“They are a force for good.” So reads the letter nominating Lynette Parker and Ruth Silver Taube J.D. ’93 for the 2020 Wellstone Award, recognizing outstanding contributions in the fight against human trafficking. The two attorneys at Santa Clara’s Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center (KGACLC) collaborate with advocates and organizations to provide trainings to identify instances of modern slavery, and offer services to survivors.
A herculean task, as there is no one profile of a victim. Of the hundreds of thousands in the U.S. estimated by the International Labor Organization, some are found in legitimate business settings, in plain view of law enforcement; others are hidden from sight, toiling in illegal factories or brothels. And while both sex and labor trafficking are difficult to track, measuring the scope of the latter can be more difficult because sex trafficking cases typically get more attention from authorities and media.
“Industries like construction, hotel, restaurant, and domestic service, agriculture, and nursing home care have the potential for forced labor. We see this in the Bay Area—unfortunately a hotbed for trafficking—and throughout California,” says Lynette Parker, a longtime immigration lawyer and founding member of the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. Part of her outreach includes providing trainings at government agencies across the state to empower officials to root out trafficking themselves and end opportunities for exploitation in their local economies.
Ruth Silver Taube, an employment lawyer, has been training employees at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) for the past five years. “A lot of traffickers transport victims on buses, so we want them to be able to identify what is suspicious behavior and understand why it’s so important to report,” she says. “We give them strategies for speaking up and what assistance we can offer should someone be found to be a victim—we can provide food, shelter, legal remedies.”
In addition to trainings, both women are faculty members at the SCU School of Law, educating the next generation of lawyers. “Working under the tutelage of these courageous and caring professors gives our law students a unique lens to view legal work,” says KGACLC Executive Director Deborah Moss-West J.D. ’94, “and provides a shining example of using a law degree for the greater good.”
Editor’s note: If you suspect someone is being trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.