Innovations in the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Perspectives and Proposals

Innovations in the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Speakers


Melynda H. Barnhart is a Professor of Law at New York Law School where she teaches Legal Practice. Her areas of scholarship and teaching also include human trafficking, immigration and nationality law, criminal law, and administrative law. Prof. Barnhart has worked as an advocate for many years; she has pressed for greater human rights protections for human trafficking victims before the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, and other local, national, and international fora. Before joining academia, she served as the Director of Anti-Trafficking Initiatives for the International Rescue Committee, where she oversaw a national service program that assisted more than 200 trafficking survivors to rebuild their lives. From 2003 to 2005, she developed and ran one of the first statewide comprehensive service programs for trafficked persons in the U.S., and trained thousands of attorneys, law enforcement personnel, governmental staff, and social workers on how to handle trafficking cases. Prof. Barnhart’s 2009 article, “Sex and Slavery: An Analysis of State Human Trafficking Laws,” addressed the growth of state legislative involvement in combating trafficking.

Denise E. Brennan is an anthropologist and Associate Professor at Georgetown University where she is the Chair of the Department of Anthropology. Her most recent book, Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States follows the lives of survivors of trafficking. Prof. Brennan is also the author of What’s Love Got to Do with It? Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic and is currently conducting field research for a book on how families cope with detention and deportation. Prof. Brennan’s research has been supported by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Henry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the American Association for University Women, and the Fulbright Program. Long involved in workers’ rights and migrants’ rights, she is an Advisor to the Best Practices Policy Project, and has been a board member of Different Avenues, and HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive), organizations that protect the rights of people who engage in commercial sex. She also founded the Survivor Leadership Training Fund (SLTF) to provide support for trafficking survivor-advocates.

Florrie Burke is a consultant on Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery to both governmental and non-governmental agencies. She is a founding member and currently a Co-Chair of the Freedom Network, serves as the Coordinator of the Freedom Network Training Institute, and is on the Steering Committee of the NY Anti-Trafficking Network. Ms. Burke has done extensive training, speaking and consultation on Human Trafficking issues, trauma and torture both nationally and internationally, and has served as an Expert Witness on several high profile cases of Human Trafficking. She is a member of the Expert Initiative on Human Trafficking at the UNODC in Vienna and is part of three working groups developing materials for first responders and others who may encounter Human Trafficking. Ms. Burke helped start the Anti-Trafficking Program at Safe Horizon in 2001 and also designed and implemented a model for Community Trauma Response following the attacks on September 11th.  She has been honored by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor and was awarded the Annual Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award by the Freedom Network USA.

Pamela Ki Mai Chen is a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, confirmed in March 2013.  Between 1998 and 2013, Judge Chen was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, with the exception of a four-month period in 2008 when she served as Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement for the New York State Division of Human Rights. During her time at the United States Attorney’s Office, Judge Chen held several supervisory positions, including Chief of the Civil Rights Section and Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Section. As Chief of the Civil Rights Section, Judge Chen supervised the investigation and prosecution of matters involving human trafficking, hate crimes, and official misconduct. From 1991 to 1998, Judge Chen was a trial attorney in the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Justice. She began her legal career in Washington, D.C., at the criminal defense firm of Asbill, Junkin, Myers & Buffone from 1989 to 1991, and at the law firm of Arnold & Porter from 1986 to 1989. Judge Chen is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Michigan.

Read a recent interview with Judge Chen in the New York Law Journal here.

Janie Chuang is a Professor of Law at American University, Washington College of Law. Prof. Chuang teaches courses in international law, human trafficking, labor migration, and international commercial arbitration.  She was promoted to professor of law in 2014. In her scholarship, Prof. Chuang specializes in international law and policy relating to labor migration and human trafficking. Drawing on this expertise, Prof. Chuang has served as an adviser to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Labor Organization. She has also served as the U.S. Member of the International Law Association’s Feminism and International Law Committee and as a Member of Executive Committee of the American Society of International Law. She is a past recipient of the Open Society Fellowship of the Open Society Foundations and a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Conference Grant. Prior to joining AUWCL, Chuang practiced with the law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, representing foreign governments in international litigation/arbitration and pro bono clients in asylum and human rights cases. Before her time at Cleary Gottlieb, Chuang worked as an adviser to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and the U.N. Compensation Commission.

