José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. Earlier this year, Governor Jan Brewer assembled a task force to address human trafficking. Last month, they issued a final report to the governor. Some of the recommendations included toughening penalties against johns and raising awareness of the issue. With me tonight to talk about human trafficking is Cindy McCain, with the McCain Institute for International Leadership. Mrs. McCain is also one of the co-chairs for the governor’s task force on human trafficking. Mrs. McCain welcome to "Horizonte."
Cindy McCain: Thank you.
José Cárdenas: Before we get into the details of the report, give us a sense of the scope of the problem.
Cindy McCain: It's enormous. And it's the lives of our children that are at stake here. Most people if you talk to people that really don't know what human trafficking's all about, they assume it's in Cambodia, in South America, in Eastern Europe but it's not here. Not only in our borders but in our own state and not only is it here but it's huge. And it's deadly.
José Cárdenas: And when you say it's here, it's in surprising places. You and I talked a little bit off-camera, you mentioned Mesa being a place where they run into some problems.
Cindy McCain: Mesa, within Mesa there's a lot of businesses massage parlors, things like this that are there and there have been women that are brought in specifically for that that are being held against their will. And these are not women that are of age. These are young girls that have been brought in from overseas or domestically. I mentioned the domestic portion because it is a huge issue within the borders of the United States; upwards 25-30 million kids are being moved around for just this purpose. It's tragic.
José Cárdenas: And not to pick on Mesa, I mention it because that's one of the last places you would expect it to be, it's a statewide problem and that's why the governor appointed the task force. Tell us how the task force came to be and its composition.
Cindy McCain: I approached the governor and told her of the need that I thought was very important and I would like to do something about this and would she help me? And the next thing I know I was co-chair of the task force that she announced at the state of the state this past year and the rest is history. We have had -- we compiled a group of people that are by far the best in the state for just this purpose. We had a few attorneys as we should have had on there. We had a former attorney general. We had some folks that are NGO workers that work just in this arena. They had me. My co-chair was the head of the Arizona homeland security. It was a broad set of people with a lot of ground that we can bring to the table.
José Cárdenas: And I think a lot of people would assume that to the extent it's a problem in Arizona it's a border state but that's not the only reason.
Cindy McCain: It's not the only reason. We're -- we are a state that has a lot of conventions, more now, we're beginning to get our convention business back. More -- we're hosting the Super Bowl in 2015. Jackson car shows. We have had in the past all-star games. We're a busy state and with that comes the bad side and that is human trafficking.
José Cárdenas: And you have mentioned in a number of press reports the importance of getting our house in order so to speak before the Super Bowl, not simply because of all the good stuff that's going to happen but because it attracts these kinds of people and this kind of business.
Cindy McCain: We have to be proactive in this and unfortunately, we didn't have any legislation on the books that was really proactive and making these pimps and these bad guys know that Arizona's going to be a flyover state if you intend to do this in our border, you're going to jail for a long time.
José Cárdenas: And you told me it's not just bad guys. We also have women who are pimps.
Cindy McCain: Yeah. It's men and women. Taking small groups, big groups of children, not just little girls but little boys as well around the country. They move and you can watch them move almost with the weather as well as with events and things that are going on. And it's ability also for us to be able to educate and train our law enforcement on this issue, train our airlines on this issue. We have an airline based in the state and we're looking forward to being able to assist them in their employee training. The hospitality industry, hotels, motels, bars, restaurants. This is going to be a broad, sweeping effort, not just -- it doesn't stop with just legislation. Then comes the real work after that.
José Cárdenas: Some of the things are based upon recommendations in the report. Let's talk about the report more specifically. Give us kind of an overview of the proposals.
Cindy McCain: Well, the proposals are broad sweeping, which is what we wanted. And we believe the governor's going to take our recommendations and hopefully utilize them in whether she drafts, in all of this. We couldn't stop at just penalties or at -- it was how things -- it was how children are handled once they come into the system. Do we arrest them? Do we treat them as victims? Well it’s both because we need to protect them. So there's a part of that that offers the opportunity for us to be able to arrest these kids but then once they're determined that they're victims, then expunge their records. It's also the services that go with it. How do we provide services for these kids once they're in the system? And a lot of them are already former members of the system and the system failed them.
José Cárdenas: I think the report mentions that a lot of them are foster children or have been through that system.
Cindy McCain: A lot of them foster children, a lot of them just plain runaways. It's every -- every kid that comes from a broken home, a disrupted home, whatever it may be and unfortunately, they wind up in this.
José Cárdenas: A lot of proposals in the report for legislation. There was an attempt last year to get some legislation out of our legislature. It failed. You were critical of that failure. What's going to be different this time?
