God’s two-by-four

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that there are times when God gives you a little nudge and times when He hits you straight in the face with a two-by-four. My first Jubilee conference was one of those two-by-four times.

I remember my first night at Jubilee: the exciting worship, the crazy number of other Christians gathered in a single place, the exhibitor booths, the smaller break-out workshops. One of the workshops, hosted by the International Justice Mission (IJM), sounded pretty cool, so I went.

As I sat in that tiny conference room with grey carpet and maroon chairs, the presenter began to talk about something called “human trafficking,” which is essentially modern-day slavery. It is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world, with one of the highest profit margins and lowest prosecution rates of any illegal activity. A modern-day slave costs less today than when slavery was legal.

That was it. That was my moment. Right there, on the second floor of that hotel, God ignited something in my heart, this passion that cannot be explained or deterred. Stamping out human trafficking became my life. The rest, as they say, is history.

At the time, I was a freshman at Washington & Jefferson College majoring in international studies and political science. As soon as I returned to my college campus, I chartered an IJM chapter. I read everything I could get my hands on about the subject, attended any available conference, and watched as many documentaries as I could.

At one of these conferences, I met a survivor of human trafficking who told me that the largest gap in services for survivors was legal representation. So I decided to go to law school. I sought out internships with Legal Aid, with county prosecutors, with district attorneys, and with nonprofits that aided trafficking survivors in immigration proceedings. Everywhere I went, my focus was human trafficking.

By my final year of law school, I was desperate for more direct contact, so I pursued an internship with End Child Prostitution and Trafficking International in Bangkok, Thailand, where I worked to draft an international bill of rights for trafficked children.

I currently serve as a Justice AmeriCorps Fellow and Equal Justice Works Attorney Fellow at Catholic Charities of Dallas Immigration & Legal Services. You know all those kids you hear about on the news who are flooding our borders, fleeing gang violence in Central America? Well, I’m paid to represent them in immigration court and try to find a form of immigration relief that will allow them to stay in the United States legally. We have an intake screen for children who may have been trafficked; most of the time, the kids I represent have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents.

I chose this position because it’s one of the few organizations that provides free immigration services to children who have been trafficked or abused. Free legal services for survivors of human trafficking are almost entirely non-existent in the United States.

My clients are undocumented children who came to the United States unaccompanied by a parent or guardian. This means that these kids have made the dangerous journey from their home countries (primarily Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras) on their own. When they finally arrive in the United States, often these children don’t speak English, and they have a hard time fitting in at school. Those who were not trafficked into the United States are often at a high risk of being trafficked once they arrive.

None of this—the IJM chapter, law school, the internships, my work today—would have been a part of my life had it not been for that single workshop at Jubilee my freshman year of college when God hit me in the face with a two-by-four.

—Amanda Doom graduated from Washington & Jefferson College in 2012 with a degree in International Studies & Political Science. She currently serves as a Justice AmeriCorps Fellow and Equal Justice Works Attorney Fellow at Catholic Charities of Dallas Immigration & Legal Services.