Charleston club sets up committee to help human trafficking victims

The Latin Exchange Club has set up a committee aimed at helping victims of human trafficking in the Lowcountry.
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 4:30 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2023 at 8:00 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Latin Exchange Club has set up a committee aimed at helping victims of human trafficking in the Lowcountry.

The club is partnering with the Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force on this endeavor.

“Between ‘21 and ‘22, there was a 450 percent increase in labor trafficking cases and 44 percent increase in victims who identified as Latino and Hispanic,” Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force Co-Chair Brooke Burris said.

Club President Enrique Grace said they are trying to help anywhere between 300 to 400 people per year in the Charleston area who have been victims of human trafficking. He added it is the first one of its kind in the country.

Grace said victims of labor trafficking are promised high-paying jobs and good living conditions when they come over, only to find out that is not the case.

“What they do when they get here, they take their passport or their documents,” Grace said. “It’s not the rate that’s promised at home. They’re charged a lot of fees for transportation, a lot of fees for living. Instead of maybe two people in a bedroom, there’s 10 people in a bedroom.”

The committee will be responsible for education on the different types of trafficking, child, sexual and labor, and providing resources for victims.

These resources include helping them find a permanent home, working with the proper authorities and helping them find legal help.

“We served last year over 40 victims, which is really quite a lot for this area,” Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services Attorney Anne Ross said. “We know that trafficking is both under identified and often misidentified.”

Grace said so far, they have helped two groups of victims get out of their respective situations.

“A lot of people don’t know how to get in touch with the Hispanic community,” he said. “There’s a trust issue, as well, right? The Hispanic people don’t trust all the agencies out there – don’t know ‘em, fear ‘em.”

At the end of the day, this effort is to reach people who may not know there’s help waiting nearby.

“Regardless of how they arrived to the country, regardless of what their documentation status is, they still have rights as employees. They have certain rights as human beings,” said Julia Poppell, the subcommittee chair of the Committee on Refugees and Foreign Nationals.

Grace said they are still looking for more people to join their new committee.

People who are interested in joining or victims in need of assistance can call the club at 843-592-3666 or visit their office at 2176 Savannah Hwy., #109.

Click here to learn more about the Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force and the resources available.