Lauren Devine and Alexis Polen
DescriptionColleagues Lauren Devine (33) and Alexis Polen [no age given] come together to share their personal and professional experiences to analyze the field of Human Trafficking.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Lauren Devine
- Alexis Polen
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
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00:02 My name is Alexis Polen. Today is March 19th, 2021. I'm here with Lauren Devine and my colleague at the office on trafficking in persons. Otherwise.
00:16 Hi, I am Lauren Devine. I'm 33 years old. Today is March 19th, 2021 and grateful to be here, not office of traffic.
00:37 I'm good. I'm definitely been busy busy busy month. Yeah, I think busy is probably the proper terminology feel like I'm kind of just like floating between meetings and situation.
00:56 Same here in here, things have definitely gotten busier.
01:02 Trafficking in persons work on issues that are related to all populations and labor and trafficking. But we also have a close relationship. Just because we're also part of the administration for children and families with office of refugee resettlement. And I know that our team that you leave Lauren, lot of the cases. You look out for trafficking for children, 10 to come from, or be about children, who are migrating across by himself. So, unaccompanied minors rights do children under the age of 18, who are
01:45 Who are or just not with a legal guardian, who then are apprehended by Department of Homeland, Security? And then Homeland Security, is really required to transfer them to House of Human Services custody within 72 hours of their concerns of trafficking. I know that tends to end up in your hand, soap review at some point. And so as we're seeing was a lot of kids, you know, who are coming to the US. Then that means our office is definitely engaged and I know that you're feeling it and, and I'm feeling it too. So, I'm just wondering how, how are you finding the time to work on extra stuff?
02:27 I've been trying to expand time and make more than 24 hours in a day, but it's not working and getting creative with the time that I do have. I think I find p o. I I think working virtually. I have been working so much with calendars in Outlook and working on electronic calendars and in writing things down. But this last couple weeks. I've been back to my Andy notebook and pen and paper to write down things to do. Because you'll be working in one thing and then something will come through like play that you have to respond to that's really important. And so I've just been writing everything down and actually that's been helping with my time. Just keeping track.
03:15 I've been also probably ordering too much food and not cooking as much. Lots of sushi. A lots of yummy food ever. And yeah, trying to definitely make time to get at least eight or nine hours of sleep because I am not function without it and it take time to puppy weeks ago. So I'm being creative with the time I guess for me a different cuz I have no control over the Sleep situation. I have a son, you know, covid-19 pandemic old are the first half a year or so of his life because of quarantine and etcetera and so he was introduced absolutely nothing in terms of introductions, the bacteria and buy.
04:15 Immune system. So now he's a dick and die quickly for the last more than 2 to 3 hours at a time is when it does happen. It's a real gift. So it's about exercise. I guess it's like really the only way that I can kind of incorporate some things that's going to help her engaged in the way Each of which is being super flexible. And yet being able to see detailed specific about the estate agent or a certain region or a case manager, or local law enforcement, or whoever it is that needs to engage with us and needs some help understanding how to add services to a trafficking.
05:09 Switching, gears a little bit more and I was curious. I know you told me once upon a time that
05:21 Actually pursued for a degree when you are in school. You pursued a degree related to human trafficking and I even think you said that you studying the circumstances and contacts around unaccompanied children as well. And I'm just curious if that's a true and be. How did you even discover this as a societal issue? Because I know me when I started working with a company kids, 10 years ago. I actually had never had had not even heard of the issue until I started the work. Sorry. I love the look know a little bit more about how you were so prescient and knowing that there is need and why you're so immediately until actually engaged.
06:04 Yeah, I think for me, I was going to grad program for global social work and studies and international relations. So I had a lot of interest in working with various populations around the world. I did a lot of traveling volunteering in other countries too. Kind of, you know, she's learn and grow and when I went to grad school actually did a global clinical program, so my internship was actually in Vietnam was really cool. And because of that, the track that I kind of treated for myself, is global global program said, a lot of coursework and immigration policy, and migration patterns, and providing sustainable interventions, clinically in, in Volvo settings, and all that stuff. But my first year was kind of those traditional social classes that have to get through before, you can really dive into the the interesting tracks that you're on. And
07:04 I was actually reading through some academic papers and in this would have been in in 2010 and I came across just some information related to the unaccompanied Refugee, minor Foster different. So that's like kids that are either or brought over from refugee camps and placed in foster care or their kid that identified as victims of torture or victims of trafficking, and placed into this federally funded foster care program. And I thought of every child in the United States. This might be the most vulnerable population I've ever heard of. And I, I just, you know, I, I wasn't even aware that this Federal Foster Care Program existed. And when I found out, I was like, I want to just know everything about that shows in Boston and there was I think of the time 11 or 12 or 14.
