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Program addresses human trafficking

The prospect of freedom and opportunity often comes at a price.

And for immigrants, that can mean falling victim to human traffickers.

"Our country was founded on certain dreams and ideals, and a lot of immigrants are attracted by those dreams and ideals," U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said Monday. "Unfortunately, that in turn makes them vulnerable."

Hochul was the keynote speaker at a daylong community outreach program sponsored by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known to many as ICE.

The program, held at Buffalo State College, gave Hochul and other law enforcement officials a chance to reach out to local immigrant communities and others involved in addressing human trafficking.

The region has become a prime location for human trafficking because of its struggling economy and its status as a cross-border community.

Hochul said ICE has worked on investigations here involving immigrants from every corner of the world and has discovered that many of them come from countries and cultures that distrust police, prosecutors and judges.

One of the goals of Monday's session was to alter that attitude.

"If newly arrived immigrants don't trust law enforcement to help them, we can't do our jobs," Hochul told The Buffalo News.

Local law enforcement officials are quick to note that their most successful human trafficking prosecutions have depended on the cooperation and testimony of victims.

The outreach effort included 10 presentations, including a review of ICE's work here by Lev Kubiak, special agent in charge of its Western New York office.

e-mail: pfairbanks@buffnews.com

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