Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Human Trafficking Academy Commemorates International Day of Prayer

On February 8th, the Human Trafficking Academy and Campus Ministry joined millions of people of the global faith community on a day of prayer for the victims of human trafficking. In 2015, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP) at the Vatican designated this day as an annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking. The Human Trafficking Academy, directed by Professor Roza Pati, member of the PCJP, has joined this initiative in line with its social justice mission of educating, researching and raising awareness about the worldwide phenomenon of modern slavery and leave no stone unturned in order to eradicate this affront to human rights and human dignity.

The Human Trafficking Academy commemorated this day with a special mass and prayer service celebrated by Rev. Msgr. Franklyn Casale, president of St. Thomas University, followed by a discussion led by Ms. Beatriz Susana Uitts and Father Paul VI Karenga, current J.S.D. candidates of the Intercultural Human Rights Program at St. Thomas Law. Ms. Uitts discussed “Human Trafficking in Cyberspace” and explained how criminals are using the internet to target, entice, groom, and solicit victims for trafficking purposes. Father Paul VI Karenga presented “Trends of Human Trafficking in West Africa” and highlighted some of the key challenges in addressing human trafficking in Africa.

St. Thomas community was joined at this service by a group of high school students from the Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory in Hollywood, whose presence and desire to learn more about preventing recruitment into human trafficking amongst youth through internet was a most welcome treat. 

February 8 is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of human trafficking victims, a Sudanese woman kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery. Upon escaping to freedom, she dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. 

Learn more about Human Trafficking Academy at www.humantraffickingacademy.org.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Human Trafficking Academy Hosts 7th Annual SAO Human Trafficking Forum

Dr. Roza Pati, Director of the Human Trafficking Academy, President Msgr. Franklyn Casale, 
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle and Dean Alfredo Garcia

On January 25, St. Thomas Law’s Human Trafficking Academy in partnership with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office hosted the 7th Annual SAO Human Trafficking Forum. This year’s theme was “Broadening the Scope: Sexual Orientation, Gender Roles, and Developing the Appropriate Response.” Speakers included Meredith Dank, Ph.D., Research Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and Aspen Hawke, Program Manager for Chrysalis Health in Fort Lauderdale.

In her opening remarks, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, highlighted the extraordinary work of the prosecuting team of SAO and also praised St. Thomas University and its Human Trafficking Academy for being the leading educational institution in South Florida to address the scourge of human trafficking.

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle addressing forum attendees

“You really have been the leaders in this way before the rest of us,” she expressed to President Msgr. Franklyn Casale, Dean Alfredo Garcia and Dr. Roza Pati.

President Msgr. Casale, who has been on the forefront of the issue, shared his enthusiasm on the recent partnership between St. Thomas Law’s Human Trafficking Academy and the State Attorney’s Office, and reiterated that “collaboration is the name of the game” in the fight against human trafficking.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Annual Human Trafficking Forum gathers stakeholders and community partners to address human trafficking in Miami-Dade County and South Florida. St. Thomas Law’s Human Trafficking Academy is committed to continue working and collaborating with local leaders to develop cohesive and coherent anti-trafficking strategies.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Human Trafficking Academy Empowers Local Girl Scouts Troops to be Tomorrow’s Abolitionists

Girls Scouts troops attend human trafficking workshop presented by the Human Trafficking Academy

The Human Trafficking Academy recently held a two-hour workshop for local Girl Scouts troops at the Mary Collins Community Center in Miami Lakes, Florida. Beatriz Susana Uitts, Research Assistant, and Karla Garcia, Executive Assistant, spoke to the group about one of the most prevalent forms of modern-day slavery and one that greatly affects our youth, commercial sexual exploitation.

During the workshop, the Girls Scouts read case scenarios of trafficked victims and learned to identify key elements of human trafficking such as recruiting techniques, traffickers’ profiles, and trauma bonding.

The workshop intended to equip and empower the Girl Scouts with knowledge and awareness about this heinous crime as well as ways they can get involved in the fight against modern-day slavery.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Combatting the Scourge of Modern Slavery: Human Trafficking Academy Receives $2.5 Million Gift

St. Thomas Law and its highly-acclaimed Human Trafficking Academy just became the beneficiary of a $2.5 million gift, generously donated by Mr. John Brunetti, Chairman of the Hialeah Park Racing & Casino.

