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   A Year in Review: My Experience as the James Marshal Post-Doctoral Scholar
   Angel W. Colón-Rivera, Ph.D


 

Much has happened in the last year as the James Marshall Post-Doctoral Public Policy Fellow.  I have organized a Congressional Hearing on Trafficking for Labor Exploitation; taken two international trips to High-Level meetings at the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) headquarters in Vienna; represented SPSSI at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, Science and Human Rights Coalition meetings; and contributed to several initiatives that may shape policy on human trafficking both on the national and international scale. This year has not only transformed my views on the issues that I’ve worked on, I’m confident it has reshaped my path towards my future.

On May 23, I organized a Congressional Hearing titled Labor Trafficking in Troubled Economic Times: Protecting American Jobs and Migrant Human Rights. The hearing was fully conceptualized and executed based on my research and meetings with representatives from the Obama Administration, Multilateral Organizations and a variety of Non-Governmental Organizations helping to save the lives of thousands of enslaved persons around the world.  The hearings aim was to draw Congress’ attention on the often overlooked form of human trafficking, trafficking for labor exploitation.  Ironically, this form of trafficking-in-persons is the most prevalent both in the United States and internationally, and disproportionately affects migrants targeted by unscrupulous traffickers working independently and organized. The witness list included an illustrious panel of experts on the subject, including the Ambassador-at-Large Luis C. DeBaca, the Department of State’s highest authority on combating Trafficking-in-Persons (TIP).  The hearing room was filled to capacity and was attended by four United States Representatives and one Senator.  But more importantly, the hearing accentuated the need to alter the soon to be debated Trafficking Victims Protection Act by including provisions that will give additional protections to vulnerable migrant workers and requiring more rigorous reporting standards from the Department of Labor.  Similarly, it spawned a Resolution introduced at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Belgrade, Serbia to encourage increased corporate accountability and eliminate slave labor from supply chains.

This year, I have also attended two high-level diplomatic meetings at the OSCE Headquarters in Vienna, Austria.  The first was the OSCE Special Thematic Event on Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees.  This event was attended by representatives from many of the 56 countries in the OSCE region, including Ambassadors, senior-level representatives from multilateral organizations like the United Nations and Non-Governmental Organizations. The events objectives were to examine the current state of refugees and internally displaced persons within the OSCE region and identify current gaps in the protections established for these groups. At this meeting I was able to contribute to the official United States delegation statement delivered on the floor of the OSCE. The second event I attended was the 11th Annual High Level Conference of the Alliance against Trafficking in Human Beings.  This meeting not only furthered my knowledge on innovative ways the international community is adopting to combat trafficking in persons, it also exposed me to some of the leading minds on the issue and the opportunity to meet them and exchange ideas.

Last but certainly not least, I’ve had the chance to represent SPSSI at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, Science and Human Rights Coalition.  This coalition of scientific and engineering organizations promises to be an excellent venue for the exchange of ideas on the benefits and challenges that scientist face in the service to human rights. Being part of this coalition allows SPSSI to be at the center of these discussions, essentially promoting our science for social justice agenda.

These few paragraphs can only hold some of the achievements and life altering experiences I’ve had in just under a year.  As my second year begins in September, I can only imagine what more is to come!


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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin