On Wednesday, Feb. 26, The Dallas Morning News in collaboration with the University of Dallas hosted the event “Confronting Human Trafficking” in the DMN auditorium. Director of Journalism Rudy Bush and President Thomas Hibbs hoped to raise awareness of modern slavery while strengthening UD’s role in the community.
In the past, Hibbs has helped organize events on contemporary social issues while serving as dean of the Honors College at Baylor University. As UD president, Hibbs is working to continue the university’s commitment to truth and justice.
“It’s hard to find a greater injustice, both in terms of the heinousness of the crime and the scope of it today than human trafficking,” said Hibbs.
At the event, Hibbs introduced the speakers, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox and Human Trafficking Institute CEO Victor Boutros.
The speakers discussed the long-term changes in the approach to tackling the issue of human trafficking as well as the reasons behind trafficking, including the economic incentives.
“Traffickers, according to International Labor organization, this year will bring in about 150 billion dollars in profits. Not revenue, actual profits,” said Boutros. “So, to put that into context, if traffickers were incorporated they would, this year, outperform Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, BP and Exxon combined.”
Boutros explained that other companies have depleting resources, meaning that the resources take a while to replenish and they have to go somewhere else to get more, whereas traffickers see people as an easily replaceable but lasting resource, so there is less risk since traffickers do not have to continuously get more resources.
Additionally, Boutros said that traffickers often create chemical chains through drug dependency. The use of drugs is a way to make sure the people trafficked return without needing to monitor or threaten them at all times.
“They’re in it to make money. It’s a lot of effort to hold a gun to someone’s head twenty-four-seven,” said Boutros. “It’s a lot of resource investment, but if you use a chemical tether then you know that wherever they go, they’re going to have to come back to you in four hours. That’s a lot cheaper resource investment on their end.”
Cox mentioned that getting restitution in every case possible to decrease the economic motive and increase risk has been part of the plan to decrease human trafficking. In Fort Worth last year, $288,000 was ordered in restitution for a forced labor case, and over $300,000 has been ordered this year.
Junior English major Mia Samaniego attended the event and encourages students to be vigilant of the warning signs of human trafficking and to use their liberal arts education for good.
“I think UD students can participate in the fight against trafficking by being concerned for the people around them and also by actively living according to the understanding of human dignity and freedom we learn here,” Samaniego explained
Boutros was first exposed to human trafficking as a student at Harvard when traveling abroad in India. There, he heard the story of a 12 year old girl who was drugged and forced into prostitution while traveling home after taking on a summer restaurant job in the city to support her family.
“From that point forward, that becomes her life at the age of 12,” said Boutros. ”She’s forced to meet her quota and serve seven to 12 men a day, seven days a week. Over time, I discovered that her story was not an anomaly, but it’s replicated on a large scale around the globe.”
Boutros then left Oxford to pursue a law degree at Harvard, where he could get the education he needed to make a difference on the issue.
“I was glad that UD was one of the sponsors of this event,” said Samaniego. “UD is becoming more and more active in the community, which is beneficial both to the school and to Dallas. Sometimes in the midst of the heightened intellectual discussions at UD, we forget that issues like human trafficking are being encountered in our world, in our country and in our city … We should continue to discuss issues like this at UD.”