Attorneys honored during annual Bias Awareness & Inclusion Dinner

 By Jo Mathis

Legal News
 
As long as people are willing to exploit others for money, victims of human trafficking will continue to live among us, hiding in plain sight, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told the crowd at the recent 22nd Annual Bias Awareness & Inclusion Dinner.
The event, co-sponsored by the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the Vanzetti M. Hamilton Bar Association, also honored two Detroit area attorneys for helping overcoming bias.
McQuade said people ask her why they haven’t heard about human trafficking until lately.
“ I’m convinced it’s been going on not just for decades, but for centuries. Only now are we starting to understand what this crime is all about. And I think it is our biases that have prevented us from recognizing what this crime really is.”
She told of the case of Jean-Claude Toviave, a University of Michigan janitor and part-time tennis coach who was convicted in March of child slavery. In 2006, he gave four African children fake names and birth dates, and brought them under false pretenses to live with him in Ypsilanti, where he forced them to do housework, abused them, and deprived them of food when they disobeyed.
“The key to that whole case was the testimony of those children,” she said, noting the great help from the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic. 
Toviave was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
McQuade said her husband is a human trafficking coordinator in Toledo, which is a hotbed for human trafficking because it is where two major interstates meet, as well as many truck stops where truck drivers want to hire prostitutes. Many of the teenage prostitutes are victims of human trafficking, she said, even if they appear free to leave.
Immigrants also fall victim under the lure of becoming American models, and remain here only under fear and intimidation, often as exotic dancers “hiding in plain sight.”
McQuade said she appreciates the recent national and statewide attention to the issue.
“Before you can solve a problem, you have to raise awareness of it,” she said.
“In the federal government, we are already trying to figure out what schemes people are going to use to cheat Obamacare, because we know it’s coming. Whenever you have a new program, there are people who cheat it. Human trafficking is the same way. And people are willing to exploit other human beings. They want to use them up as a commodity and sell them for their own commercial advantage. So I commend groups like this and weeks like this to shine a light on this problem so we can bring those people out of the shadows … and make sure these people are no longer hiding in plain sight.”
Earlier in a video filmed in his Detroit office, WCBA presented its Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” Award to Judge Damon J. Keith, who is known for staunchly enforcing constitutional and civil rights in several landmark rulings.
The Vanzetti M. Hamilton Bar Association presented its Frederick Douglass Racial Justice and Harmony Award to the Rev. Rodrick K. Green, who graduated from Michigan Law School before going on to receive his Mater of Divinity from Virginia Union University. He practices law in Ann Arbor and Detroit and is pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church in Ann Arbor.
 

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