Jeffrey Epstein, Alex Acosta, Cutting the Budget for Trafficking Investigations and How Many Children at Risk?

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VIDEO: https://publish.dvlabs.com/democracynow/360/dn2019-0711.mp4?start=3214.0

Alex Acosta Enabled Jeffrey Epstein’s Sex Crimes. Now He’s Gutting Funding for Trafficking Victims 

During a press conference Wednesday, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta dismissed calls for his resignation and defended the 2008 plea deal given to the billionaire serial child sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein while he was the U.S. attorney in Florida. Acosta has also come under fire for his proposal to cut funding for victims of sex trafficking. His 2020 budget proposal for the Department of Labor includes an almost 80% decrease in funds for the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, the office tasked with fighting child sex trafficking. Critics of the proposal argue it would effectively dismantle many programs aimed at preventing child sex trafficking and put large numbers of children at risk. We speak with Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is rejecting calls to resign and is defending his role in a 2008 plea deal given to the wealthy serial child sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein. At the time, Acosta was a U.S. prosecutor in Florida. The Miami Herald has described the plea deal as, quote, “one of the most lenient deals for a serial child sex offender in history.”

AMY GOODMAN: Acosta has also come under fire for his proposal to cut funding for victims of sex trafficking. His 2020 budget proposal for the Department of Labor includes an almost 80% decrease in funds for International Labor Affairs Bureau. Acosta was questioned when he held an almost hour news conference to justify the extremely lenient deal he made with Epstein back in 2008 when he was the U.S. attorney in Florida. But this is what he said when questioned about the budget around sex trafficking.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: As labor secretary, you’ve tried repeatedly to cut a program that deals with human trafficking in the Labor Department by up to 80%, going before Congress advocating for that. Why should people trust you to focus on human trafficking and protect victims, if you’ve done that? And I’d like a follow-up question.

LABOR SECRETARY ALEXANDER ACOSTA: So, you’re referring to grants that go to foreign countries, for foreign country labor-related work. As part of the budget every year, those grants have been removed, as have other grants for foreign countries. And let me just add, as part of the budget every year, those grants are put right back in by Congress. This is what happens in Washington. And I fully suspect that those grants will remain in this year.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Alex Acosta’s record, we’re joined now by Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

We’re not as much talking right now about the case of Jeffrey Epstein, which we talked about over the last few days, but this issue of his cutting of the budget. Can you explain what this means?

TAINA BIEN-AIMÉ: So, the Department of Labor has a bureau called ILAB, which is the International Labor Affairs Bureau. And their primary responsibility is to combat forced labor, child trafficking, both labor and sex trafficking, and human trafficking in general. So, what Secretary Acosta is saying, that it goes primarily—that this money goes primarily to international programs, is correct, but it also goes to domestic programs.

So, if he slashes—so, he has a budget of $68 million. What he is proposing is for the bureau, ILAB, to be reduced by 80%, to $18 million. Congress will fight him on that; the Appropriations Committee will fight him on that. But what it means is that we are faced with an administration that wants to reduce its efforts to this very complex human rights violation called human trafficking. So, it’s not just jeopardizing the work that we are doing to combat child sex trafficking, but also child labor trafficking. So, many of—the State Department also works on human trafficking and also provides services and programs to combat it, but they rely on DOL, on the Department of Labor, and specifically for child labor trafficking.

So, for instance, cocoa production, right? So, there are three major U.S. companies—Hershey, Mars and Nestlé—that cannot even—they committed to ensuring to the consumers that no child labor trafficking is involved in the production of cocoa. What will happen to those commitments? Right? We don’t even know whether they are fulfilling their commitments to ensure that whenever you buy a bag of M&M’s or Skittles, that that doesn’t involve child trafficking.

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The “Righteous” Rebbitzin, “Limitless Horrors”, “Where’s the Kid” – Yael’s Case and Human Trafficking

Baby Trafficking and Follow Up Commentary –

From the Times of Israel

2. Where’s the kid? And without stealing a baby, which is allegedly what a couple in New York did in a case that was cleared for publication on Wednesday.

  • According to court documents and media reports, the wife of a rabbi from northern Israel was under investigation for her suspected role in having a pregnant woman identified only as “Yael,” who because of an unspecified mental condition was placed under the woman’s care, fly to New York for what she was told was a medical procedure. Instead, she was taken to a local clinic with ties to the local ultra-Orthodox community, where her baby was delivered by C-section and given to a childless couple, who returned with it to Israel.

  • Police believe Yael’s case is not an isolated one, and is part of a human trafficking network that has been operating in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community for some time.