Jaribu Hill is Executive Director of the Mississippi Worker’s Center for Human Rights.  Ms. Hill previously worked with Amnesty International in Oxford, Mississippi as a Soros Justice Fellow where she did education and advocacy work that focused on issues affecting juveniles and inmates with mental retardation who are on death row. While in law school, Ms. Hill was an Ella Baker Intern with the Center for Constitutional Rights. After law school, she became a Skadden Fellow in the Mississippi office of the American Civil Liberties Union. Later, Ms. Hill went on to direct the Southern Regional Office of CCR. Hill also currently serves as Municipal Judge for the City of Hollandale, MS. In addition to founding the MWCHR, Ms. Hill also founded several other organizations, including the Southern Human Rights Organizers’ Conference, Black Women’s International Roundtable, CUNY Law School Mississippi Project, and the Fannie Lou Hamer Sister Roundtable. She is also a singer and composer and was lead singer with the renowned singing duo Serious Bizness for over 15 years.

Kathleen Kim is a professor of law at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.  Prof. Kim teaches Torts, Immigration Law and Human Trafficking.  Her scholarship investigates the intersection of immigration law, workplace rights, civil rights and the 13th Amendment and has addressed, among other things, the law’s response to coercion in the context of human trafficking and the undocumented worker exploitation.  Before joining Loyola Law School, Prof. Kim pioneered civil litigation on behalf of human trafficking survivors at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco. As a Skadden Fellow, she launched and directed the Human Trafficking Project, the first initiative of its kind to focus on the civil rights of trafficked individuals to receive monetary compensation for the abuse of forced labor. In 2005, Prof. Kim became the inaugural Immigrants’ Rights Teaching Fellow at Stanford Law School.  In addition, to her teaching and scholarship, she continues to provide technical assistance in human trafficking civil cases.  Prof. Kim was a gubernatorial appointee to the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery and currently serves as a Los Angeles Police Commissioner appointed by Mayor Garcetti.  Prof. Kim graduated from Stanford Law School where she was an editor of Stanford Law Review and a Judge Takasugi Public Interest Fellow.

Shannon Lederer is the director of immigration for the AFL-CIO, a union federation representing 12.5 million working men and women.  In this capacity, she works with allies and affiliates in all sectors of the labor movement to develop and advance policies that promote workers’ rights and shared prosperity.  She coordinates the federation’s immigration agenda in activities ranging from legislative advocacy to field mobilization to organizing and defending immigrant workers.  Her research has focused on employment-based temporary work visa programs, the international labor recruitment industry, and the role of global unions in promoting the rights of migrant workers.

Patricia Medige is a Senior Attorney with Colorado Legal Services, and co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network.  She has specialized in the legal representation of trafficked individuals and low-wage workers, including civil litigation, criminal justice advocacy and crime-victim-based immigration petitions, since 1996. She has presented on human trafficking issues at various national conferences, including the NLADA Annual Conference, the Freedom Network USA Annual Conference, the American Immigration Lawyers Association National Conference and the CLINIC Annual Convening and has written several academic articles. In 2009 she and co-worker Jennifer Lee were honored to receive the Freedom Network-USA’s annual Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award for their contributions to combating human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Kate Mogulescu is the founder of and a Supervising Attorney with the Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project of the Legal Aid Society, which has been featured in the New York Times and lauded by the American Bar Association. She regularly trains public defenders, prosecutors, and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system, both in New York City and nationally, on best practices to identify victims of sex trafficking and prevent the criminalization of vulnerable populations.   Ms. Mogulescu has been invited to testify before the New York City Council and New York State Legislature on the issue of combating sex trafficking.  Ms. Mogulescu was recently named one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association.  In 2012, Ms. Mogulescu was named a finalist for the American Constitution Society’s David Carliner Public Interest Award, which “recognizes outstanding mid-career public interest lawyers whose work best exemplifies its namesake’s legacy of fearless, uncompromising and creative advocacy on behalf of marginalized people.”

