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Joining Forces with Ayuda to Combat Human Trafficking


January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time when advocates, organizations, and individuals around the globe raise awareness about this important issue. Human Trafficking is a problem that impacts everyone—including the aviation industry. For years Southwest Airlines has proudly supported multiple nonprofit organizations whose efforts help with the rescue, recovery, and restoration of Human Trafficking survivors—including Ayuda.


Ayuda is the only nonprofit organization in the DC, Virginia, and Maryland region that offers a full range of immigration and family law assistance, social services, and language access support for low-income immigrants from anywhere in the world. Unique in their ability to serve men, women, and children, with experience serving survivors of both labor and commercial sex trafficking, they have a depth of expertise in serving trafficking survivors and support hundreds of immigrant survivors of human trafficking each year through our legal and social services programs.


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Keep reading to learn more about their work and be sure to join Ayuda virtually on Wednesday, Jan. 26 from 5-6 PM ET for Ayuda’s annual Human Trafficking Awareness Month panel discussion: A Conversation with Survivors. Visit their website to register for the webinar.



The following was guest co-authored by Laurie Ball Cooper, Legal Director at Ayuda Laura Trask, Development Director at Ayuda


Local Lens on a Global Issue

The Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area is one of the largest hubs of human trafficking in the United States, a result of a mix of characteristics unique to the region: its location along the I-95 travel corridor, a sizeable immigrant population, and a large number of foreign diplomats who employ foreign domestic staff. As a result of heightened anti-immigrant rhetoric, immigrant victims of human trafficking are even more afraid of being deported and thus less likely to report their perpetrators. Immigrants are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking and face unique obstacles in seeking legal assistance and accessing the social safety net. For nearly 50 years, Ayuda has supported more than 150,000 low-income immigrants in overcoming these obstacles


Immigrant Survivors of Trafficking Need a Holistic Approach

When a person emerges from or is trying to emerge from a situation of human trafficking, they need help across a spectrum of needs. For immigrant survivors, these needs are often made more complex and difficult to fill because of a person’s immigration status. Most survivors require more than a lawyer and more than a social worker and more than a therapist in order to escape trafficking and thrive. Survivors typically require a team working together to meet their various needs in concert, minimizing retraumatization of the client by working together to minimize the number of times the client has to re-tell their story. In addition, many immigrant survivors choose to go through inherently retraumatizing processes of seeking justice and/or applying for immigration status based on their trafficking. When their lawyer works together with their therapist, a survivor can be supported holistically through those extremely emotional and challenging processes.


In many situations, indeed in the majority of situations in which Ayuda’s legal team represents a survivor of trafficking, the survivor does not come to Ayuda identifying or having been identified as a trafficking survivor. In recent years, we have seen survivors come to our pro bono consultation clinics seeking general immigration advice, only to discover that they had been forced into debt bondage—a form of human trafficking—by a previous or current employer. This is the most common way that Ayuda’s legal team identified survivors of trafficking. Ayuda’s holistic model of services and specialized anti-trafficking expertise has served thousands of survivors of trafficking over the years who would have otherwise gone unrecognized and unsupported in their communities and their recovery journeys.


Coming Together To End Human Trafficking

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During January, Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we hope that we can lift up our clients’ experiences to highlight that trafficking is not always what those who have not survived it imagine it to be—the means of force, fraud, or coercion used to extract work from an individual, for example, may not be physical. Instead, an employer may refuse to give a survivor access to their passport, threaten them with deportation to a dangerous country, or otherwise use non-physical means to trap the survivor in the situation. Through meeting clients where they are and offering holistic services, Ayuda is able to support our clients as their chart their paths after trafficking to make the futures our clients imagine for themselves a reality. But this work would not be possible without the support of our community.


Together with partners, including Southwest Airlines, we are able to provide more culturally specific, trauma-informed services immigrant survivors of trafficking need and deserve. Since 2019, Southwest has generously donated e-passes to Ayuda to help our clients reunite with loved ones, and to support our fundraising efforts to increase funding for our life-saving services. Moreover, Southwest Airlines is helping to raise awareness about this important issue and highlighting the important work many organizations across the country are doing to combat human trafficking. As we start this new year, we know that we will face challenges and uncertainty. We know that with the pandemic, trafficking has risen. But we also know that we are not in this fight alone. We are grateful for the support provided by Southwest Airlines. Together with our partners—immigration advocates, human rights champions, pro bono attorneys, community volunteers, and more—we will continue to advocate for an end to human trafficking.


To support immigrant survivors of trafficking with comprehensive legal, social, and language access support visit