Mr. John Brunetti (center) presenting $2.5 million check to St. Thomas Law’s 
Human Trafficking Academy

Professor Pati, who has been working on the issue of human trafficking since the early 1990s described the multi-million dollar gift is a blessing that will help the academy accomplish countless desired goals, enhance the Academy’s presence throughout the State, and nurture its agility and profoundness.

"The ultimate beneficiary will be communities aspiring to be free of slave labor, products and services [and] survivors, whose lives we will help put back together," stated Professor Pati. "Our work will assist human trafficking victims regain and own back their lives."

The Academy's reach will simultaneously empower Florida’s human resources, whose mission is to condemn and bring to justice those who appropriate people’s legal personality, their free will, labor and sweat. 

"We are proud and humbled to be the recipient of this generous gift," stated Dean Alfredo Garcia. "Our unstinting efforts, through the work of Professor Pati and our faculty, staff, and alumni, to eradicate the scourge of human trafficking will be enhanced."

The Academy will also continue its cooperation with federal agencies that combat human trafficking, and with the State Attorneys’ offices, the private sector and civil society in order to expand synergies and take advantage of available resources to better understand the physiognomy and trends of human trafficking as well as the needs of national and foreign victims.

Founded and directed by Professor Roza Pati, the Human Trafficking Academy was established in 2010 with the support of a grant by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance. A pioneer of its kind, the Academy is home to a variety of multi-disciplinary anti-trafficking initiatives that includes conferences, symposia, trainings, presentations, workshops, research and publications. Its impact crosses national borders.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Human Trafficking Academy Raises Awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation at Local High School

Cushman High School Students and Principal Caroline Lewis with Academy representatives Beatriz Susana Uitts and Karla Garcia

Human Trafficking Academy representatives Beatriz Susana Uitts, Research Assistant, and Karla Garcia, Executive Assistant of the Academy, visited a group of 9th and 10th-grade students at Cushman High School to talk about the issue of human trafficking on Tuesday, October 24th. The topic under discussion was the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). It is estimated that between 100,000-300,000 youth are victims of CSEC each year in the United States.

The goal of the presentation was to inform and educate students about human trafficking. Students learned about the risk factors that make minors potential victims of CSEC as well as the methods of control and tactics used by traffickers.

The Academy was invited to present on the topic as part of the high school’s Society and Me program, which encourages students to select and research a social issue that is prevalent both locally and globally and to think about what they can do to create change in their local communities.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Human Trafficking Academy: An Educational Pioneer in the Fight Against Modern Day Slavery

The Human Trafficking Academy hosted its one-week training for the second time this year, on July 31 – August 4, 2017. The Academy, under the leadership of its director, Dr. Roza Pati, Professor of Law and Executive Director of the LL.M./J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights, brought together 62 participants from all over Florida, the United States and also from Thailand. They represented a multi-disciplinary group of various professional backgrounds including attorneys, law enforcement and border protection, social service providers, child protective investigators, academics, advocates, students and faith-based organizations.

Barbara Martinez, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Section, U.S. DOJ, Miami U.S. Attorney's Office, Benjamin Widlanski, Assistant United States Attorney, and HSI-ICE Special Agent Claudia Velez discussing the Federal Prosecution of Human Trafficking Cases

This summer’s Academy offered five days of intensive education on: Defining, Understanding & Identifying Human Trafficking; Victims’ Needs & Navigation through Services; Federal Prosecution of Human Trafficking; Addressing Human Trafficking through State Law; Social Responsibility & Community Involvement; Survivor-Centered Services & Advocacy; Technology & Human Trafficking; and the Media & Human Trafficking.