Linda Oalican is the Overall Coordinator and Community Organizer for the Damayan Migrant Workers Association.  Ms. Oalican discovered her passion for serving the marginalized sectors as a student activist in the University of the Philippines at the height of the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s. She later became a community and labor organizer, but had to shelve her organizing work to focus on supporting her children to go to college. She migrated to the U.S. eighteen years ago to help ensure her family’s economic survival and became a domestic worker in New York City. In 2002, Ms. Oalican became one of the founding members of Damayan, has been with Damayan since its founding and currently serves as its Overall Coordinator. She became a Union Square Awardee in 2004, and was awarded the Leading With Love – Dedication Award by the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). She was elected to the first two Coordinating Committees of the NDWA, was instrumental in the establishment of its infrastructure and democratic processes, and was elected to its first Board of Directors in 2012.

Alexandra Patino is Executive Director of the New York City Family Justice Center, Queens (QFJC) which opened in July 2008.  The New York City Family Justice Centers are an initiative of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV). Ms. Patino was directly involved in creating the QFJC, which is the second Family Justice Center to open in New York City. From 2006-2007 she coordinated OCDV’s Domestic Violence Response Team (DVRT) program in Queens County.  DVRT is a collaboration among City agency and non-profit domestic violence service providers that addresses high risk client service issues, develops individualized action plans, and makes policy recommendations. Before joining OCDV, Ms. Patino was an immigration attorney, representing political asylum applicants, persons in deportation proceedings and victims of domestic violence in VAWA self-petitions. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from New York University and  her Juris Doctor from the City University of New York School of Law.

Anita Ramasastry is a Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law.  Prof. Ramasastry is an expert in the fields of business and human rights, anti-corruption and commercial law and development. Her current research focuses on the accountability of economic actors in conflict and weak-governance zones. From 2009 to 2012, Ramasastry served as a senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Market Access and Compliance in the International Trade Administration of the US Department of Commerce, working under the leadership of then Secretary Gary Locke. She directed the ITA’s anti-corruption and trade efforts, and helped to launch new initiatives with the G20, APEC and the OSCE. She also coordinated the ITA’s trade strategies with new emerging markets such as Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, South Africa and Saudi Arabia and developed a new business and human rights curriculum for US trade officers in embassies worldwide.  She serves as a Senior Advisor to the Institute for Human Rights and Business (2012-present) and was an Advisor to the International Commission of Jurists Expert Panel on Corporate Complicity (2008).  Prof. Ramasastry is a commissioner and chair of the Washington state delegation and is the Secretary of the national Uniform Law Commission. She has been recognized by the students as the Philip A. Trautman Professor of the Year in 1997, 2003, and 2006. In 1998, she received the UW Distinguished Teaching Award and in 2002, she received the UW Outstanding Public Service Award for her work with battered immigrant women and children.

Ivy O. Suriyopas is an attorney and the Director of the Anti-Trafficking Initiative at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). She provides legal representation, conducts community education and outreach, and engages in policy advocacy on human trafficking issues. This legal representation includes immigration assistance, criminal justice advocacy, and civil litigation for claims involving the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and other federal and state laws. Ms. Suriyopas serves as a Freedom Network (USA) Co-Chair and a steering committee member of the New York Anti-Trafficking Network. She co-authored the third edition of “Identification and Legal Advocacy for Trafficking Survivors” and the first edition of “Immigration Relief for Crime Victims: The U Visa Manual.” She is a recipient of the New York City Bar Association’s Legal Services Award. Her previous legal experience includes externships with the Honorable Martin J. Jenkins of the Northern District of California and the ACLU of Northern California. She served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal and studied international human rights law in South Africa through Howard University.

