Thursday, May 10, 2007

Las Vegas: Where's the Promised Help for Prostitutes?

Trafficking lawyer and law professor, David Thronson, is concerned about the deportation status of the prostituted women rounded up during Operation Dollhouse last month.
He says: "We don't know where they are."

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - On Sunday, April 22, Metro Police held a news conference at 3 a.m. to reveal the results of a two-year-old federal and local investigation into a prostitution ring.

Apart from the odd hour, the case was noteworthy because it would be the first major test of the Anti-Trafficking League Against Slavery (ATLAS), a federally funded group formed this year to protect women brought to the United States against their will or through deception.

More than two weeks later it remains unclear where the 25 women swept up in the case are - physically or legally.

But at least one partner in the newly formed league said the women were not given the help they needed, pointing to a failure in its freshman effort.

The women captured in the sting allegedly were working as prostitutes, while seven people, mostly men, ran the business, according to authorities. Most of the men and women came from Asia.

The anti-trafficking league's work rests on coordinating law enforcement agencies, often the first to come across foreign women forced into prostitution, with different social services and immigration law agencies.

The idea is to gain the women's trust, offer them food and shelter and interview them about how they came to the U.S. If it is determined that they might be victims of human trafficking, they are led through the process of applying for a special visa that allows them to stay in the U.S. and build new lives.

But the one member of the league with expertise in the issue of immigration law - David Thronson, one of the founders of the UNLV immigration law clinic - was never contacted to help determine the status of the women in the recent bust or to advise them of their rights.

Additionally, Metro officials stated in newspaper accounts and interviews that the women would be deported, only to be contradicted later by other members of the league quoted in the press as saying the women would not be deported.

Other contradictions and unanswered questions make this initial attempt at springing the group into action less than a success...


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