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Uinta County Herald | Former Evanston resident makes a difference to trafficking victims

EVANSTON – Former Evanston resident Jeremy McLean – now home of Brooklyn, New York – was in Evanston last week. McLean is a New York City District Attorney who previously worked at the Workers Justice Center, based in Rochester, New York, representing low-wage workers and victims of human trafficking. When the pandemic caused that office to close, McLean decided to come home to Evanston and work from the home of his parents Bruce and Marian McLean.

Jeremy McLean visited the Herald to discuss his volunteer work at Survivor Alliance International, where he serves as its chairman.

“One of the reasons I wanted to talk about this,” said McLean, “is that no one is safe from human trafficking regardless of political beliefs. There are areas where we can come together and find common solutions. ”

After graduating from Evanston High School, McLean studied Spanish and Biology at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. He then served an LDS mission in Central America; he said that put him on a life changing course.

“When I saw what the people of Panama had to do to survive, it changed my life,” said McLean. “It’s been an interesting trip and my politics have deviated from mainstream Wyoming. In the Graduate School at Oklahoma State University I focused on international studies and continued my studies with an International MBA in Mexico. “

McLean graduated from Syracuse College of Law (NY) in May 2013 and has extensive international experience having lived and studied in Mexico, Panama, Peru, Japan and Israel.

McLean has been actively involved in advancing the rights of low-wage workers as an outreach worker and staff attorney at the Worker Justice Center of New York and as a staff member and organizer at Rural Migrant Ministries. He has advocated clients, focusing on agricultural and other low-wage workers, through legal representation, rights education, and efforts to train other lawyers.

McLean has assisted clients in obtaining legal remedies for immigration and other victims of crime, and civil redress for those who have been victims of human trafficking or otherwise exploited.

His work recently included traveling to Mexico and Honduras to find the parents of children who were separated from them and incarcerated under the Trump administration.

Because of this professional work, he was appointed to the board of the Survivors Alliance International. His employment and his voluntary work clearly overlap.

McLean stated that the Survivors Alliance International (SAI) is a membership organization for survivors that helps create community and provide resources for survivors. The organization has offices in Washington, DC and the United Kingdom. He said most organizations focus on recruiting people from the sex or labor trafficking, but the SAI is focused on what happens to the survivors after the recruitment.

“My first case at the Justice Center involved some grocery vendors found at a trade fair in Syracuse. You were in a dire situation; were under-fed, unpaid and forced to work 16 to 20 hours a day, ”said McLean. “It was [through] a government-run program but no oversight due to a lack of resources. So it’s up to nonprofits and small law firms to record such cases. “

McLean gave another example of a young woman who was a victim of sex trafficking. He said there was a sex trafficking ring run by Romeo Pimps in central Mexico that seduced women. A man romanticizes a young girl so that she falls in love with him and then threats and punishes her forcing her into the sex trade.

This particular young woman had a baby with her “Romeo,” and he used the baby’s needs as a threat to get her to make money and even convinced her to move to New York, where she could make more money . She eventually escaped but had no way of making a living, so she stayed as a sex worker. She was eventually arrested and became a client of McLean.

Trafficking in human beings, McLean said, is a similar situation, as the employer has all the power and the victim is completely at the mercy of the employer. The employer threatens them with deportation if they leave and can refuse to pay and punish employees who are completely at risk.

“It is difficult for survivors to get out of situations like this and start over,” said McLean. “My agency was helping this particular woman with the criminal complaints and helping her get her baby back from Mexico. Much attention is being paid to freeing people from trafficking; but what then? This is where the Survivors Alliance comes into play and that’s why I volunteer with them. ”

McLean said there are government programs trying to help survivors, but what they really need is a community of support. He said we need to think holistically about why people get into these situations from start to finish. What vulnerabilities do some people make targets of predators? Human traffickers look everywhere where there are major economic differences – extreme poverty and people in need.

SAI creates relationships and alliances with other groups that help; Extractors, Law Firms, and Legal NGOs. McLean said it was important to build these alliances; For example, people who have worked in the sex trafficking often have a file so they can work with law firms to help them wipe out their criminal records.

Survivors can find the Alliance groups in their country through partnership agencies and word of mouth. As an example, McLean said that they have now organized a large group in India. The organization recently hosted a world convention and has worldwide membership.

“I’ve never been through anything like this before, so at SAI we believe that people with shared experiences are the best solution,” said McLean. “I can be empathetic, but I can never really understand it. I want to build these connections so that survivors feel they have found support from people who have had a similar or identical experience. “

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