ANN ARBOR, Mich.—University of Michigan Law School's launch of the nation's only comprehensive online database of human trafficking cases will coincide with a major academic symposium at the school on the phenomenon of modern-day slavery.
The confluence of the two events Feb. 4 and 5 reinforces one of the Law School's traditional strengths: the marriage of the theoretical and the practical. While scholars and policymakers study the problem and plan future strategies at the symposium, the database will be online and ready to help journalists, academics, lawmakers, and law enforcement agencies track U.S. cases and spread information about what professor Bridgette Carr calls the world's second-largest industry: slavery.
The database will provide immediate access to the details of more than 150 human trafficking cases gathered so far by the Human Trafficking Law Project. The searchable listings contain the stories of children tricked into leaving their homes in West Africa, then forced to work without pay in American hair-braiding shops; girls and young women prostituted on American streets; and workers who toiled against their will on American farms.
"The University of Michigan's human trafficking database is a critical advance in the fight against modern slavery," said Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who leads the State Department's efforts against human trafficking and who will keynote the symposium. "Whether a practitioner or a policy maker, an advocate or academic—the work of all modern abolitionists will benefit from this compendium."
Each database entry is carefully screened and researched by law students, recent law graduates, and other volunteers who flesh out the initial results of LexisNexis searches. The researchers then make entries into such individually searchable fields as name, state, and category of offense. To ensure reliable data, each entry is reviewed by a program manager before it becomes visible to the public.
"The database was a huge undertaking for the clinic, and we're so grateful for the support of the Law School and the hard work of the students and graduates who brought the project to fruition," Carr said. "Its launch is a major step toward the Clinic's goal of not just representing individual victims, but also being a resource for other educators and practitioners involved in the fight against human trafficking."
Both the symposium, organized by the Michigan Journal of International Law, and the database are natural outgrowths of Michigan Law's leadership in combating slavery. In 2009 the school established, under the guidance of Prof. Carr, the nation's first clinical law program dedicated solely to fighting human trafficking. Carr, who graduated from Michigan Law in 2002, has worked closely for several years with CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large in the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
CdeBaca, a 1993 Michigan Law graduate, will deliver the symposium's keynote. Other panels will discuss sex trafficking in the international community and servitude in the form of international labor trafficking.The gathering's first event, which is not open to filming or audio recording, will be a talk by one of the Human Trafficking Clinic's clients. Other participants will include Saadiya Chaudary of the AIRE (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) Centre in London, Mohamed Mattar of The Protection Project, and political scientist Max Waltman of Stockholm University.The symposium is made possible through support from the estate of C. Edwin Baker.