08:04 East foster care placement and they happen to be one about two hours from where I'm at. So I emailed them and I just said, hey, can I come meet you? I'm interested and I just showed up one day and talked with coordinator there and was like, what is this program? I want to learn more about it. So that kind of Interest I with Dan and all my papers and everything. I did, I really study that and I just had, you know, the last two years prior to that been studying just migration patterns with unaccompanied children in so kind of Gruen more interest in that other related to the company's Refugee Miners and Granddad were standing. So after I was in Vietnam working in human trafficking shoes, I came back and I was like, I'm just going to apply. So I lived in Boston for grad school, my family and our group of Florida. I was like, I'm going to just apply to any job openings at 8.
09:04 Unaccompanied Refugee program in the United States. So there was like two one was in Fort Worth, Texas. And one was in. I forget where it was what other city, and I got the job in Texas and I was like, yeah, I could be there in a week. So I drove I just drove got all my stuff go put on the car and drove to Texas. I chose my apartment by just looking around at open Apartments online and called them. And said, they gave me like a virtual tour and that I really like the food in Fort Worth, because it's all the food. I love endless, yummy enchiladas, and it was very excited. So in that program works with unaccompanied minors, and unaccompanied children by licensing, foster home. So, it was going into homes of people that
10:04 Legend, Texas couples individuals who wanted to provide foster care to unaccompanied children, unaccompanied minors, and Iowa, basically sitting for hours a day and I'm at the questions and then make recommendations about whether they could be fun. And then I would also do interventions. Like, if there was issues with a certain placement, may be a foster parent wasn't quite understanding, some cultural implications or something happening in the home. And so, I just kind of in that job just started just continue to observe a kind of viewed it as I can observation time and learning and growing. And yeah, and then when I came to DC and Stacy Foster Care Program in the lawn answer, about kind of how that developed, but it was it was one of those things were just kind of fell in my lap and it was like once a did. I was like, this is the
11:04 Most Fascinating, and the spacing population, and they have so many incredible, like, protective factors and risk factors, and so many different things and nuances that I just want to learn how to better support the speculations better with a system in. So yeah, that's how so I'm really good. I feel I feel really really similar, you know, I
11:36 You have done me me. I feel really very similar. Don't really different for me. I have always been interested in Refugee. Resettlement related work. You know, if the national interest in Paterson, I think Carly has to do maybe with my being Jewish, just seeing the needs of people who migrated and why, and understanding the challenges that are associated with my greeting to a new Society. But the pressure people for, they feel like it's just something they have to do for survival. If I think about a lot of ingrained into the culture from which I come from. But when I find the Peace Corps, and I, I went to after by John, this was from 2008 to 2010 and I had known about refugees, but that is just one status of type of person who might
12:36 I wasn't aware of the time of sort of the full, Continuum and spectrum, and how those are really can be political designations are technical designations of which there is international understanding and international understanding. That was me in an azerbaijani on in Armenia has been in a conflict with each other for a number of years. And so where I was living in Azerbaijan close by a internally displaced persons population community and azerbaijanis called them, got you translated as to those who ran it might not be a positive but that was a term that was used locally and soul in learning about and you know, the other type of person who is also on the spectrum of those who migrated and why are people who used to live in
13:36 Different lands, but Petland has to be at that time was under the control of our media. And so, they are displaced from their homes and their living and serve. As temporary as I thought that I would go there sometimes and try to teach computer classes are or things like you're getting better. Some understanding about people who different types of people who migrated and why something that helped me to continue to be really interested in and working with have been providing services to people who migrated in General of the United States. I moved to the DC area and all right, just Sean I was looking for job and I had a friend who works for us. She was working for a contractor with the office of refugee. Resettlement is just like an off-chance kind of thing. Would you let me know about a job opening and a job.
