Cindy McCain, philanthropist and wife of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Marta Sahagún de Fox, former first lady of Mexico, spoke Thursday morning about the importance of the U.S. and Mexico working together to eliminate human trafficking.
The McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU and the United Peoria Foundation hosted the event in Peoria. About 100 people, including city council members, ASU faculty and spectators, prepared to talk about ending human trafficking.
“It has to do with dignity. It has to do with equal gender, and it has to do with justice at the very end to open opportunities for everyone together,” Fox said.
The first step for the U.S. and Mexico to become better partners in stopping human trafficking is realizing that there is a problem, Fox said.
“We do not realize it, and we do not want to talk about it, and we have to talk about it, because this is a reality,” she said.
The next step is for the two countries to fight harder against the flow of drugs into the U.S., because human trafficking relates to drugs.
“To find a solution, we have to put together a solution to make a real alliance and work together with public policy,” Fox said.
Human trafficking is not only a problem that needs to be dealt with on the countries' physical borders but one that has taken to the Internet. Sites like backpage.com sell young children and women online.
“Organizations like Backpage and Red Book are a large part of the problem of trafficking and moving the traffickers around,” McCain said.
She said changing the sites' services will eliminate much of the human trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico. Backpage has a section for adult entertainment ads that can diverge into commercial sex or human trafficking, according to a 2012 study from ASU's College of Public Programs.
“In Arizona, we are looking to encourage Backpage to give no more adult services,” McCain said.
Unfortunately, she said, these websites have refused to take this action yet. However, she and people she works with fully intend to keep pushing the sites to change their policies. An organization like Backpage makes $42 million on human trafficking and selling women online, she said.
Chandler City Councilwoman Nora Ellen, who attended the event, said she was impressed with the concrete plans Fox and McCain had to end human trafficking.
"I was really happy about how Mrs. Fox brought up the nuts and bolts of how we can prevent sex trafficking," she said.
Ellen added that she supported McCain's push to stop the adult services ads on Backpage.com.
“When you can stop people purchasing it, it will dry up the industry,” she said.
Fox and McCain intend to see Arizona gain a reputation as a "fly-over state" – an area that human traffickers wouldn't even attempt to use, because they would understand that they would go to jail for a long time.
“Our two countries have got to work together on this issue and work quickly on this issue,” McCain said.
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