Ms. Suriyopas was awarded one of the Best Lawyers Under 40 by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.  Read more here.

Juhu Thukral is the Director of Law and Advocacy at the Opportunity Agenda.  Ms. Thukral is a leading expert on the rights of low-income and immigrant women in the areas of sexual health and rights, gender-based violence, economic security, and criminal justice. She is a founder of numerous ventures supporting women and LGBT people, and has been recognized as one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century 2012.” Ms. Thukral leads strategic communications and policy initiatives on economic, immigrant, and gender and sexuality concerns. Prior to this, Ms. Thukral was the founder and Director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York City, where she continues to act as a Senior Advisor. She founded the Sex Workers Project in 2001, after recognizing the strong need for an organization that protects the legal and human rights of sex workers. She is also a founding Steering Committee member of the NY Anti-Trafficking Network. In 2010, she co-founded the Women’s 21st Century Salon. Ms. Thukral has extensive experience in developing policy and programmatic initiatives, fundraising and donor education, and managing successful partnerships with diverse arrays of collaborating organizations seeking to make a shared impact. Ms. Thukral has spoken widely on issues of gender and sexuality, and has authored articles that have appeared in Race-Talk, RH Reality Check,, Research for Sex Work, and SIECUS Report, in addition to in-depth research reports involving human rights documentation and communications research. She has served as an expert source for a wide range of media outlets, including the Washington Post, Boston Globe, New York Times, Women’s eNews, NPR, Democracy Now, Good Morning America, NY1, Village Voice, AlterNet and numerous other venues.

Martina Vandenberg is the President of the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center in Washington, DC.  She has spent nearly two decades fighting human trafficking, forced labor, rape as a war crime, and violenceagainst women. She has represented victims of human trafficking pro bono inimmigration, criminal, and civil cases. Ms. Vandenberg has testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, the Helsinki Commission, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House Armed Services Committee. A formerHuman Rights Watch researcher, Ms. Vandenberg spearheaded investigations into human rights violations in the Russian Federation, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Uzbekistan, Kosovo, Israel, and Ukraine, and authored the first published report documenting human trafficking in Israel.  She established The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center in 2012 with generous support from the Open Society Foundations (OSF) Fellowship Program. She received the 2006 Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Pro Bono Award for her successful representation of trafficking victims in United States federal courts and her advocacy before Congress. As pro bono advocacy counsel to the Freedom Network USA, Ms. Vandenberg received the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award for her “outstanding leadership and dedication in working to combat human trafficking and slavery in the United States.”

Dan Werner is the supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s immigrant justice initiative, which combats workplace exploitation and other human rights abuses of immigrants. He is an expert on human trafficking law and the co-author of “A Guide to Civil Litigation on Behalf of Victims of Human Trafficking.” He has lectured and testified in the U.S., Europe, and Asia on issues affecting victims of human trafficking and other forms of severe labor exploitation. Previously, he co-founded the Workers’ Rights Law Center of New York with an Echoing Green fellowship after six years as a lawyer with Farmworker Legal Services of New York. Mr. Werner has represented citrus workers in Florida under a NAPIL fellowship. He is a graduate of State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law and Grinnell College in Iowa.

Tiffany Williams is the director of Break the Chain Campaign at the Institute for Policy Studies, and the coordinator of the Beyond Survival campaign of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which works to build survivor leadership and awareness of human trafficking of domestic workers in the United States and around the world. As a licensed social worker, she has coordinated and delivered direct social services to domestic workers who have survived human trafficking, focusing on domestic workers exploited by diplomats and international officials. Her current organizing and advocacy work emphasizes the intersections of immigration policy, worker rights, and gender inequality. Before joining NDWA, she was the Community Resource Associate at the Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement in New York City, where she managed training and outreach about public benefits and financial literacy for low-income women workers. Tiffany graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. in Political Science, and Columbia University with a Master’s degree in Social Work.