Chris Killmer once met a woman who had been enslaved as a laborer in Portland for 12 years. She was beaten and subjected to sexual violence by the affluent, foreign-born resident who coerced her into slavery.
Human trafficking for sex and labor is an ugly and real problem in Oregon, Killmer, a program manager with the nonprofit Immigration Counseling Service, told 75 Catholic school students attending Jesuit High School's first-ever Social Justice Summit on Sunday. And it's up to the students to get the word out. "The primary way to get ahead on this thing is awareness," said Killmer, whose group provides legal and social services to immigrant communities. "Most people don't even know this is happening." The summit brought together students from the Portland area's six Catholic high schools to learn about human trafficking and immigration issues, and to inspire them to do something about it, said Scott Powers, director of Christian Services at Jesuit. Speakers detailed the reality of slavery in the state: People are forced into prostitution or, more commonly, farm, home or factory labor, and are kept there through abuse and threats to their families. Jesuit High students plan to meet with members of Oregon's Congressional delegation in February about human trafficking, and the summit was a rallying cry for other schools to do the same. "Service and advocacy -- those are the two feet of social action," Powers said. "And all Catholic schools teach that." The keynote speaker, Francisco Lopez with Causa Oregon, a Latino immigrant rights organization, told students that as Catholics, they "need to become the microphone of God."