audience, by advanced training or basic training, and then make sure that we make it available to different audiences, but also different sectors, whether it’s a private sector, the financial sector. I know the financial sector really wants to engage and make sure that they’re informed as they do anti-money laundering efforts so that we can work together on combating the crime. So that is that’s our goal. It’s a lot, a lot that we have to accomplish. I’m hoping at a minimum to establish the processes to get these goals accomplished, the process to catalog training, the process to support law enforcement, and then a process to identify the global human trafficking threats that we’re encountering and then hopefully over the next year start really making some progress with those.


Sandie [00:24:34] It’s an exciting place to be. And I love that you bring so much experience to your leadership. And I just want to kind of recap, what are the four sections again?


Angie [00:24:47] So we’re going to have an operational section that really looks at existing investigations and works with the investigators in the field to further those. We are going to have an intelligence section that complements operations to build out cases, identify global threats. And then look at existing cases to be able to give us the information to share in real-time with the public for prevention, the third section is victim protection and support. And then the fourth is training and outreach.


Sandie [00:25:21] OK, so I love to ask the question if you knew then 20 years ago when you started in this, what you know now, what would you have done differently?


Angie [00:25:34] This is a great question, and I share it all the time, I don’t think those who haven’t had the firsthand experience of investigating these crimes, I don’t think they fully appreciate how important partnerships are to the success of the investigation and to the success of stabilizing a victim or a survivor. And I tell everyone, when I teach about human trafficking, whether it’s in the United States or abroad, get to know who your partners are locally, build those relationships, make sure you know who’s able to do what. Be inclusive so that when you are faced with a trafficking situation, you have the team required to successfully see it through.


Sandie [00:26:26] What a great way to close today’s show, Angie. Thank you so much for being on the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. And we’ll have you back when you’ve got those metrics in place. And we can do some fun, real-time stuff.


Angie [00:26:42] Excellent. Thank you so much for having me.


Dave [00:26:45] Thank you so much to you both. We’ve mentioned a number of links and resources in today’s conversation, and if you would like to dive into those in more detail, I hope you’ll go over to Endinghumantrafficking.org. Also, if you have a question that’s come out of today’s conversation, feedback at Endinghumantrafficking.org is the very best way for you to get it to us while you’re online. We’re inviting you to take the first step. Download a copy of Sandie’s book, The Five Things You Must Know: A Quick Start Guide to Ending human trafficking. It’s absolutely free. It’ll teach you the five critical things that Sandie has identified that you should know before you join the fight against human trafficking. You can get access by going over to Endinghumantrafficking.org. And a reminder, the next Ensure Justice conference will be held in early 2021, March 5th and 6th. If you’re looking for more information on that, go over to EnsureJustice.com and we will see you back in two weeks. Thanks, Sandie. Take care. Thanks, Dave.

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