Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz proclaimed January 2020 to be National Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month in Laredo, Texas.
Common Thread, a project of BCFS Health and Human Services, helped draft the proclamation and was invited to take part in the announcement ceremony. Irasema Resendez, national partnerships manager with Common Thread, represented the organization at the ceremony and spoke about efforts to help victims of trafficking in the community.
“[The] Common Thread program has two key elements: immediate response and long-term advocacy,” Irasema said. “Advocates maintain a critically important relationship with the survivor, providing intensive case management and working to build protective networks for them.”
Also speaking at the event were representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Laredo Independent School District, the Webb County District Attorney’s office and the Mexican consulate.
The proclamation grew out of the efforts of Marilyn Bautista, a Laredo community activist who now serves as an advocate for Common Thread. Miranda Calhoun Burke, community advocate supervisor for Common Thread, spoke about how the city’s proclamation came to fruition:
“As a member of the Laredo community, Marilyn Bautista was shocked to learn that so many resources are available to those in need specifically those who have endured abuse and violence at the hands of others. When she learned of these resources’ existence, the desire to ensure that every one of her neighbors has access to information about available help became a driving motivation in her life. Since that time, she has worked tirelessly to bring awareness in her community to the realities of abuse, domestic violence and violence towards women. In this pursuit, she has become a trainer, an event-coordinator and a public voice. In these various advocacy roles, she made important connections with influencers in her community to ensure further awareness. One of the individuals she connected with and advocated alongside (through local holidays and proclamations) was Mayor Pete Saenz.
“When Marilyn heard that BCFS was opening a program focused on supporting victims of sex trafficking, her first thought was, “Our community needs this! No one else is doing this!” and she quickly applied for the role of representing our agency in the Laredo Community. She began eagerly researching human trafficking and sharing what she learned with anyone who would listen. Marilyn is a powerful voice in her community, she stands on the side of those oppressed, and she’s the current megaphone for Common Thread and our efforts in the community! Mayor Saenz is one of the community’s influencers that Marilyn has connected with in efforts to increase public knowledge regarding human trafficking, and the ones who are there to support survivors.”
Marilyn has also been working with the Laredo police department, fire department and EMS to train them on how to best handle situations when they first come across victims of human trafficking.
Read more about this proclamation at the Laredo Morning Times.