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September 26, 2014

DHS's Blue Campaign Raises Awareness of Human Trafficking

By Juan Pablo Perez-Sangimino 

Have you ever been walking through the airport when, along with the McDonalds and travel pillow advertisements, you spot one of these “Recognize Human Tafficking” posters?

These images ask the revealing question, “Can you see her?” or “Can you see him?” Many Americans are unaware that human trafficking is a widespread problem, even in the 21st century and even in the United States. Human trafficking is a horrific crime, but it often goes unnoticed by the everyday individual who may come in contact with its victims. Traffickers ensnare children and adults, men and women to be domestic servants, workers in the commercial sex industry, or laborers in factories or farms. The posters provide hotlines to call if you observe suspicious activity.

The ads are part of the Blue Campaign, launched several years ago by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This campaign is a “unified voice for DHS’ efforts to combat human trafficking…. [The] Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.” The posters are strategically placed “at port of entry and airport departure gates and include information about how to report suspected human trafficking to authorities.”

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In addition to these messages, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Transportation have partnered with the aviation industry on Blue Lightning, a training component of DHS’s Blue Campaign. The first four airlines to join the voluntary partnership were Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Allegiant Air, and North American Airlines. Richard Anderson, Delta's chief executive officer, said that he “is proud to be among the first airlines to adopt this new training program to help raise awareness and combat the problem of human trafficking."

Even minimal training in human trafficking awareness can lead to freeing victims and prosecuting traffickers. Nancy Rivard, who works as a flight attendant and attended a workshop on how to spot human trafficking, saw some suspicious behavior and contacted the hotline. Several weeks later, she got a surprising call from DHS explaining “that her tip had led to the discovery of a child trafficking ring in Boston. Agents rescued 82 children who had been brought illegally from the Dominican Republic to the United States.”

While significantly more can be done to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of human trafficking and equip people with life-saving information, the Blue Campaign presents much needed training, attention, and support in the fight to curb human trafficking. Hopefully the next time you are at an airport, you will notice these moving illustrations and be reminded that slavery is not a 1850s issue—but a pressing issue of today.