  • The case, called “where’s the kid,” was originally opened because of an expose in Yedioth, but gagged until the court responded to a request by the Walla news site to have the case files opened.

  • “I’ve seen a lot of bad cases and this is the worst. The worst of the worst,” an unnamed “professional” who is close to the case tells the news site.

  • Yedioth describes the case as “limitless horrors.”

  • Meanwhile, Maariv runs a headline quoting the lawyer for the rabbi’s wife calling her “righteous.” “There was no kidnapping,” the attorney is quoted saying.

Rebbetzin, Infant Trafficking, Child Abduction and Israel

REBBETZIN SUSPECTED OF INFANT TRAFFICKING

The affair of infant trafficking was revealed yesterday, after the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court partially lifted the gag order on the affair, which involved a rebbetzin from the northern region who served as guardian for a mentally ill Haredi girl who was at the time of advanced pregnancy.

Allegedly, the girl, with the assistance of the rebbetzin, was taken abroad and taken to a hiding place. After she gave birth to her baby, he was handed over to a foreign family.The main suspicion now is that the rebbetzin exceeded the “mandate” given to her by the court with regard to her guardianship, by smuggling her abroad and transferring her baby to strangers. Attorney Yali Shperling, who represents the suspected rabbi, was interviewed Thursday morning at the Army Radio and made it clear that his client denies any connection to the suspicions attributed to her.

“The Haredi girl was problematic. The rebbetzin was trying to help her and rehabilitate her. Bad people, and I say this gently, tried to get her to her nuclear family to take care of her. The rebbetzin, a virtuous and veritable woman, contacted the girl’s family in the United States, went with her there, and was with her at birth. It has nothing to do with adoption. In the United States, when there is someone who is mentally hurt, they take the child, she does not know about the adoption, and she has nothing to do with it.”

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“It has nothing to do with adoption and kidnapping. There was no kidnapping at all. There are things I can not talk about right now. The girl stayed in the US and returned only at a later stage. ” Yesterday it was reported that during the investigation it emerged that the adoptive parents were Israeli spouses from a well-to-do family, and the police believe that the rebbetzin reached them via intermediaries. The police and the State Prosecutor’s Office are still examining whether the case is being transferred to the criminal field, and this is also why in the last two years the affair was under a gag order.

The Virtual “Kidnapping” of Infants from Young Haredi Girls Impregnated out of Wedlock and the Trafficking of Babies [VIDEO IN HEBREW]

Trafficking of Babies Delivered by Unwed Religious Mothers – Sold to the Families in the US, Israel and Abroad

The following are a series of articles in English and Hebrew made pubic after the  lifting of an 18-month gag order on any press releases of information related to the story of a baby trafficking ring between Israel and the US and other countries.

In 2016 we suggested in articles, based upon information we had received from members of the Kiryas Joel community (n/k/a Palm Tree, NY), that there were/are similar situations that were or are occurring in Kiryas Joel. We had been told by members of the community that foreigners were being brought in as nannies and maids and then impregnated to increase family size and the genetic pool. The babies were then being adopted by the Haredi families, not necessarily with the consent of the foreign mothers who, as we understand, were threatened with deportation if they spoke up. We were told that if they cooperated they were able to raise their own children but under the auspices of the families in which they reside and of course the babies were born Americans and listed as children born to the family. As such these nannies would then never have claim to their children, an indentured servitude of sorts. We were not able to find anyone willing to speak out publicly so providing any more details than what we did at the time was not possible.

In a similar set of investigations, we had been told that babies were being “adopted” from unwed mothers throughout the Haredi community by families within the community, either in the US or abroad, who either wanted to increase their family size or who could not get pregnant. The details of the ‘arrangement’ ranged from babies being sold to babies being legitimately adopted. At the time, the costs of these “arrangements” were well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The problem with young unwed mothers is not uncommon to all walks of life. However, within the insular ultra-Orthodox community it raises scandal. In vitro fertilization is not entirely accepted amongst all within the Haredi community and adopting Jewish babies out to non-Jewish or for that matter non-religious families is, was and will always be a non-starter when there is an unwanted pregnancy within the Haredi community, leaving limited options.

We have been told that babies in the ordinary course born into that community are often born by midwives; and it is not uncommon for families to deliver babies without the knowledge of doctors regarding the pregnancy, particularly where unwed mothers are concerned. Many midwives from within that community certify to the births; so finding midwives who would certify to slightly misrepresented facts is also not uncommon. The same holds true of a subset of hospitals or medical clinics within the community or regarded by the community as acceptable. As such, if a baby suddenly appeared, allegedly born at home, it would not be difficult to obtain a birth certificate or proper legal documentation, even if the baby was not born into the family as alleged.