Bretton Engle, Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Professor at FIU College of Medicine, interacts 

with Academy participants who role-play motivational interviewing
The week-long training was designed to empower participants with the theoretical perspective and legal framework of human trafficking as well as with practical skills and tools that are essential in addressing and preventing this heinous crime. Each session was taught by a distinguished team of instructors including: Greg Bristol, former FBI Special Agent; Joseph Martinez, former NCIS Special Agent; Barbara Martinez, Chief, Special Prosecutions Section, U.S. DOJ, Miami U.S. Attorney's Office; Benjamin Widlanski, Assistant United States Attorney, U.S. DOJ, Miami U.S. Attorney's Office; Ana Isabel Vallejo & Maria Jose Fletcher, Co-Directors & Attorneys, VIDA Legal Assistance; Brenda Mezick, Chief, Human Trafficking Unit, Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office; Sean Sellers, Director of Strategic Partnerships, National Economic & Social Rights Initiative; Bretton Engle, Assistant Clinical Professor, FIU College of Medicine; Janet Basilan, Survivor & Vice-Chairperson, GABRIELA USA; Roy Balleste, Professor of Law, St. Thomas University School of Law; and Beatriz Susana Uitts, J.S.D. Candidate, St. Thomas University School of Law.

Professor Roza Pati, Director of the Human Trafficking Academy, 
and Janet Basilan, a survivor of human trafficking and Vice Chairperson 
In welcoming participants at the opening session, Dr. Pati promised that the Human Trafficking Academy would be an extraordinary educational and training experience and that participants would leave empowered with the necessary knowledge and skills to combat the abhorrent scourge against human dignity.

The Academy featured guest speaker, Janet Basilan, a survivor of human trafficking and Vice Chairperson of GABRIELA USA, a Philippine-based organization in the United States seeking justice for trafficked persons. Ms. Basilan was one of the many Philippine teachers who were lured to the U.S., with false promises of well-paid teaching positions. Later she learned that everything was a scam. She was a victim of deception, debt-bondage and coercion. Her story was eye opening to many of the attendees who “never thought things like this happen in the U.S.” Ms. Basilan is a survivor-advocate determined to combat human trafficking in her home country and here in the United States.

Throughout the week, the participants were greeted and warmly welcomed by the most senior university officials, Monsignor Casale, President of St. Thomas University, Dr. Irma Becerra, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, and Professor Alfredo Garcia, Dean of the Law School. They all appreciated the contribution rendered by participants against human trafficking and their dedication to supporting victims in every institution and organization they hail from.

Msgr. Franklyn Casale, President of St. Thomas University, Dr. Irma Becerra, Provost and Chief Academic Officer,and Professor Alfredo Garcia, Dean of the Law School—welcoming and greeting participants

The Academy concluded with a special screening of “Trapped,” a short documentary film produced by Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, Michele Gillen.

Participant feedback was overwhelmingly positive and met Dr. Pati’s promise to them:

“This most recent academy was my second to attend and found both to be rewarding, challenging, and enriching. I was rewarded with knowledge through experience, challenged with theory and practical application, and enriched with an enhanced ability to better impact positively the horrific crime and human condition of human trafficking. In addition to the instructional environment, the physical space was well appointed for learning. Thank you, Dr. Pati, for the effort and the hard work of your staff.”

Cpl. Alan Wilkett
Pasco Sheriff's Office


“The multi-disciplinary approach of the Human Trafficking Academy was excellent. The content of the presentations and materials were extremely informative, easy to comprehend and well organized. The professional and dedicated cadre of instructors represented academia, civilian attorneys, state and federal prosecutors, NGOs, media, volunteers and survivors. The real examples, scenarios and role play exercises definitely allowed for the students of the academy to apply knowledge learned during lectures. Finally, Dr. Pati, Karla and volunteers made everyone feel at home and comfortable during the training week.”

Benjamin Botero, Assistant Professor
Criminal Justice, Broward College


“Very informative, value-based, practical, to [the] point, resourceful in real time, impressive instructor selection, well put together by staff, [and] well needed.”


“This is an invaluable place to learn as well as collaborate…Wonderful course and relevant to all levels of experience and understanding of subject matter. Thank you! Well done!”


“The materials presented were diverse including information germane to investigations by law enforcement, NGO’s, health care, and community based groups.”


“The training was well organized, well timed and I learned a lot. Definitely will be useful in my field of work. Thank you Prof. Pati for your hard work.”


“Excellent logistic! Very good room environment—well organized!!”


