We respond to sex and labor trafficking as they happen. We learn from that response and share that learning. Finally, we use what we learn to pilot big, new ideas for slowly, carefully, finally, dismantling big, old systems that make trafficking possible. We are focused where we think we can make the most change: Systems that trap impoverished migrants in degrading conditions; systems that allow sex traffickers to hide behind screens and systems that, if optimized, would allow the financial services industry to use traffickers’ own money to shut them down.
Illicit Massage Parlors
A longtime national leader in addressing the complex nature of human trafficking in illicit massage parlors, in 2019 Polaris joined forces with partners to convene the first-ever national strategic gathering around trafficking in these venues. The convening brought together more than 250 experts from around the country to share best practices and strategize around a robust national plan that leverages the increased attention to and understanding of these businesses sparked in part by a high-profile arrest of a sports team owner at a massage parlor.
Criminal Record Relief
Research shows the majority of human trafficking survivors have some kind of criminal record as a result of that experience. While some states have passed laws that allow survivors to have those records cleared or at least sealed in some cases, many do not and the laws that do exist are often cumbersome or insufficient to meet the real need. Polaris worked with leading legal experts on the issue to compile “report cards” grading each state law and offering detailed recommendations for improvement. Since the report’s release, Hawaii and Nevada have made dramatic improvements to their criminal records relief laws for trafficking survivors. Several others have made major steps forward including Kansas, New York, and Maryland, where bills were introduced but not enacted.
Research & Data
Polaris serves as a data hub for the anti-human trafficking field, providing key data to hundreds of researchers, academics, law enforcement officers and others seeking to deepen knowledge and understanding. Polaris’s data set, gleaned from the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline, also served as the underlying basis for a report on human trafficking of domestic workers – a significant percentage of labor trafficking survivors in the data set, as well as for the annual release of carefully analyzed data from the Hotline that reveals number of likely reported cases of trafficking each year.
Financial Intelligence Unit
Polaris has trained more than 2,000 financial services and anti-money laundering professionals and collaborated on a new, public platform that allows these professionals to share knowledge, information and best practices in real-time. Polaris was also instrumental in the launch of a new U.N. initiative designed to help survivors of human trafficking get bank accounts that they would not otherwise qualify for because of poor credit and other issues related to their trafficking experience. Through this initiative, six major banks have committed to working with survivors of trafficking to extend specialized financial services in the United States with an additional five large banks participating in other jurisdictions.
Trafficking in Agriculture
To better understand the conditions that allow labor trafficking to flourish in this sector in Mexico, Polaris launched in an innovative pilot project aimed at getting information about working conditions directly from the workers themselves. The multi-step process helped to create a roadmap for the use of technology tools to better understand trafficking among hard-to-reach populations and revealed details of how certain widespread practices in the Mexican agricultural industry create vulnerabilities to trafficking. Polaris also worked with the embassies of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to train consular staff on human trafficking prevention and response and worked with media in those countries to help spread the word about dangers facing particularly migrants who attempt to immigrate to the United States and are preyed upon by traffickers.