The piece of the story we had not completed at the time was the child trafficking allegations,  instances where children were being stolen from unwed mothers and sold to families either in Israel or the US for a price, a “handling fee.” 

The attached video, in Hebrew, describes the scenario: a young girl got pregnant out of wedlock, she was kept from public eye through most of the pregnancy. At around the time when the baby was due, it was delivered by Cesarean section and then taken from her before she was conscious enough to ask question. All of the documents requiring her signature were signed while she was barely conscious. In her case, the baby was adopted for a “handling fee.” 

When asked by the journalist on the video if this is common, the guest said that he had access to the DNA of at least 9 instances in which this type of scenario played out but that he felt it was far more widespread. 

As described in the video this is a multi-milion dollar industry and it is suggested that this is fairly widespread within the Haredi community when young girls get pregnant in a manner that is not deemed to be kosher. The journalist was a bit surprised by the relative frequency described by the guest, Avi Lehrer.

According to information we have verified, the entire process is viewed as acceptable because it serves to prevent shame being brought upon the family, it is a lucrative business endeavor, the babies are sent to live with “reputable and religious families” and it is a relatively easy process given the ways in which children are born into the community (consistent with information provided to us in 2016/2017.

The commentator asked Mr. Lehrer if he believed that the adoptive parents know that the adoption is not legal and he said he felt fairly strongly that it is likely that adoptive parents know what they are getting into, in essence, purchasing babies. When asked by the commentator the value of each baby, Mr. Lehrer said $250,000.00.

The following are the articles that have reached the news as of today.

[updated 11.July.2019]

BABY TRAFFICKING

Police probe suspected baby trafficking ring

The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court has partially lifted a media gag order on a nearly two-year investigation into a suspected baby trafficking ring in the ultra-Orthodox community.

The police opened their investigation into the suspected adoption scheme in mid-2017 after an undercover investigation by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily detailed claims by an ultra-Orthodox woman who said her infant son was taken from her and given up for adoption against her will.

On Wednesday, the court revealed that police were probing the wife of a rabbi from northern Israel for her suspected role in kidnapping the newborn baby of the mother, who is identified in court documents as “Yael.”

Yael, who was placed under the legal guardianship of the rabbi’s wife due to an unspecified mental illness, told police that in 2016 when she was eight months pregnant, the rabbi’s wife persuaded her to travel to New York for a medical procedure.

After arriving at an unnamed local hospital linked to the ultra-Orthodox community, Yael said her baby boy was delivered via cesarean section, and immediately afterwards, she was pressured into signing documents she did not understand.

Yael said her son was taken away from her at the hospital and given to a childless ultra-Orthodox couple, who then returned to Israel. She says she has not seen her son since.

Yedioth reported in 2017 that Yael’s traffickers charged a $100,000-$150,000 “handling fee” for each adoption they facilitated.

In addition to investigating the adoption, the court documents showed that authorities are reviewing if the adoption was legal and if the boy, now 3, should be returned to his biological mother.

Police recently detained the rabbi’s wife along with two other suspects, but all three have since been released to house arrest.

The rabbi’s wife denied arranging Yael’s trip to New York, as well as any involvement in the child’s adoption.

However, police believe Yael’s case is not an isolated one, and is part of a human trafficking network that has been operating in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community for some time.

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Police investigating Israeli baby trafficking case involving rabbi’s wife

After years of investigation, the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court allowed the partial publication of a case centering around a baby trafficking ring headed by the wife of a rabbi from northern Israel, Maariv reported.

The rabbi’s wife served as the guardian of a young Haredi woman who was in advanced pregnancy at the time.
The young woman was taken abroad by the rabbi’s wife and then brought to a hidden apartment where she gave birth. Her baby was then given to a foreign family. The main charge at the moment is that the rabbi’s wife used her court-given mandate as guardian of the young woman in order to take her abroad and to give the baby to strangers.
The rabbi’s wife has denied the charges and said she wasn’t involved in the transfer of the baby to adoption at all. She added that the trip abroad was in order to give the young woman a chance to redefine herself after being hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital in Israel, according to Maariv.
The adoptive family turned out to be an Israeli couple from an affluent family and the police figure that the rabbi’s wife made contact with them through agents. The police and prosecution are still debating whether or not the case is criminal and this is why the case was under a gag order for the past two years.
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ARTICLES IN HEBREW:

פרשת החטיפה והסחר בתינוקות: “החוטפים עדיין מסתובבים חופשי”

חדשות פלילים ומשפט

הותר לפרסום: נחשפה פרשה בינלאומית של סחר בתינוקות

https://www.maariv.co.il/news/law/Article-707590