“Thank you for your commitment and passion. Good luck and God bless all of you.”

St. Thomas Law's bi-annual Human Trafficking Academy is designed to conduct research, outreach and education in the field of human trafficking. In particular, it offers specialized training and technical assistance to law enforcement, lawyers, healthcare providers, teachers, students, researchers, religious institutions and the community at large on issues related to the crime of trafficking in persons. It looks at trafficking in persons as a gross violation of human rights and as an affront to the dignity of the human being.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Human Trafficking Academy - Continuing to Make a World of Difference

The Human Trafficking Academy recently concluded its week-long anti-trafficking training. The Academy, directed by law professor Dr. Roza Pati, welcomed fifty national and international participants; some hailing from as far away as the United Kingdom. They represented various professional groups including attorneys, public defenders/prosecutors, law enforcement, social service providers, students, and faith-based organizations.

Through its multidisciplinary and immersion approach, the Human Trafficking Academy - the only one of its kind - brings together these professionals of various disciplines, training them to work together and complement each other’s efforts in identifying and protecting human trafficking victims. The training highlights the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators, strengthening cooperation amongst anti-trafficking institutions and increasing awareness in order to prevent and combat human trafficking.

During the week, 21 courses were taught by top-level experts and professionals. These courses were designed to empower participants with knowledge and skills to actively and effectively engage in anti-trafficking work.

Center front: Kyla (a survivor of human trafficking), Dr. Roza Pati (right) and Michele Gillen (left), 
Participants of the Human Trafficking Academy 2017

During the week, the Academy hosted the renowned South Florida television anchor and investigative reporter, Michele Gillen. She discussed the role of the media in combating human trafficking and shared the story of Kyla, a survivor of human trafficking, featured in her short documentary report titled “Trapped.”

Benjamin Widlanski, Assistant United States Attorney, Southern District of Florida, 
discussing, "Federal Prosecution of Sex Trafficking Cases"

Human trafficking survivor Barbara Amaya, who survived domestic sex trafficking as a minor, led a training session titled “Dismantling the Cult of Human Trafficking: A Survivor’s Perspective, in which she shared her transformational story with the attendees, discussed the similarities between domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and cult recruitment, and ways to address and break the existing trauma bond experienced by DMST victims. At the age of 12, Ms. Amaya was forced into sex trafficking in Washington, DC and later on the streets of New York City, for over 10 years.

Attendee Feedback:

“The course was fabulous—the curriculum well thought out. The speakers were well prepared and relevant. I am disappointed it came to an end so quickly. Dr. Pati and her staff were very welcoming, hospitable and genuine.”


“This program was AMAZING. We learned so much. The topics were great and we really enjoyed [them] and had our eyes opened to many things we were unaware of.”


“I would be interested in additional training offered by the Academy. This academy was excellent! I think additional levels of the academy would be a great way for those within different fields to come together again, and learn from each other.”


“Thank you for putting together this training on human trafficking. It was superbly executed and very educational. I appreciated the breadth of instruction on legal efforts, law enforcement actions and social services that target human trafficking. Thank you for bringing in such distinguished lecturers, and some exceptional public speakers such as Regina Bernadin, Michelle Gillen, Maria Jose Fletcher, Benjamin Widlanski, Brenda Mezick, Barbara Amaya, and Sean Sellers. I really enjoyed the entire week and appreciated the opportunity to network with professionals from across the country. Thank you, Professor Pati, for your tireless dedication to fighting human trafficking. It is truly inspiring!”

For more information and to join our efforts, please visit www.humantraffickingacademy.org or contact us at humantrafficking@stu.edu.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

January was proclaimed National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the United States.  Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry. It is estimated that there are over 20 million victims worldwide.

Not My Life film screening & panel discussion 
The Human Trafficking Academy and the LL.M./J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights hosted a series of events throughout the month as part of the school’s ongoing efforts to increase public awareness, educate, research and inspire action.

The events kicked off on January 11th with a special screening of Not My Life, a powerful documentary film that depicts the cruel and dehumanizing practices of child trafficking in five different continents.