14:36 Is related to a new contract related to unaccompanied children. The contract that looks at decisions about whether or not and child should be released to what is called a sponsor. So an adult in the United States and they provide a third-party review. So like a consultation as to whether or not they think it's a safe choice of my my introduction. And I became so passionate so fast, so I feel very lucky to have that area. So incidentally, I also is expired. Yeah. It's easy to to pick up on the the saxophone or ability of children and creating particularly children who are migrating by themselves and wants to try to figure out how to enhance the services that are in place to ensure that their not not being exploited and or further exploded.
15:36 Time in and working in that area. I never own a level. I think that that you exemplify, that you actually look up information about cases of children who have or might have been exploited their debts and commercially exploited. So either sex or labor traffic in their country of origin on their way to the United States or even while they've been in the United States. Do you think and I say this? And I think sometimes you laugh at all, but I think when it comes to
16:16 Children who have been trafficked? Maybe even both stuck in traffic and labor traffic, maybe even more labor traffic. I think you may know more about their Journey Through the US system, you know, where that's Health and Human Services or Department of Justice, or Homeland Security or state or whatever. Maybe I think you might know more about that than anyone. Truly. Anyone. I can think of is, I think that you're an expert on it and I'm not sure it's, it's a reputable and I know you're probably or instinct is to be humble, but I would like to push you to think about what what is like to be in a to be so knowledgeable and to try to help so many people to navigator system that, you know more about
17:10 Why? You're so you're very kind of like this. I definitely I think it's it's honestly, it's one of those situations where your kind of in a position at place where you're just receiving that information. So I think anyone in that role could could be the expert and getting that information. I've just kind of been here for a few years and gotten it. And I think it's funny thinking through what I knew when I started versus what I know now and I'm like, oh, I wish I could have, you know, implemented, those things that are like, we, we knew that then, you know, you always are always thinking and kind of exciting to think how much more we're going to know in five years from now, and can better serve its population in and support them as I navigate things. I think. Yeah, I think there's there's just so many incredible things that in terms of progress that have happened over the last few years and especially since you and I even became aware the population in terms of trafficking prevention and trafficking protection for this population.
18:10 Provided benefits and services and immigration relief in legal support, but I think in all of that, it's also just become people become more and more aware that people become part where the reporting responsibilities, he will become more aware of their responsibilities, to help the child navigate all of that. Because as, you know, the process to figure out benefits to figure out, she's managers to figure out where you're going and rolling in school accessing Mental Health Services, access seen on how to access job or other Employment Services. All of that is such a process. I'm not even thinking about applying to college like what a present application process was and I can't imagine if it was in Sign Language different than mine. And then I'm in a new country trying to navigate all of that. And I am you know, there's 30 different applications that I need to fill out and I don't even know what forms I need and so I think
19:10 Trying to get as much as I can in my role and, you know, as much as I can, as an office to, to eliminate as many of those barriers as possible through grant program in another. And so, you know, a lot of art programs is basically dedicated to helping, you know, navigate navigate all those confusing barriers. And another thing that I've seen be helpful is training. So like so much training, even if you've trained one person training them again in a year. They're going to they're going to hear new things a year later. They're going to like new things are going to stick also just revisiting.
19:47 Procedures and protocols and things that you have in place to support children to navigate me, all of these things to do with it and say, oh, we need to make changes here like, yeah, that's kind of the last year, but like what if we just shipped this a bit, this will be even better. And so I think I just always want to have that openness to everything that were doing to be fluid to the needs of the population right now. For example, I mean, there's so many children. Are you coming right now coming into the United States and percentage-wise? And we may see an increase in referrals for trafficking because there's more children here and they're forced to work and get it. And because of that, we might have to be flexible to the way that offer our programming is to better support this this unique time.
