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Old Problem, New Solution: A Fresh Approach to the Issue of Labor Trafficking

Growing up in Seattle, Dulce Zamora always knew she wanted to give back to her Hispanic community and improve the lack of services and support provided for those less fortunate. A few years after earning her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, Dulce was hired as the Anti-trafficking Advocate but was promoted to Senior Anti-Trafficking Advocate last year at Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network (WARN).

Dulce Zamora

WARN is a program within the International Rescue Committee (IRC) that provides direct services to human trafficking survivors. Over the years IRC have built partnerships with nonprofits like API Chaya and Rest to expand services and provide case management for those affected by trafficking.

With many twists and turns in her journey, Dulce became became the first in house advocate for the IRC program specifically focusing on labor trafficking survivors.

Despite being new to the issue of trafficking, Dulce didn’t hesitate to take on this role. Always passionate to get victims the help they deserve and educate them on their rights, this opportunity was the perfect fit for Dulce. 

Through the IRC, WARN primarily focuses on the the issue of labor trafficking and working with foreign nationals or people with no immigration status, in large part because the majority of attention from non-profits, organizations, and public awareness has been directed toward sex trafficking. Typically labor trafficking victims are isolated, giving rise to the misconception that sex trafficking is more common or more worthy of intervention. 

Due to the pervasive nature of labor trafficking, Dulce works with service providers and community partners to educate them about the issue. Through partnerships with service providers, WARN helps victims of human trafficking find employment programs, housing, pro-bono lawyers, medical care, and any other resources survivors need. WARN was able to create a close relationship with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle and Tacoma to help their clients without immigration status seek immigration relief.

I was curious how legal providers can identify survivors. Dulce explains one way legal professionals can identify survivors: when seeking help from an organization or pro-bono attorney, attorneys can conduct an assessment for immigration relief. When WARN receives a referral from an outside agency they do their own trafficking assessment usually focusing on if they experienced force, fraud, or coercion. If an individual has been forced to work against their will and meets the other requirements, they can qualify for a T-visa (a visa specifically for trafficking victims and their families). It previously took a year to get a T-Visa, which allows temporary immigration relief, a work permit, a green card, and path to citizenship. Sadly, this wait time has turned into 18-24 months, making Dulce’s job more strenuous and frustrating.  

In addition to partnerships with those providing legal support to victims, WARN also established a partnership with Swedish Hospital. This allows survivors to receive medical care for free. This is important because, as Dulce says, “collaboration is key to achieving our shared vision. The vision to end sexual and labor exploitation of children, men and women, and the vision of a coalition of organizations and people all focused on providing necessities to these survivors” is the only way this work can be done successfully.  

Dulce talks very highly of the partnerships WARN has built but still seeks larger change on the state level. In close collaboration with Seattle Against Slavery, Dulce praises SAS in their policy making. Currently SAS is working on a bill where survivors of trafficking can get public benefits such as cash assistance, medical insurance, and food benefits, regardless of immigration status. Although WARN provides these services on a case by case basis, funding at the state level would allow WARN to help even more victims and survivors.

This collaborative effort is present on both large and small scales within the WARN community. Whether it is working with another nonprofit or utilizing her ability to communicate in multiple languages, Dulce is a perfect illustration of what it means to be a proactive advocate for her clients. 

If you are looking to be a part of this collaborative effort, take a look at WARN’s internships. They encourage passionate youth to become a part of their empowering familial atmosphere in hopes to inspire young people to participate and create change in their community.