The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports Florida ranks third for human trafficking.
And in recognition of Friday’s World Day Against Human Trafficking in Persons one South Florida group of advocates is making their fight more public.
Santana Pizza in Jupiter is a family business that pride’s itself on providing a slice of tradition.
”It’s crazy how many hearts we’ve touched just by our conversation with others and simply our food,” said Jeanne-Marie Branche, Operation Underground Railroad South Florida volunteer. ”People are fighting and people are surviving.”
And the 21-year-old is making sure combating human trafficking is on Friday evening’s menu.
”Political affiliation aside. Opinions aside. Beliefs aside — these are the facts,” Branche said. “This is happening. There’s people around the entire county and the world who are suffering, one — and two, who are fighting. Fighting for those who are suffering.”
Branche is a volunteer for Operation Underground Railroad South Florida. A non-profit that trains people to rescue the children involved, ensure they’re placed in a safe haven and ensure law enforcement go after the ringleaders involved.
”Most of it is behind closed doors, in a child’s own house and within their own family,” Branche said.
Volunteer Laura Pamatian has met survivors. She says Florida, like California and Texas face similar vulnerabilities traffickers take advantage of.
“People who have recently immigrated here — they are vulnerable. People who have endured trauma, abuse and addiction,” she said. ”Children cannot organize, they can’t stand up, they can’t get together and march and protest and do all these things that would let the world know what’s happening to them. It’s really up to us.”
That’s the reason for Rise Up for Children - a community fight against modern day slavery.
”It’s men, women and children being deprived of their basic human rights by force, fraud or coercion,” Pamatian said.
Rise Up for Children is happening at 100 locations across the country. Organizers say silence is complicity.
”What kind of demand is fueling human trafficking?”Pamatian said. “We are the reason why this industry is in existence. If no one wants to talk about it, the traffickers will take advantage of that.”
To report human trafficking 24/7 call 1 (888) 373-7888 or text “help” to 233733. Your response is confidential. To learn more visit https://humantraffickinghotline.org/.