If you have been to an airport restroom lately, you have probably caught a glimpse of a subliminal sign posted within the bathroom stall. They would offer a sense of hope and resource to those that may be entrapped in captivity.
Outside of places of travel, the National Human Trafficking Hotline is offered widely. It is a staple phone number offered within any discussion on the topic of human trafficking—often times it is thought of as an ultimate resolve.
Today, it is promoted amongst various governmental agencies.
A high-level overview of the year-over-year finances illustrates our curiosity into a world renown Human Trafficking resource organization, and the go-to hotline promoted in the United States for potential human trafficking victims to call.
According to a statement included with a 990 tax filing in 2007, Polaris provided training and consulting services to various governmental professionals and departments. Through provided training for TTASP (Training, Technical Assistance and Strategic Support Program) and to the HHS (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), Polaris entered into an official partnership with the HHS to run and operate the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and 24-hour hotline (dedicated to the United States).
“By operating the national hotline, the NHTRC works to help improve the national response to protect victims of human trafficking in the U.S. by providing callers with a range of comprehensive services. Available services include crisis intervention, urgent and non-urgent referrals, tip reporting, and comprehensive anti-trafficking resources and technical assistance for the anti-trafficking field and those who wish to get involved.”
+HHS training–What expertise?
Clinton Global Initiative
Emergence of this proposed initiative occurred publicly in 2009, announced by the fifth annual Clinton Global Initiative. Better defined by one of their partners, Seeds of Peace,
“The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) is a membership-based organization that brings together leaders from across the business, government, and nonprofit sectors to drive action on global challenges.
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, CGI convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together 190 sitting and former heads of state, more than 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media…”
The 2009 Clinton Global Initiative press release announced the partnerships and commitments for the annual meeting. The initiative theme aimed to end human trafficking, where Polaris project was listed as one of those initiatives.
“Polaris Project will develop a holistic campaign to reduce profitability and incidence of human trafficking for victims of sexual exploitation in the U.S. and Japan, and create a strategic model for implementation that can be used worldwide.”
Executive Director and CEO of Polaris Project, and former Director of the U.S. State Department’s trafficking in persons office, Mark P. Lagon, made a comment to alternative news outlet, 3BL CSR Wire on the announced commitment,
“As a new initiative, this commitment will focus on increasing public-private partnerships between NGOs, private businesses, and governments in the United States, Japan, and other ‘4D Nations’ — demand-creating, migration destination, developed democracies. These strategic partnerships and active best-practice sharing will not only directly impact the scope of human trafficking in these countries, but also ultimately serve as models to share with the developing world.”Mark Lagon, CSR Wire
The project was valued at 3.3 million and included partners like LexisNexis Group (whom Mark Lagon goes to work for the following year, 2010), and National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.
Polaris illustrated continuous partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative. In 2014, another commitment was made to build a Global Modern Slavery Directory.
This directory announced it’s objective to be a global cross matrix lookup for all resources in pertinence to human trafficking.
Now, it is important to note the scandal surrounding the CGI. In 2017, the CGI announced it would end operations. This was due to scandal surrounding donations.
A report from Observer reads,
The Clinton Foundation’s long list of wealthy donors and foreign government contributors during the 2016 elections provoked critics to allege conflicts of interests. But as soon as Clinton lost the election…Foreign governments began pulling out of annual donations, signaling the organization’s clout was predicated on donor access to the Clintons, rather than its philanthropic work.Observer, 1/15/2017
Since 2022, Clinton Global Initiative is back in action. But the stain of the scandal echoes.
This is important because, the relationship between the Polaris crew and the Clinton Foundation seemed to work in close tandem. In fact, several Board Members of Polaris Project worked very closely with the Clintons.
According to tax forms, Catherine “Kiki” McLean served as Board Member on Polaris Project from 2012-2018. McLean currently serves as Treasurer to Democratic Governors Association, and has been since 2021. However, her early career consisted of working on the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, and she served as Senior Advisor to the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign. In a Mediaite article McLean is described as “friend of the Clinton Family”.
Another former Board Member who served the Clintons is Steve Rosenthal. From 2016 until 2018 Rosenthal is listed as a Board Member, around the same time as McLean. Rosenthal served the administration of President Bill Clinton as a Deputy to the U.S. Secretary of Labor. Rosenthal is no stranger to scandal either. In 2007, Rosenthal’s America Coming Together (ACT) PAC, funded by George Soros, was found to have violated federal election law with donations by the Federal Election Commission.
We expand on conflicts of interest within Polaris’ network in a later portion of this organizational highlight, but for now we’d like to point out that years since the initiatives, they have been removed from the Clinton Foundation website. When the original URL for the Polaris initiative is entered, it redirects to a main landing page for the Clinton Global Initiative.
One interesting change that came about is when original co-founder, Katherine Chon, left Polaris in 2012 to work for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the Director of Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP). We will need to emphasize the importance of this director role further down this report.
This then becomes more curious as she is described in her role by John Hopkins University to oversee “a budget of $27 million which funds grant programs, reviews requests for assistance from potential minor victims of trafficking…”— Does this become a conflict of interest? The former co-founder of one of the most gargantuan anti-trafficking organizations in the world is assigned a high position at the United States Health and Human Services Trafficking in Persons, who then decides how and where these organizational grants get allocated?
Polaris has since gotten approximately $3.5 million per year by funding of the H.H.S., according to The Washington Post since 2007. Below the grant for 2020 is listed, confirming the 3.5 million to the NHTH.
However, the 2021 and 2020 tax forms indicate the government grant amounts above 3.5 million. Where are the additional grant awards coming from? Could any additional OTIP grants be going to Polaris?
