Patricia Medige and Anlan Du
DescriptionPatricia Medige (55) talks with her daughter Anlan Du (20) about her path from college to law school to becoming a civil lawyer for immigrant survivors of human trafficking. Pat remembers some of the cases she has worked on and talks about misconceptions of human trafficking, and Anlan shares about research she has done linking human trafficking to Jim Crow-era policies.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Patricia Medige
- Anlan Du
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
Partnership TypeFee for Service
StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.
00:00 I'm 55 years old. Today is Thursday, May 13th, 2021. I am located in Denver. My recording partner is online. Who is my daughter?
00:15 I am the daughter. My name is online. Do I'm 22 days Days. Also still Thursday, May 13th, and I'm coming out of Charlottesville, Virginia.
00:29 Well, it's nice to be able to chat online. I know you're in exams and
00:35 Nice of you to make time. I know we always have good conversations and it's nice to be able to have one in this medium with you. I'm glad I got to talk to you and I know that my mom for all of you listening is, is in the middle of its like several different cases. She's been doing a lot of client work right now. So she's got all sorts of the deadline's coming up. So it's it's a fun time for both of us right now, but I guess that that's her to sideways into my introduction of my mother, who's the main focus here and just what do you do? So, I am a lawyer with a legal services organization, which is a nonprofit that provides free civil legal services to Indigent people. We are Statewide here in Colorado. So my prod
01:35 How much is a human trafficking project? So I represent human trafficking survivors and various ways sometimes litigation another word suing, their traffickers. Sometimes helping them to report their trafficking to law enforcement if that's something they would like to do other. So there is a special visas for foreign Nationals who are survivors of trafficking. So we do a lot of work on those pieces and some other type of civil legal work, which means not being a prosecutor or a defense attorney. But working on other civil cases against Statewide and they are free legal services in order to have staff, one of my roles is grant writing and management. So that's kind of an evolution in my work.
02:35 But it's a big part of keeping a strolling.
02:39 And what about your side project? You're a remainder going to tell us about that when an immigration detention program that was just starting up. There was there's no sort of public defender system and immigration detention. So that was just a group of attorneys, going out for free and trying to identify cases. This would be back in 1995 when I graduated from law school. So I week corporated created a board, of course, and I was board president from 2000 to 2021. So on inauguration day as it happens. That was my day. When we we met and I stepped down after 20 years as board president. So it's it's a big part of my life. I am still on the board or work intersects a lot with my legal.
03:39 This is work. Cuz they provide free legal services to immigrants, sometimes in traffic, and cases, as well. So, we have along with my being able to provide leadership there.
03:55 That's a lie about me. What what would you like to say about yourself along for the ride? I am bearing witness to all of my mom's amazing accomplishments, and, and legal aid. And
04:07 Just you know, I'm sick of posterity. The name of the nonprofit that my mom's founded as she's not saying that she founded is the Rocky Mountain, immigrant. Advocacy Network. So maybe in an organization that's grown a lot, especially in the wake of kin selection. So it's been very fun to see that little girl from a small little office with five people until like a massive operation, taking a multiple floors of the building. So it's been very kind of you and sometimes they've been
04:49 Kind of like family to you because she grew up going to be no fundraisers and sometimes having to sit through meetings. So, hopefully it's been some support for you in a weird way. Just a lot of people long-term who always adored you and let you get away with making the fondue at the benefits and so forth.
05:18 But you're more than along for the ride, you have for your very accomplished with a full scholarship at your college and long academic history. Anything more you want to say about your interests, sir.
05:42 I will spare you my whole life story, but I think there were a couple of
05:51 Points at what? Should I write? My directions sort of steered toward this. I think it's kind of one of the earliest was that I had kind of a pause in college. When I didn't quite know what I wanted to study and didn't quite want to be going to classes so that they didn't call it Gap years then. But I dropped out basically and worked the third shift at a diner and I wish I won't name but in my hometown and it wouldn't work very, very harsh bosses. And I think that sort of sparked my awareness of how workers are treated in this country, which I know I preach to you a lot. So it probably ad nauseam, but that was a start and then I was living on that grew up on the Canadian border and ended up.
