La Sierra grad takes aim at human trafficking
July 3, 2013
By Darla Martin Tucker
On June 24, Kate Case, newly graduated La Sierra University Global Studies major, led a Sacramento contingent in lobbying the offices of approximately 47 state legislators for passage of a law aiding human trafficking minors. It was her latest effort in a political and social cause that has captured her heart and defined her future.
Case and a group of 40 California lobby day participants advocated for the assembly’s passage of a Safe Harbor proposal, which if enacted, will serve as a critical step toward placing human trafficking minors under juvenile court jurisdiction and into specialized programs rather than prosecuting them as criminals.
The group met with 17 assembly offices to compel the passage of the bill which passed the senate on May 28 with a 39-0 bipartisan vote. It is awaiting hearing dates in two assembly committees.
The unanimous senate vote included that of State Senator Richard Roth, D-Riverside. Roth served as La Sierra’s commencement speaker on June 16, the day of Case’s graduation. Prior to his talk, the senator told university President Randal Wisbey that he desired his speaker’s honorarium be given to a La Sierra graduate. Wisbey selected Case as the recipient. “Senator Roth, …I want to you to get a good look at Kate, I want you to see her because we believe you will be seeing a great deal more of her in the coming days and years,” said Wisbey, asking Case and Roth to both stand. “Next week she will be in Sacramento and she wants an appointment with you.”
Case is pursuing a career as an advocate for human trafficking victims and the ultimate end of trafficking, an interest sparked through her academic experiences at La Sierra. Human trafficking is an industry comprised of forced labor and sexual exploitation victimizing millions worldwide. The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, estimates the number of people enslaved in sex or labor exploitation ranges from 12 to 27 million.
Case organized the Sacramento lobbying event as an “Organizing and Advocacy” fellow with International Justice Mission. The Christian nonprofit, based in Washington D.C., fights slavery, sexual exploitation and violent oppression through field offices in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
She began the yearlong fellowship in January and is responsible for helping to grow the groundswell anti-trafficking movement and conduct trainings in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada. In addition, as part of a commitment emanating from her participation in a Clinton Global Initiative University held in April, she is committed to recruiting 50 campuses to the cause, including La Sierra. Once her fellowship is complete, Case said she looks forward to continuing her work with the anti-trafficking community and legislative efforts. She may pursue a graduate degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Ma.
Case’s interest in the fight against human trafficking was significantly influenced by the research of Ken Crane, associate professor of sociology, anthropology and global studies in La Sierra’s History, Politics and Society department. Crane spent a sabbatical investigating issues pertaining to refugees and trafficking victims. “When she reacted to this issue in a class which I taught with psychology professor Suzanne Mallery, her zeal was unmistakable,” said Crane. “…she was responding to a serious calling on her life.”
Case, in June 2011, began an internship with anti-human trafficking nonprofit California Against Slavery and through her work met and befriended several domestic trafficking survivors. “These women should not be viewed as victims, but rather as survivors who are working diligently to not only thrive in society, but to help other young women as they are liberated from their exploitation,” said Case.
She then transferred to Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md. for one year where she engaged in a three-month internship with the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department of the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference in Silver Spring. While there she worked on religious liberty reports and helped with background information concerning religious liberty laws in Hungary. She also introduced trafficking “as an issue Seventh-day Adventists need to get involved with,” Case said. “I want to see how we as a church can become involved in social justice issues.”
Between January and August of 2012 Case served as an intern for the International Justice Mission in Washington D.C. Her efforts included lobbying for the “End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012,” a bill created in response to the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting comprehensive inquiry. The investigation showed significant trafficking rates of 70,000 third country nationals on U.S military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.
She also served on a team that collected 73,000 signatures advocating for President Obama to prioritize the ending of slavery. On Sept. 25 last year, Obama signed an executive order to “strengthen protections against trafficking in persons in federal contracting,” by amending federal contracting legislation with new prohibitions, measures, processes and training, the order states.
After returning to La Sierra, Case represented the university at the Clinton Global Initiative University held April 5-7 in St. Louis, Mo. The event brought together 1,200 attendees to tackle issues pertaining to education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health.
On May 2, through La Sierra’s History, Politics and Society Department, Case, as a representative of the International Justice Mission, held a seminar designed to train students on how to approach legislators and engage in social justice advocacy.
The high-level work with state and national lawmakers propelled Case into an entirely new environment. “It was very surreal at the beginning,” said the graduate and Sacramento native.
She foresees the anti-trafficking community “achieving incredible feats to eradicate slavery globally” in her lifetime, and views her work as an “intricate part” of her spiritual life, she said.
“It’s great to be a part of a collective community fighting for an issue that is local and also global,” said Case. “It’s not 9-to-5, but it doesn’t feel like work.”