Below is a combined list of expenses toward the hotline since its inception. Expenses also include employee compensation.
The conflicts surrounding the scandalous board members and partnerships highlight a valid concern, and increase in measure when looking at the big picture. Continuing to expand, we transition to an initiative Polaris had to become a global resource. An initiative that, after millions of dollars and years of action, fizzled out.
In 2013, Polaris Project was awarded $3 million to partner with Liberty Asia and LaStrada International and build an alliance of hotlines around the world.
Google is funding the effort on the heels of a summit it hosted on illicit networks in July, where the Internet giant found most illegal groups were involved in human trafficking in some way. Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, says despite hotlines that exist around the world to fight human trafficking, there isn’t great coordination between them.U.S. News Article “A Global Human Trafficking Hotline Is Launching Out of D.C. With Help From Google”
While the goal is admirable, did they follow through? Studying the tax forms submitted by Polaris Project the Research Team found the Global Hotline listed in tax forms 2013-2017. However, after 2017 there is no mention of the program and no explanation as to why it ended.
Over the course of the 4 years the program is listed, Polaris allocated a total of $4,803,062 in expenses, a hefty sum.
The Polaris Project has partnered with other organizations and coalitions in the past. Currently listed on their website are Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) and Migration That Works.
Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) has been transparent about the funds that are being requested by governmental entities. For example, in 2021 ATEST requested the following funding, from various governmental arms.
Very recently, ATEST requested an ample $1.7 BILLION to combat trafficking, and listed outer United States reasons for the request such as the “Ukraine Invasion” and “Climate Change”.
Migration that Works claims to advocate for migrants and their aspirational work status, and equity. Much of their content surrounds different measures to enrich a migrant’s journey of labor, here in the United States (For example, under their ‘Issues’ sections, there are several labor issues they highlight in regard to migrant work). Their ‘About’ section mentions collaborative efforts with ‘anti-trafficking’ organizations.
This prompts curiosity as we would suspect that much of this migration would stem from the very problematic and convoluted activities of our current open-borders. We would hope this particular coalition would highlight the suspected perils of missing migrant children.
Taken directly from House Oversight Committee governmental website, on April of 2023, “The Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs today held a hearing titled “Oversight of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Unaccompanied Alien Children Program.” Subcommittee members discussed how unprecedented levels of illegal border crossings, incentivized by the Biden Administration’s policies, have overwhelmed the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and endangered migrant children. Robin Dunn Marcos, Director of ORR, was unable to answer basic questions about HHS’s handling of unaccompanied alien children (UAC), which has prioritized the speedy release of UAC over their safety.”
In this memo, it is indicated that the HHS-Office of Refugee Resettlement Director could not answer why 85,000 migrant children could not be accounted for within the last two years.
Nowhere on the Migration That Works website does it highlight any of these concerns. Migrant children, especially unaccompanied minors, are susceptible to getting taken advantage of, whether they are entered into forced labor or sexual exploitation.
An investigation by the New York Times exposed that migrant children have been discovered to have been entered into the U.S. workforce, violating labor laws. “Arriving in record numbers, they’re ending up in dangerous jobs that violate child labor laws — including in factories that make products for well-known brands like Cheetos and Fruit of the Loom.”
Surely Migration that Works, alongside with the Polaris Project would share and address these concerns on their platform and network of advocates?
Appended to the forced child labor are impairing concerns of children experiencing sexual abuse, while in U.S. government custody.
At a congressional hearing in 2019, Representative Ted Deutch, D-FL, made public, data from the Department of Health and Human Services that illustrated there were a total of 4,597 sexual allegations reported to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) between the years 2015-2018. Of which 178 of these sexual assault allegations were made against shelter staff, and 1,303 were referred to the Department of Justice.
Although, these statistics reach back dating from 2015-2018, it is very evident that these very serious issues still persist, if not increased, due to border policies.
Once again we beckon the question, would this not be a topic of concern for the advocacy of Polaris to take under?
Which brings us full circle to highlight the irony: Remember, Katherine Chon, the co-founder of Polaris, has since 2012 held a director-level position within the Health and Human Services Department within the Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP). Her bio on the HHS website says,
“As senior advisor, Katherine serves on multiple federal working groups on human trafficking, gender-based violence, child exploitation, and resilient supply chains. She is the federal executive officer of public-private collaborations, including the National Advisory Committee on the Trafficking of Children and Youth in the U.S. and the Joint Forced Labor Working Group. “
She claims to be a champion of children who are exploited and trafficked yet, she speaks no concern for how the border crisis and ORR are creating a cesspool of child exploitation.
Enters Catherine Chen, the current CEO of Polaris. Catherine was appointed by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Quoted by DHS themselves, “She is a veteran anti-trafficking strategist who has spent two decades building innovative social justice programs and pushing for policy change to address the root causes of sex and labor trafficking.”
Currently, there is no mention on the Polaris Project website addressing the unaccompanied minors crisis. At the behest of public concern, two individuals that are associated with an HHS-funded organization have the obligation to communicate their concern and strategy about this daunting matter.
Thus far we have demonstrated valid concerns orbiting around the practices and strategies of Polaris. There seems to exist insufficiencies within internal workplace processes, thus reflecting on the lack of immediate help victims call for when dialing the hotline, down to questionable business practices of fiscal responsibilities.
The initial objective of Polaris was to “create a strategic model for implementation that can be used worldwide.” We find it imperative that as much as an organization portrays its objectives, that communication and transparency to the public is necessary, especially when tax dollars are being allocated annually to said organization.
If a simple sign in a bathroom stall sows hope to a victim only to be met at insufficiency, we ought to question what the causes and effects are.