06:51 Journalism for a few years and I think being a journalist On the Border just revealed to me so many different circumstances involving immigrants and immigrants who died trying to cross the border immigrants to accidentally cross the bridge to Canada. There's a there's a river between Canada and Western New York where I was and very fast flowing. Rivers. This is the best running water. So there are some very difficult situations that just made me aware of what people were doing to try to make a better life in this country. My clients now are not all immigrants, but many are who have just made
07:45 Incredible sacrifices to try to make a better life for themselves and to support their families. And so that sort of was an awareness that started then
07:57 Finally, when I I sort of became disenchanted with journalism. So just on a fluke. I took a job as a paralegal in south Georgia with the legal aid there and that was in their farmworker division and they were interested in somebody with a writing background. Sounds so to help with some of the written work. And I literally drove down there from Western New York for my interview. Took a job there and that that office actually handled trafficking cases before there was human trafficking. So in the Southeast at the time and still now, to some extent workers are recruited
08:46 From homeless shelters, Austin, they're African-American some substance used to use issues. So they would be recruited to come work in the harvest season and
09:02 Maybe they were paid with crack cocaine, or with be there. They had to, they were charged for, you know, bologna sandwiches for lunch and thought, they were ended up and do that. And so they were sort of trapped on These Arms by sometimes violence or threats of violence, but also by these debts. And so they were totally manipulated and took basically providing slavery like labor. So that lets the law school. And I think that I've always had some focus on and I focus my career and sort of that intersection of Labor and immigration to Great extent.
09:50 Yeah, I know. It's definitely been interesting to see how it's they're very inter-related issues. But they're obviously each have their own specific demographics of vulnerable populations. So I think we can see that a lot with your early career being focused on trafficking that maybe wasn't directly immigrant related. So what in all that time and I I guess since, then what types of cases have or Are there specific cases that stand out to is particularly meaningful?
10:26 They're not a lot. I'll just focus on to one was an early case at Colorado, Legal Services. Involving a group of Farm Workers who were recruited to come from Mexico to work in the Harvest in the US and they what was what I was a lot to remember about it. It was very involved case. They were clients for you. No good portion of 10 years in various regards, but there is a lot to learn from them. I was first of all they came and sat to eat a couple were in their fifties. One was in his sixties. They had experienced a lot of age discrimination in Mexico. So after a certain age, a lot of people just can't find work and I have families to support so they took a chance they took the
11:26 It's a true boss. Took picture boss up on his offer to come here and when they got here, he informed them. While you owe this much for being smuggled in. You know, you we charge you for rides to work. There was no. There was a very basic compound almost like a Barracks where they were housed. That didn't have fresh drinking water. It was gated. They so that it was monitored. The crew boss carried a weapon. They were very isolated. And at the time that this a rose, it really wasn't seen as, as trafficking. It was seen as an end trafficking. Meaning, you know, some sort of forced labor where the person feels. They can't leave and they're compelled to provide work at work, could be commercial, sexual Services, you know, coerced or forced or could be other types of Labor like farm work or restaurant work.
12:26 So, with these workers, we were able to hear about it and make contact. They were just so crazy as in coming forward and Reporting this, when they were very fearful, and they did get the special visas and became several became permanent residence here. Which happens after this Visa is granted a few years later, and we had brought a lawsuit resulted in a 7.8 million dollar judgment against the against the crew boss and Emma in a settlement against the rower. And it just I I think it's a, was an important case because it was an early case in this state. But also at
13:19 Is different from The Stereotype of trafficking. I think when a lot of people think about human trafficking, they think about, you know, sexy and sort of a very sexualized view for sex trafficking does involve sex, but doesn't necessarily not, it's not it's it's more titillating. I guess you'd say. So does the fact that this was trafficking and they did get the Visas and did participate in a law enforcement investigation.
13:56 And being just not the general stereotype of trafficking, you know, a middle-aged men farmworkers. It's not the view. So I thought it was important. Education case as well in our Community Education, which is part of what we do. And remember that one was on the front page of the Denver Post at the time. So it definitely, I think helped public awareness of this issue. Thank you. And there are unfortunately there's a lot of that mess all over the country. This was an early one in Colorado as I said, but so many types of workers are just have these vulnerabilities and all kinds of Industry, which I might might talk about later. The second case was just kind of not as flashy as it was, it was interesting as well.
14:55 This was had a special. I don't know. It just created a special bond with the worker. So it was a couple years ago and it was a woman who came as a household worker with domestic worker. So if family was vacationing and in the cut in the Colorado mountains, she came with the master housekeeper and Nanny, and it ended up being abusive. Her passport was withheld. She was working very long hours burning the pages. You would have learned in their home. Countries are not turning us wages, but not, not always even earning that and we'll just a chain of communications we heard about her.
15:49 And while we don't usually go to a situation where there might be trafficking, we had a very narrow window in which to meet with her. So I went to this Mountain Community.
