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Professor receives grant for human-trafficking study

If you ask Jamie Gates, the director of PLNU’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation (CJR), how he got involved in the anti-human trafficking movement, he’ll blame his students.

Prior to some students inquiring about his knowledge of human trafficking, what he calls modern-day slavery, Gates, also a professor of sociology, primarily focused on worker justice, immigration rights, poverty relief and homelessness, among other things. After Gates began to research the subject of human trafficking more, his involvement grew.

“With students, we started to explore what was happening internationally for a few years, and then started to be invited into circles locally, because they knew we were researching this,” said Gates.

In 2012, the National Institute for Justice awarded a grant, just under $400,000, for a project called Gang Involvement in Human Sex-Trafficking. Gates is collaborating with Ami Carpenter, assistant professor at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego, and Dana Nurge, professor of criminal justice at San Diego State University, to head this study.

The results to this study will be presented in summer 2015.

The study is made up of four components: interviewing gang members in prison and on the streets, working with all levels of law enforcement by examining non-public data and field notes, working with school focus groups by determining their knowledge on the subject and creating standardized questions for social service agencies working with human trafficking individuals.

Beauty for Ashes, CJR’s abolition program on PLNU’s campus, has three student interns, including sophomore Jessica Hong, a psychology major. She works with Michelle Shoemaker, CJR’s program director for Anti-Human Trafficking, in connecting with churches and organizations like Generate Hope, a rehabilitation house providing therapy for survivors of human trafficking.

“We focus on labor and sex trafficking,” said Hong. “We’ve kind of looked at it as a whole, rather than sectors.”

At the Beauty for Ashes meetings, students are presented with what is going on in the area and guided on how they connect with churches or organizations with the same mission to end human trafficking.

“We’re working at three different levels,” said Gates. “My work, and Michelle’s work and Beauty for Ashes, all combine to raise awareness — particularly be involved in the student research, to be involved in the deep research, to know what we’re actually seeing and talking about. And the third is to mobilize, in particular, the congregations to be involved in the social movement itself.”

San Diego First Church of the Nazarene is hosting the Interfaith Summit on May 8, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., organized by the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice of San Diego County. The gathering will discuss ending human trafficking in San Diego with an expert speakers panel.

According to Gates, labor trafficking most often occurs with undocumented workers, and sex trafficking is common in San Diego because the city is a tourist destination spot.

“You would think because we’re a border city, that would be the top reason, but actually most of the sex trafficking that’s discovered here is internal, not across-the-border sex trafficking,” said Gates.

This summer, two Beauty for Ashes interns are contributing to the research with Gates, including junior Mollie Ah Sing, international studies major and research and advocacy intern for Beauty for Ashes.

“I kind of keyed into human trafficking from being a part of Jamie Gates’s class,” said Ah Sing, who studied abroad in Nepal in fall 2013, completing an independent research project on anti-trafficking organizations.

Gates said Beauty for Ashes has created a scholarship fund for survivors of human trafficking to have the opportunity to attend PLNU. He said there are three people eligible for this scholarship, provided they get funding made possible through donations made to CJR. This summer, the Beauty for Ashes team is earnestly looking to raise these funds.

“It may be this fall that we are able to welcome our first person who was a trafficking victim, who is now a survivor,” said Gates.

Gates will be teaching a SOC 420 course called “Social Change” focused on case studies of human trafficking next fall.