Polaris Project Policy Team
Beginning in June 2012, I joined the Polaris Project Policy Team as a Policy Fellow. Polaris Project is a non-profit based in Washington, D.C. that is dedicated to eradicating human trafficking in the United States. Human Trafficking is the equivalent to modern day slavery, and is a 32 billion dollar business. Although little attention is brought to the issue of human trafficking in the United States, and much of the focus is on the international level, thousands of people are trafficked into sex and labor industries in the United States every year. The United States continues to be a popular destination for human trafficking. In an effort to put an end to modern day slavery Polaris Project operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (NHTRC), provides client services, coordinates trainings for law enforcement, and crafts federal and state laws designed to protect victims and prosecute perpetrators. As a Policy Fellow for Polaris Project, I am responsible for tracking, drafting, and analyzing anti-trafficking legislation at the state and federal level, assisting in legislative advocacy, and writing memos that help the policy team analyze issues within the Human Trafficking field. Polaris Project gives its Policy Fellows the valuable experience of what it is like to use your law degree for human rights advocacy. Polaris has been an incredible experience and has helped me figured out how, and for what purposes, I will use my degree from Seattle University School of Law.
My first month at Polaris Project has been an inspiring, intense, and fulfilling experience. I began my fellowship by being immersed into the anti-trafficking movement with over fifty hours of training from specialists at Polaris. This training was eye opening, and extremely unsettling. However, after learning about all the tactics traffickers will use to control their victims, and discussing the terrible working conditions occurring all around our nation, a new hope was instilled within us Policy Fellows, and we were ready to help make a difference.
Currently I am working on updating Polaris Project’s State Ratings Map, which gives each state a score based off which anti-human trafficking laws it has. Polaris releases the State Ratings Map every summer, and it is a crucial tool for lawmakers around the country to look to in order to see what action should be taken in their respective states. Specifically, I am analyzing each state’s penal code in order to determine whether human trafficking has been added to a list of offenses for which law enforcement may use additional tools in order to investigate, such as authorized use of wiretapping to uncover suspected human trafficking violations. Once I, and the other Policy Fellows, finish with the research for the State Ratings Map we will finalize the map and then it will be published on Polaris Project’s website.
Working in Washington, D.C. has enriched my summer fellowship experience in every way possible. The District is a very exciting place to work and socialize. Especially this summer with the release of important Supreme Court decisions, such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The streets were buzzing with energy, and endless conversations were held about the implications of the Court’s decisions. You constantly meet individuals who work at the White house, or hold other important positions within the government, you will never have a boring night in DC! I have fully appreciated the opportunity to be in DC this summer, and to work for Polaris Project. I am excited for the next half of the summer, and I hope it does not pass too quickly.
July 31, 2012
As I near my last week as a Policy Fellow for Polaris Project, I am amazed at how quickly the summer flew by. The Policy Staff at Polaris Project kept us fellows very busy. Just when we thought we would catch a few slow days in the office, we were assigned another big research project, and this assignment focused on Washington State law, which was particularly exciting for a Seattle University student!
Aside from intensely researching arguments for and against the constitutionality of Washington State’s Senate Bill 6251 (an anti-human trafficking bill) that passed this last legislative session, and now has an official injunction issued against its enforcement, us Policy Fellows had plenty of other activities on our agenda. I had the opportunity to meet with a prosecuting attorney for Virginia’s Attorney General’s office, as well as the Secretary of State for Virginia. Both the AG’s prosecuting attorney and the Secretary of State were knowledgeable and gave me great insight as to what it is like to work on human trafficking issues at the State government level. It was an incredible experience to be able to meet with such dynamic individuals who are passionate about the anti-human trafficking movement.
While the energetic and exciting work atmosphere of DC is enough to keep one occupied, I have also been lucky enough to enjoy some activities outside of the District. If you drive just several hours outside of DC you will find beautiful sandy beaches, which are a great get away from the hot humid city and the busy bustle during the workweek. Also, I had the chance to go wine tasting in northern Virginia and had a great time exploring the countryside. The DC area has plenty to offer, and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know its surroundings. One summer is surely not enough time to explore, but I have tried my best and feel very rewarded from my efforts. I will absolutely be back to visit this great city.