FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Former Child Sex Slave and Anti-Slavery Advocate,
Maria Suarez Finally Finds Freedom
Press Conference For Maria Suarez, Thursday, November 12th at 11 AM
LOS ANGELES, CA (November 10, 2009) - After decades of captivity and imprisonment by her trafficker, the state of California, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, human trafficking survivor Maria Suarez finally found freedom on August 11, 2009 when she was granted a long awaited US green card.
Two weeks after arriving in California from Mexico, 15-year old Maria was lured from her home by the promise of employment and sold for $200. Her captor enslaved Maria and repeatedly raped, battered, and tortured her for over five years.
In 1981 she was unjustly implicated in the homicide of her captor and spent 22 and a half years in prison before the California Board of Prison Terms reinvestigated her case and determined that Maria was the victim of extreme violence, abuse, and torture at the hands of her captor, and recommended her release. Though she was a legal resident before the crime took place, immigration laws amended in 1996 provide for the deportation of legal permanent residents convicted of certain crimes. As a consequence, Maria was released from prison only to be detained for deportation by the Department of Homeland Security.
Four lawyers, Jessica Dominguez, Charles Song, Brigit Alvarez and Andres Bustamante came together to fight for Maria's release. Then California Representative, Hilda Solis -- now Secretary of Labor -- rallied 31 other members of Congress to sign a letter to Tom Ridge and Undersecretary for Border and Transportation, Asa Hutchinson, urging them to help Maria stay in the US. She was released with a T-Visa for victims of Human Trafficking, which expired in 2007, and until now, she remained in danger of deportation.
Since her release from prison and immigration custody in 2004, Maria works as a counselor and educator for domestic violence victims and offenders. Her joyful presence and loving nature has made her a compelling and dynamic advocate of rights for survivors of trafficking and battered women.
Maria has served as a speaker at national conferences and legislative hearings including the XXVI Border Governors Conference – “Fight Against Human Trafficking” forum, where she was personally invited by moderator Maria Shriver the UC Berkeley Conference on Human Trafficking and the UCLA Speaker Series. She has appeared on countless television programs such as Dr. Phil and El Show de Cristina, and is featured in several trafficking documentaries, including an upcoming feature documentary about her life.
This inspirational and charismatic survivor will speak at a press conference on Thursday, November 12th, along with part of her legal team, Charles Song and Brigit Alvarez to announce her plans to now travel the world as an educator on the crimes of slavery and abuse, speaking out against this abomination to humanity. Miss Suarez is calling for the continued support and attention from our country’s leaders to help aid in abolishing the worldwide crime of human trafficking. Requests for speaking opportunities with Miss Suarez may be booked through Free the Slaves.
ABOUT FREE THE SLAVES
Free the Slaves is an international organization that liberates slaves around the world, helps them rebuild their lives, and researches real world solutions to eradicate slavery forever.
WHEN: Thursday, November 12, 2009
WHERE: National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles | NCJW/LA
543 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036 (Parking available in NCJW lot on Clinton St)
TIME: 11:00 AM
INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES: Maria Suarez (English/Spanish), Legal Team – Charles Song, Brigit Alvarez (English/Spanish). A short video about Maria’s story will be shown at 11 AM followed by the press conference, and a written statement by Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis. An EPK of the video will be available for media usage. Please credit attached Photo: Courtesy Brenda de River.
English Speaking Press Contact: Spanish Speaking Press Contact:
Tina Malave Chelo Alvarez-Stehle
(818)982-1789 (310) 457-7353
To book Maria Suarez for speaking engagements (not media requests)
Free the Slaves