In her opening remarks, Professor Roza Pati, Director of Human Trafficking Academy, noted that, “St. Thomas Law through its Intercultural Human Rights Program, is South Florida’s pioneer educational institution to bring human trafficking to the forefront of student, faculty and community engagement." She expressed the delight felt in seeing many other schools and universities joining in this fight. "Since 2004, we have never wavered in our commitment to play a role in ending modern slavery in our lifetime.”

The documentary was followed by a panel discussion with guest speakers Leyla Copertino, Miami Community Engagement Fellow for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and Gabriela DeBellis, Vice President & Chair of Ignition Fund and J.S.D. Candidate, who had a lively and interaction with the audience. 

Father Paul Karenga
A mass and prayer service was held on January 17th, dedicated to human trafficking victims and survivors. This was followed by a presentation: "A Catholic Faith Perspective in Combatting Human Trafficking in the Context of the African Continent.” Father Paul Karenga, Parochial Vicar at St. Mark Catholic Church and St. Thomas Law's J.S.D. Candidate in Intercultural Human Rights presented his findings on typology and prevalence of human trafficking. 

The Human Trafficking Academy also hosted a 'Facebook Live' chat with guest speakers Brenda Mezick, Assistant State Attorney and Chief of Program Development & Public Policy for the Human Trafficking Unit with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, Rev. Msgr. Franklyn Casale, President of St. Thomas University, and Ana I. Vallejo, Co-Director and Attorney with VIDA Legal Assistance, Inc. They discussed current actions being taken to prevent and combat human trafficking in the state of Florida.

Facebook Live with Brenda Mezick, Esq., Rev. Msgr. Franklyn Casale, & Ana I. Vallejo, Esq.

On January 23rd, the Human Trafficking Academy, in cooperation with the Office for Career Development, culminated the Human Trafficking Awareness Month activities with a Lunch & Learn presentation: "Prosecuting the Crime of Human Trafficking Under State Law” with Kristy Nunez, Division Chief for the Human Trafficking Unit with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

St. Thomas Law is committed to respecting and protecting human dignity of each and every person and we will continue our devotion to the cause of ending modern-slavery through outreach, education and research. For more information and to join our efforts please visit www.humantraffickingacademy.org or contact us at humantrafficking@stu.edu

Friday, August 12, 2016

“A-Rated and Above and Beyond Expectations!”

On August 1, 2016, over  95 advocates, students, and academics arrived at St. Thomas Law for the week-long Human Trafficking Academy. The academy, presented by the law school's LL.M./ J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights, offered 17 intensive and interactive courses, taught by top-level experts and practitioners with long-time experience in working in the field of anti-trafficking.

Summer 2016 Human Trafficking Academy
Founded and directed by Professor Roza Pati in 2011, the academy also focuses on education, research, and outreach. It has affected law, policy and practice in combating human trafficking nationally and internationally. Through its education prong, it has certified over 450 professionals of various disciplines: attorneys, public defenders, prosecutors, judges, law enforcement, social service providers, child protection investigators, health care providers, academics, students, faith-based organizations, and also human trafficking survivors.

In its outreach function, it has developed relationships with and coached over 7000 individuals locally, nationally and internationally, within the private and public sector. While the research component successfully overseas and supports the development and implementation of relevant publications, doctoral and master’s theses, symposia, seminars and conferences.

Attendees also benefited from the opportunity to share and discuss aspects of their own work experience in combating human trafficking. 


The training materials and expert speakers are priceless.

I have to say that in this course, I have been pleasantly surprised how good and engaging all the instructors were. I have never had that experience before! Bravo!!

“The atmosphere allowed great exchange of resources between all the different organizations, lawyers, law enforcement, advocates and good Samaritans. I benefited greatly and will be able to use the tools in our organization and local community in Texas.” 

“I will highly recommend it to my friends and colleagues working or not working in the field,” 

“This Academy has been a God-send!”

"We, at St. Thomas Law’s LL.M./ J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights are humbled and honored by such appreciation,” stated academy director, Dr. Roza Pati. “Providing our community of professionals with the most up-to-date knowledge, best tools and most effective skills to combat human trafficking is not just our natural profession as educators but, in our Catholic tradition, it is also a noble cause. It is our mission, our calling.”