16:05 And that somebody arranged for a meeting and a lot of the time, the first thing we'd I do is just talk about people's rights without sort of questioning them or imposing any expectations on them. Just like, this is who I am. This is what we do. This could be relevant to your situation, and it's always such an just an honor, that people often really trust us. I don't see why they would, but, you know, if we, we talked talked about her rights. She done talked about her situation.
16:48 And she really, really just wanted out. She wanted to get out of there. She couldn't take it. She was kind of demoralized by the treatment and she was also in her 30s. So not some not the kid either, although we certainly have child clients. But anyway, the situation was the family was on an outing and we are in this Resort community. So we kind of had. We decided we kind of worked on a plan. We found support a shelter where she could stay we arranged for the local police to help with what's called a civil assist. So that is they were going to come when the family returned.
17:38 And help her get her belongings, including her passport.
17:44 So, we were kind of there on the Mountainside in this condo Community waiting for the family to get back in the best of the police assistance. And so we just kind of talked. And she explained to me, sort of how she came to be in this situation. She was widowed and had to support her children were with her mother. So she sort of felt she didn't have a lot of options. So, ended up spending years with his family, with all this exploitation.
18:24 And I don't usually talk about myself to clients, but then she asked me if I was married and I am a widow to and at the time was, was widowed. So we kind of sat there, like, just relating to each other as two people who had, who have been widowed, and had to sort of carry on life after that. And just kind of sitting there this very peaceful surroundings yet in this very harsh situation was just very, very memorable. We did end up getting her belongings with the support of at least we later. Got, later, brought a lawsuit and that was settled. She also received a special Visa.
19:11 On at, like 10 at night. I drove her, like, 2 hours to a town where
19:17 Where she was able to get shelter?
19:20 And so, it just again, just as a reminder of what what what leads to people being in these kinds of situations and and how unfair it is. Yeah. I think it's a very poignant reminder that like, it's a very sudden circumstances can change people's page. So dramatically, as I remember hearing the entire time that you were handling, that specific case how much you relied on like these interpersonal networks, like this one person talking to another person talking to you or even trying to find her a place to stay for the night after you'd gotten her out of that situation. Like there's it's really hard. It seems like for people to come forward talking with the trust issue were talking about when they know that someone else had their passport. Like the person Derek splitter has their passport, has all their documentation. And it's, it's very
20:20 It's like those the smaller person to person Communications are just so vital to establishing trust into getting people out of such instances. So
20:33 And it really cooked both ways, you know, loved ones, who are totally exploiting a person family members or somebody from the village and at the same time, they can be complete strangers. Who can see something, wrong care and do something about it. And that's all we strike and amazed at the effort. Some people will make for someone who was a stranger, you know, not long ago, but as to your point yet networks are so important. And a lot of anti-trafficking work with does involve sort of participation in and different networks networks, finger sticking out there next to each other. I remember you bringing home just client and just having a letting him stay in her basement for a night because he had nowhere else to be any had to be on a train, some out of the state, the next
21:33 Definitely a very interpersonal. There's a printer personal element to your job as well. And for the record, I don't do that very often.
21:48 But but I guess it's like an important reminder to all of us. Anyway that, you know, just to keep our eyes out on situations. Like, for me. I remember growing up is I was at this farmers market one time and I I just saw this kid, you looked really sad and he was playing the violin with like, I don't know. Bucket for tips in front of him. You just looked so sad. And I was like, I remember, emailing up my mom and being late and I don't think we ever really resolved that situation but it's you know, if there's something that seems sketchy like there are people to ask about it. Like you can talk to the person who sells or you can reach out to a hotline and that's like a very vital. As we just saw with all these stories, very vital, part of getting people connected with the resources that could help them.
22:49 Yeah, it's might be warped for you to have that perspective. So young, but it's it is so important to be aware.
23:01 And you've taken the focus a little deeper with your schoolwork as far as sort of societal issues that are the sort of, the underpinnings of this picked up, our cases, that involve Farm Workers. And I did some research and realized just how much of those inequities and how much of the lack of protection that Farm Workers experienced a rise out of Jim Crow era lost. So specifically going into the New Deal era, Southern Democrats. You were probably still very concerned about the slave labor that they were enjoying even well into Jim Crow era, you know, under various other
23:58 Legal technicalities, but none, the less. It was slave labor. They were very concerned about this. So when they were to go, she eating the passage of New Deal legislation, including the big-name laws, that we know about for labor protections, like the National Labor Relations Act, and the Federal
24:20 Oh my goodness, they were negotiating and they refused to they just negotiated that Farm Workers and domestic workers who were disproportionately black workers in the South would not be included in this protection. And so the very basis of the new deal. As this incredibly like racist, incredibly white supremacist, economic structure of the South and that remains today, like those does inequities have not been remedied so needed on small farms, Farm Workers are still not entitled to minimum wage. They're also not entitled to overtime pay. And in the under the National Labor Relations Act, the there continues to be no protection for Farm Workers to engage in organized labor at all. So it's just mine.