20:47 You know, the surgeon in children coming across the border and I think. Yeah, so it's getting all of it. I think it's a constant Innovation flexibility, while also making sure structures are in place. And I think it's just so cool to reflect back on the last 20 years in the TV series of tests and things. You do like, how much progress has been made in 2014? You like. What is it going to look like in June? What is there going to be more like? And I know where we've been working so much and last year's and so many other groups have been as well on prevention. Still like what is that going to look? Like? What is the prevention? I said? So what are we going to see? Just to see those shifts? And I'm curious like, since you started up and or are that contract? You know, how do you notice a shift in trafficking prevention, protection just in your time, and I know,
21:47 No switch specific roles. And then everything is curious in terms of what you seen in terms of supporting the population in, what, what's worth it was changed and how yeah,
21:58 Yeah, there have been some important changes, first back in 2014, the last time last time. So, you know, it was involved. The Stafford Act was in both for a disaster. Could lead into large numbers of unaccompanied. Kids coming across, there was a change in which we office of refugee resettlement then introduced a hotline. That didn't exist before Once Upon a Time. Yeah. Yeah. You should be just her in take steam. So it's Jimador are elected answer calls or they would receive referrals for from Homeland Security and they're the cheap pair of the team. Have been trusted places kids into appropriate care settings. They were also the ones just picking up my calls at any random time from anybody who is looking for more information or help like where tell me where my daughter is please, or what do I do? If I'm missing this piece of information and her in 2014 became so overwhelming.
22:59 They couldn't do it anymore. And so, for a little while there we were running, it was a team of volunteers federal employees. Just volunteering to work extra off hours. 7 days a week, to answer emails, and calls from family members who just needed additional information. And I, obviously, this is not idea. I don't speak Spanish. So, I was there doing emails and as best as I could with Google translate, just rushing back and it sounds terrible, but because nobody else was answering in a timely way in these are individuals who are afraid and looking for their children so you don't want to keep them waiting, right? Believe it or not when when two parties, even if they don't speak the same language. If they have the same intense girl, trying to find a child. They will make it happen. Anyway, so that's when the office of refugee. Resettlement National call center was born and I do think it's an important development cuz
23:59 For example, I think it is a phone number that is given to families after children needs that the carrots office of refugee resettlement. They still have that phone number and see if they need something. After they have left Orr custody. They can call that number and be connected with a number of different people. Whether that's your team at OSHA or whether that is people who provide grants post really service grants I had. So that's certainly owe. Those are services that some limited number of children receive after they leave, or our custody of those services. Are generally for children who have experienced child abuse neglect, or trafficking, or have a disability or including medical needs of your medical needs. So if you need to also, find out information for their legal case, you know, these are
24:59 Pending their case before a judge in court. And so if they have issues related to getting my paperwork, that case management paperwork Etc. They can access this hotline, so that is a big change. There was also during this time and they identify the solutions of jealous and resting. I think.
25:32 Changes in trying to. So, for example, with us to turn a little bit towards a tip. For example. I think that now that we have a new regional position. I guess, I'm tooting my own horn, but does a little lame States and communities, that aren't in DC letting them know who Otis is, who I am, and that they could reach out. If they have a concern about a foreign National Youth, who may be a victim of trafficking, who was a victim of trafficking, makes it a little easier for them if they could be like, oh, yeah. What's her name? Alexis in the email me. And basically, what I do, I forward to you, you're the one who's working, but I think that there has been some cases held a little did. I know I'm getting more of those kinds of calls and emails of people sort of searching and trying to
26:32 And this child has a certification letter, that should be able to get benefits. But, you know, time has elapsed and I'm in a state that doesn't, you know, didn't and increases timeline for the being able to receive benefits even in the time of the pandemic. So what do we do? It just gets so complicated, right? And so again, I think that I do two for doing a good job, being able to be more accessible, but it was fun, was really back to you. Once were really, you know, you're not alone. Help you under team who are amazing and doing the Free People for.
27:14 A lot of kids, you know and it again it's not that every child is being trafficked or had some traffic, but that's still a lot. I wonder if they like with we've seen more referrals you and your son years. But what school is we in terms of innovation, in developed to Think Through how we know same amount of people have been processing cases for a long time. But when everything is paper and paper skin documented and done, and in different ways and, you know, through the years, to 20 years, I can't even imagine you do. I'm sure it was like all paper. It's at a time when we had different systems over the years but this, you know, really developed something that is user-friendly for the user user, friendly for us and how much quicker for able to get through. More referrals is
28:14 It's kind of cool that we can have not more people but be able to more quickly get through think so, yes. It is such an issue. It's like the issue for some people not feel like I stayed in there. It's right but like it's the day that matters so much, you know because I do remember once upon a time not for kids, but you all trying to do a toe touch each me the data system for adult certification and it was just like, he just had a memory 4,200 steps of which none of it was even if you don't want to take forever to issue a benefit letter to an adult victim of trafficking because they need it to access services. But yeah, likes it was such a nightmare, right, but it's just it's also important and it cost money.
