Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston Airports present checks to local advocacy groups during Human Trafficking Prevention Month

With a majority of victims trafficked through airports, Houston Airports is committed to ending human trafficking by educating and supporting the community.

January 24, 2023

HOUSTON— Houston Airports is following through with its commitment to support organizations that advocate on behalf of human trafficking survivors. In coordination with the Mayor’s Office, Houston Airports presented $10,000 checks to Unbound Now Houston, redM and The Bridge Over Troubled Waters in donations totaling $30,000. 

In November 2022, Houston Airports raised $30,000 through sponsorships for an anti-human trafficking program that educated and empowered about 450 community members to identify human trafficking and take action, should they suspect a person’s life be in danger. NOV, Schlumberger, Marathon Petroleum, Houston First, Port of Houston and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership served as sponsors for the event. Local survivors of human trafficking shared their stories and how they were targeted and groomed by criminals operating in communities across the Houston area. 

Houston Airports united mayors, law enforcement, bipartisan members of U.S. Congress, faith leaders, advocacy groups and survivors of human trafficking to share their expertise and programs with the public. The partnership is unprecedented.

In November, Houston Airports announced it would be donating the money raised from the event to a trio of local advocacy groups in January 2023, National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” said Saba Abashawl, Chief External Affairs Office for Houston Airports. “It’s a disturbing and violent crime that is happening in our own backyard and Houston Airports is committed to leading the fight to end human trafficking.”

Federal statistics reflect up to 70% of victims are trafficked through airports.

In 2019 Houston became the first airport system in the U.S. to partner with DHS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection and its “Blue Lightning” initiative.  

In the last two years, Houston Airports has trained more than 20,000 badged airport employees on how to identify and safely report human trafficking.  

“That’s 20,000 people now armed with the life-saving skills to speak up should they suspect a person is in danger,” said Mario C. Diaz, Director of Aviation for Houston Airports, “whether in our terminals or out in our communities, it’s paramount that this life-saving training continues.”

In 2015, the Houston Mayor’s Office was the first city in the country to establish a full-time position within the Mayor’s cabinet to address human trafficking. The office has developed a comprehensive model for Houston that includes leveraging city departments, like Houston Airports. 

"Since the creation of the Mayor's Office of Human Trafficking, which now includes domestic violence, we have raised over $8 million in public-private funds," said Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston. "Because of these dollars, we could invest in new solutions, prove their effectiveness and cement them institutionally as part of our coordinated response." 

Because of the City of Houston's longstanding work to mobilize City departments and divisions, Mayor Turner said he was excited to see Houston Airports self-mobilize and take initiative to leverage its position to support the City's larger fight against human trafficking. "

"It is so important to help survivors with resources that will help them live a happy and normal life," said Abashawl. "These donations wouldn’t have been possible without the support from public partners like NOV, Schlumberger, Marathon Petroleum, Houston First, Port of Houston and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership."

Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims. 

Click here for more information and resources for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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