25:20 Going to see even now how safety regulations, how you know Financial regulations, how organized labor protections? All of those just don't apply because Southern Democrats wanted to keep their source of exploited black labor.
25:39 And that is an area that is carried over to other people of color. Sounds like I mean, in the 1940s World War 1 & 2, as there was a shortage of Labour. I
25:56 The United States government actually engaged in negotiations with the Mexican Government to bring Mexican Americans as temporary labor is and also full-time laborers. So it is that we saw this massive demographic shift, but nonetheless has been this like deep bike issue of racial exploitation.
26:17 But it's yeah, it's really it's fascinating. I know you hate the word intersectionality because it's overused these days but it is a very poignant reminder that like labor issues are not responded. They are not issues us. Like they're not issues that affect everyone equally. And when we talked about reforms, they will disproportionately impact certain groups and I think that's an important thing to bear in mind is like
26:51 Labor rights are black rights and our Mexican American rights and our immigrant rights.
26:58 And, of course, we're talking about trafficking and that's part of it, you know, they're all kinds of excuses, but these lack of protections. I'll contribute to an atmosphere where trafficking can be happening.
27:17 Yeah, there's some other ways that you seem like other liquid or vulnerable conditions that you seen people.
27:27 Be targeted for maybe. Yeah, but
27:43 I'd like to say that I'd probably say it a lot with my Community Education, but y'all traffickers are just masterminds at finding people's phone or abilities and then exploiting them. And they're, they're just so many different vulnerabilities and I think it's important to focus on just the fact that their vulnerabilities and that their people are being exploited because of them rather than focusing on one type of vulnerability. So, for example, obviously poverty is an issue, especially, if somebody doesn't have a place to live, if they're very vulnerable or their fling, trying to escape from poverty and their their region of the US or in another country. As a result of poverty, people have been victimized previously. Maybe they already have
28:38 A lot of trauma in their backgrounds and the or the, or they're fleeing an abusive situation and the traffickers take advantage of that could be people with disabilities. Either might not recognize that trafficking is happening or might not know, you know be able to articulate it. Real well or know how to respond to it or there have been cases. Where the disability is. You don't have to get diction issue. Kind of like, what I mentioned earlier and they're sort of bound because of their addictions. Certainly immigration status is a factor that what course we see a lot but that happens everywhere. It could be somebody without status which is fearful of speaking up because of fear of deportation, which has happened in in retaliation for asserting their rights, but it also can be a worker present on the
29:38 Like this housekeeper was here with permission, but cannot that the Visa requires them to stay with a certain employer. So they cannot switch jobs without falling out of immigration status. So that serves to keep them in their jobs as well. Also making dies after just not being informed about different systems are laws. You status. Somebody, especially a young person has left a difficult family situation. They might be treated as a runaway. They might not feel comfortable coming forward and Reporting abuse has there just so many.
30:29 Different ways that people have vulnerabilities and it could have been any of us who have had these vulnerabilities. So so it's very sad, you know that again that people do that to other people often. Did you know somebody there actually familiar with or related to have known for a long time?
30:56 I don't know. Do you have thoughts? No, I I think that sums it up pretty well. I did. I definitely have heard a lot about how from you about how people sort of conceptualize all trafficking except sex trafficking and obviously that's a significant portion. But it's active or inactive generalization that you have to work over. Come and teach people to like recognized in other areas, too. I guess you have other some other challenges, you see it working in this field or the actual like we go outside.
31:36 Yeah, it was all there are misconceptions about trafficking. I think there tends to be a focus on sex trafficking as you said especially of youths.