29:14 Take these things and it takes time and it takes political will. And I am and yet, everyone always know. What can I do immediately for somebody who needs help and it's always hard to say that thing is, is like you no more money for a data system.
29:33 Yeah, it's crazy. It is amazing. That you all have been able to focus on that need related to, you know, the processing of paperwork for for children that's been essential.
29:50 Yes, I mean is exciting. We can literally get a case and really actually process that if needed if it's an emergency like within the hour if needed. So that's the case you come in from like, you know, Idaho to DC and it's like, okay. Yeah, I think back and jobs in those were done by email. It was like it was a law enforcement was involved. What school is now? I mean, law enforcement doesn't involve a child, welfare worker. Someone is interacting with the field and notices concerns trafficking, and send it our way. So it just goes on the process. I have a question for you, about the cases that you are seeing. Can you talk to us talk a little bit about
30:47 About what time do you see in terms of the cases review in terms of the type of exploitation that tend to come across your desk?
30:58 Yeah, I mean in terms of what we see if we actually in the last few years most of the cases are referred for minors that would identify Guatemala Hunters, El Salvador. And Mexico is their home country. Are we do receive cases or on behalf of kids from all over the world, but those are the majority cases. And then most of what we received at least in the last few years is labor trafficking and then mail minor victim rather than sex with him. So it is interesting. But most recognized obviously juicy sex trafficking as well. And all different types of living is a lot of Agriculture children, being forced to work for gain members, children being held, and forced to work on their Journey. Sometimes.
31:58 Offered you? No shelter. The trip to be able to journey in exchange for having sex often. Children. Sometimes me to get to bring children are still at the engage in commercial through online platforms over that way and they might have. So they may come by knowing they're going to be forced to work or they they know they may have to work but their concerns and then when they get here and just being a case of Labor trafficking, so is your ID. But I would say significantly more male minor victims of trafficking. A lot of adolescents aged 14 to 17 up by Adrian and
32:58 A lot of Labor trafficking cases. So you see a lot of Labor trafficking cases of males.
33:07 Yep. Minutes early. So how is it the last year? I know that in the media was in a lot of talk about human trafficking and a lot of misperception and misinformation about who gets traffic, right?
33:25 Why is?
33:28 What do you think we could do? I don't know as an office to try to.
33:34 Make people more aware of the different types of trafficking that we see, and that are occurring, or can you speak a little bit to just generally the perception of what trafficking is versus?
33:49 Some of what you see.
33:53 Yeah, in terms of misinformation. I think I think one thing is trafficking on often is sex trafficking of a female Viner. Only occurs. I think Austin were domestic US citizens on for children, and we do see a lot of sex trafficking, and I know the hotline matching talking and Howling as reported us to fix really high amount of female young minor sex trafficking is more common than, you know, male labor trafficking victims. So in terms of children, it's just a different population of it. In terms of what we see. I think a lot of it in terms of the source of information. And and just sharing what we see me and help me to understand. I'm helping to understanding of what things can you put in place in terms of protective factors. You know, what things can we do?
34:53 You to support this child to not and trafficking in the United States to Knox Ranch property on his journey labor or sex trafficking what you know, helping people to understand and get out of it. And I think I think I should humans were so comforted by polar like really clear a or b or things are what they are and understanding you want. It's just really hard to articulate. And so I think it's really important for us to just talk through what we see what what what we observed his friend just really I think we can do and in terms of supporting information and helping to produce gas when it's really important. I like that, you know, we all, can we do these children are held in forced to engage in commercial sex, facts or provided to someone or something of value when Maybe?
35:52 I was sold for commercial sex act, and yeah, it's really important.
36:11 What are curious? What in terms of you know, where can and regions are working with different partners? What do you think? Are you are effective way to get that? Information. Do you find screens to be helpful or what are some things that you seem to be helpful when you've been working on the ground and working with the different state and region?