Cindy McCain: I think what's different this time is that we have a different kind of legislative piece. We have, like I said, it's broad sweeping. It's going to encompass a lot of different areas with this. We have to think about whether or not we want to confiscate materials that are owned by these guys, you know. There's all kinds of things that come into play with this. I'm not a lawyer so I'm relying on my lawyer friends to figure out what's right and, of course, the governor's people to figure out what's right. What we want are stiff penalties for these guys. These guys need to know that they cannot do this year, not in Arizona. But it also means once we go down hard on this kind of stuff again, like I said, we need the ability to be able to help these kids once we've got them, you know, and they're safe with us.
José Cárdenas: The piece of legislation I was referring to from last year would have lowered the age for certain purposes, the age of victims that would enhance the penalties.
Cindy McCain: What I was critical of in that piece was the fact that it wasn't allowed to be heard. I have met since then with the chairman of the judiciary and he and I have agreed to disagree on that issue. But I have his assurance that we are going to offer a piece of legislation. I have his assurance that he is supportive of this. So I'm looking forward to working with him, I really am.
José Cárdenas: One of the points that the report makes is the need for public awareness.
Cindy McCain: Right.
José Cárdenas: How so?
Cindy McCain: Oh, my gosh. Like I said earlier on, people think it's someplace else. That's overseas. That happens in weird countries that don't monitor themselves. It doesn't. It happens right here, right in their own neighborhoods. And so we need to make our public within Arizona aware that this is going on, it's going on right here in our state and this is how you can help. This is what you can do as a private citizen to be able to help empower our law enforcement, our first responders, our city councils, our mayors, our governor in all of this.
José Cárdenas: And you talk about the public helping. Speaking of help, there will be a lot of other organizations. Some you're already working with, some that will be here in connection with the Super Bowl. One of them, support hope.
Cindy McCain: Shared hope.
José Cárdenas: Shared hope.
Cindy McCain: They're a wonderful organization. Shared hope does a lot of awareness training. They do training with first responders around the country. In fact, they are hosting a group of Arizonans in Washington, D.C. I think it's the first week in November for just that purpose. There's some state legislators going. Our job is to once we get everyone trained immediately, then branch out. The trainers are going to train people; the trainers are going to train other trainers. We need a billboard campaign which we've already nailed down. It's so many things that for us to be able to make this work, we have got to come down hard and have a visible presence in all of this. By that I don't mean vigilante presence but the kind of presence that is a knowledgeable presence with the owners of establishments and businesses around town realizing that there's a problem and being aware of it and being able to report it.
José Cárdenas: You also talk about training of first responders of law enforcement. What is it that they need to know that they don't know right now?
Cindy McCain: God love these guys, men and women, they are so good at what they do but a lot of times, they have not -- it's all about looking at things through different eyes. And when you see a woman and three little girls, is that what it should be in a mall, for instance, or just being aware of all the things that could be a possibility. Does the child look scared? Does the child look disheveled or beaten or hungry? There’s a lot of things that come into play with this and it’s about training our people with their eyes.
José Cárdenas: Just recently you met with the wife of the President Fox of Mexico and he talked about this. Tell us about those discussions.
Cindy McCain: Well, it's important. I believe that in my humble opinion, I think women are very good at this and very good at being not only activists but getting it done. And so she and I have committed from both our countries to work together, on the border, to stop human trafficking coming across the borders. These are the same guys that are drug runners that are doing it, that are moving laborers across the border and so she and I have committed to work together in not only an awareness campaign, but in an effort to really stop it, working with both of our Border Patrols.
José Cárdenas: As you just indicated, you're not done with this yet. Your task force prepared the report but you yourself intend to continue to be involved. How so?
Cindy McCain: We have a western corridor of states that could be stronger in this issue. And so I believe that if we get our own house in order in Arizona, we need to take the McCain institute along with ASU needs to take us up through the central corridor, encouraging these states by not only our example but our legislation that we've enacted, encouraging them to do the same thing and helping them understand and realize why we need to do this and work together as the western states.
José Cárdenas: So you're going to be very busy over the next few months.
Cindy McCain: I'm busy, yeah.
José Cárdenas: And part of that is fundraising right? So I assume you'll be working with the business community, as well.
Cindy McCain: I will, I will, and particularly for the buildup to the Super Bowl and then the weeks that are during the Super Bowl; activities that are going on here in Arizona.
José Cárdenas: Cindy McCain, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about this.
Cindy McCain: I want to talk more about it, I hope we can come back.
José Cárdenas: We will have you back, I guarantee it.
Cindy McCain: Thank you.