31:51 And we are rather than labor trafficking. And I'm not saying labor trafficking is more important. It's just that happens to be a lot of what I have done. And sometimes, especially in the early days. I might have been the only voice in the room so to speak focusing on labor trafficking. So it's certainly a big part of what I do. So, they're still misconceptions in the last few years. There are major challenges as the systems, especially the immigration system, sort of constricted so policies, that encourage people to report crimes including trafficking basically from 2000 to 2017 or 18, you know, the systems encouraged people to report crimes, so there was not,
32:45 A practice of departing people if they applied for one of these visas were denied and that I'll change the oil 2017-2018. We're suddenly there was a change in policy. Same people could be deported if their visa was denied and changing processing in many, many ways being harsher. In the processing, adding new requirements, sometimes sort of arbitrarily or just the laws were being interpreted, much more narrowly or the eligibility was being interpreted, much more narrowly. So those are big changes and not a lot of Labor trafficking. Prosecution's during that time there never are a lot of vacations, but there was a drop off and, and more Visa denials and the bees are not
33:43 A reward for a quid pro quo for reporting. A crime, including trafficking, it is to promote Public Safety to protect all of us. If, if people are comfortable reporting crimes without fearing, deportation or fearing being jailed as a runaway or somebody, I'm detained as a runaway or something. We're all, we're all we all feel safer in the lgbtq community. There's there was that issue of feeling more of a hostile climate and perhaps more reluctant to report crimes. So the Visas and in the system should be geared toward encouraging people to report crimes and helping them to stabilize, but certainly it's not simply was not at all a trade-off for for reporting these crimes.
34:39 Yeah,. There's been a lot of barriers in the and just getting cases to be settled into getting cases. I also remember you talking about how cases of start taking so much longer. They like it take a picture of your client, can be a job in limbo for years. Just waiting to hear about their status and just waiting for their kids to be reviewed.
35:01 That is true. We did get a TVs at one point and now it can take
35:13 More than two years sometimes less. But I can take more than two years with no right to work while that's pending. So, somebody is continues to be without status without authorization, to work. And so, further vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, while they're trying to remedy the earlier exploitation or trafficking. So it's just a matter of just such an irony that it is gone that way.
35:47 Yeah. Well, what do you think? He's gotten better worker cases in the Southeast. It was debt bondage, which wasn't really even a federal crime at the time. But now under the trafficking laws, debt bondage is a form of trafficking. So meaning being forced to continue working to pay off a debt when you're never actually paying off that that it might even be increasing. So certainly I was around for the passage of the law for one thing and 2000 by trafficking laws. So that was a change but over since then there's just more
36:46 Advocates in balls, there more people who can help provide Services overall. It's there are it's it's very it's a real Patchwork around the country. So in some states, there are a number of people providing Services other states. Not as many but overall an increase more legal aids are handling trafficking cases. More people are bringing these lawsuits, whether it's big firms donating, their services, or again, legal aids. So trying to really seek compensation from a, from a victim, or for a victim from the trafficker. So, that's a real positive. The collaborations have really grown. I'm so, for example, in our state, the under state law in 2014, Estate Council was created to address certain to make recommendations to
37:43 Regarding services to try to quantify trafficking or, or at least assess trafficking prevalence in in Colorado. You know, they've been meeting monthly since 2014. It's a very stable stable group bringing a lot of perspectives and again at the labor perspective tends to be in the minority, but there's been real growth. And as an example.
38:13 There was a there's been a public awareness campaign that's using little vignettes about cases and it's a very broad range of potential cases in sales Cruise or a young woman sort of
38:41 Like food and then it all offered help and then ended up having to sell sex against her will. So a whole range of
38:52 Of vignettes, which is a very broad view of trafficking and I'm actually really proud of this consoles for doing that.
39:00 Yeah, and I guess that's the perfect by send is with this Council just you know, and it's amazing to see how there's the state recognition of traffic near the broad issue and telling stories on at such an individual level. And I'm sure it's a great honor to be a part of that Council.
39:24 And they are receptive to the different voices and including mine, and I'm sometimes it's an outlier, but it's been very inclusive. I was able to serve on that particular committee, which was still happening so that the committee that worked on the public awareness. There is a lot of attention also, I should say to not being super Sensational. So these vignettes are pretty factual there from the first person perspective. So it's not sort of racializing. The victim was very positive.
40:01 Yeah, well, I'm glad we got to
40:05 As a part of that storytelling I'm glad that we got to talk to you. Someone on the more legal side and on the representative side personally growing up. I've just always been very lucky to have such an outstanding role model is. But you know, I always joke with my friends that like, I'm never going to be a do as much morally righteous work for this world is my mom has and so does their big Footprints to follow but it's really exciting to get to share that with the world.
40:38 Well, thank you. I'm certainly, I'm certainly not fishing for compliments. But you don't know what where your path will lead. And I didn't know where my password lead. So, it's just a matter of sort of following your path and following your interests.
41:01 But thank you for taking the time. Well, thank you. You got to do you have two exams today? So
41:15 And signing off.