36:37 Well, there's a question about Labor trafficking and in general, in the new training for everything related to, to trafficking to cancel labor trafficking for a second. I think what I'm seeing here is that picture really trying to and want to in many cases grapple with the question of how to find victims of Labor trafficking, how to prosecute and you know, we're not law enforcement and we don't work for Department of Justice though. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that side a little bit but have a systems in place to be able to provide enforcement for preventing and stop labor trafficking. And then being able to successfully prosecute State's more information on labor trafficking want more systems and protocols in place, but it does seem that there is
37:32 Is there is there are barriers within their systems in terms of being able to really prosecute, but again, I'm not sure on that. So I probably shouldn't dwell. So really, you know, and Oates it perspective from, you know, what I can offer trying to up the information sharing from states that have been really proactive in this area such as Minnesota, coming out with a protocol related to leave or Prosecuting a sharing that with other stay. So they can see the innovations that are, you know, taking place and try to leverage that. So they're not recreating real.
38:20 Try not to, there is sort of a prevalent problem. I think a lot of people will say or think they're parts of their states. That might think that labor trafficking isn't happening because they don't have reported cases of it so that if you don't know how to screen for it, if you don't know what you're looking for are you're not going to see it either. Just mean that it's not not happening. So I think there is just an increased desire to not only learn more about Labor trafficking, but then make sure the people who are in the position to possibly see, it are trained and understand how to see if you can call it what it is. And when they do to know what to do next. I think there's a lot of potential for technical assistance in this area that RTA provider National human trafficking training and technical assistance center. Such a mouthful.
39:20 5ta. They also can provide information. That's more modular. Lee self case based in terms of online learning excetera. I think there's just a lot that can be done. But for a state to want to tackle labor trafficking, you know, they're there has to be a desire at the political level, right? And not to say there isn't. It's just I think the pandemic really unfortunately has made its put so much stress on States and regions in terms of health care first and so many other things related to economy that I can't say. I've seen a ton of progress of people having the space to focus on it. I have seen, Maryland and University, Maryland.
40:10 School social work in the Space Center. I believe they're called have started a learning collaborative about child labor trafficking that you and I participated on in terms of learning about it. I do see States grapple with the question of force criminality. I think that is a really hot topic that people again wanted not only to learn about what would be nice if there was a form or debate about it. Because I think some people
40:41 Lauren, you want to Define force criminality for us?
40:46 Yeah, interested for children. I can save for children in it for minors under the age of 18, just because it's what I work on. It would be any situation where a child is made to perform a laborer or service that Alyssa in nature, but they're made to do it against their will. So they threatened to be killed to sell drugs and they ate, they said, they could be a victim of Labor trafficking and that would be a force mentality. Check situation because they're made to do something with thread of time for non-compliance. But it just so happens that the activity happens to be illicit or illegal in nature. And so that's why it's coming out and thank you for doing that on Pop Quiz. Thank you, Lord. I do think that there needs to be room for debate. So people can talk through their residencies and there, you know, when it comes to being able to pursue cases before schematic cuz I think reluctance in some places are
41:45 Are Justified, but if you will have the space say thank you. Work through it. Do you think it would be helpful?
41:54 So hopefully some of those things will come to fruition.
41:59 And that more resources will come out there in the next year or so. And I know that if our office develops any I will certainly absolutely be circulating. So any last thoughts Lauren about goals are Inspirations or something that you would like to see in terms of what we do together or what we can do, a no chip when it comes to further working with for National Youth or any of the traffic population.
42:34 Yeah, I think I just really want us to have the continued bowl of just being listeners like as an office and hearing a field hearing the needs and responding to that. And I think are always really strive for that. And you know, I strive her personally. I know you do and I know our entire office 6 to do that. And so I think we can do that. We can better meet the needs and develop programming and support protocols and they meet the needs of the field. So I guess you never stop listening and hearing and responding.
43:17 Such a good answer. I'm not sure I want to add to it, absolutely listening to the field and being flexible because the services that can be provided and the type of services are needed, are always kind of changing. Because people came so remaining kind of with her ear to the ground.
43:44 Thanks for chatting, Alexis talking to me. Let me pick your brain. Definitely.