I founded the Academy in 2010 with the support from a grant of the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance. From 2012-2017, the Human Trafficking Academy has been sponsored by St. Thomas University College of Law’s LL.M./J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights, and two years ago, the late John J. Brunetti, a successful businessman and a philanthropist, donated a generous gift to the Academy to enable its contribution in serving the community with training, education, research and advocacy in the field of human trafficking. The Academy proudly holds the Brunetti name and remains a premier training center for law enforcement, lawyers, healthcare providers, teachers, students, researchers, religious institutions and the community at large on issues related to the crime of trafficking in persons.
In the words of Pope Francis, human trafficking constitutes a crime against humanity, and those who suffer from it are “the least amongst us.” Rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, the human rights program at St. Thomas Law has long been a leader in advocacy and action efforts to put an end to human trafficking in our life time, through raising awareness of this scourge of humankind amongst our communities and training professionals of all disciplines, in line with the Holy Father’s call for men and women of good will to renew our commitment in improving human condition.
Despite the good strides that the world community has made in the past decade and a half, we are way too far from eradicating modern-day slavery. With all due respect to skeptics, the fact of the matter is that slavery has never left us. Except for the fact that slavery is no longer institutionalized in any political and legal system and that modern slaves are no longer a legally registered investment, the types of exploitation, degradation and mistreatment encompassing any or all features attached to the right of ownership in situations of absolute control of one person over another, induced through force, fear, fraud and coercion are starkly similar to the old phenomenon of chattel slavery. Facts and figures indicate that there is no such a thing as a world free from modern slavery today—a $150 billion illicit industry, and in order to win over it we need to be warriors for human dignity. As Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo stated in his opening letter of the 2019 TIP Report, “traffickers are robbing … people of their freedom and basic human dignity….Each one of us can be a champion for freedom and use our specific strengths to help eradicate human trafficking…We must be resolute—we cannot leave anyone behind. Rather, we must harness innovation and ingenuity to prevent trafficking, identify and empower those who have survived it, and send the strongest message possible to traffickers that we will not tolerate their despicable and criminal acts.” This is the mission of our Academy as well and of our human rights program.
In aspiring to and contributing towards a world without slaves, the Human Trafficking Academy is cognizant of the complex challenges our society faces, but also of our better understanding of the phenomenon of human trafficking. There are a number of avenues for reaching the goals of rooting out trafficking and restore the dignity of its victims. One such avenue is reaching out, researching, teaching and training. And this is what we undertake to do: teach and train our students—lawyers to be, but also legal, educational, medical professionals and the civil society at large on how to prevent and identify human trafficking, protect and rehabilitate the victims and prosecute the perpetrators of this horrible crime. Preparing modern-day abolitionists is a responsibility that our human rights program takes seriously and utterly embraces.
We invite you to join us to trustingly work together to send human trafficking to where it belongs: the dustbin of history.