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FBI honors advocate for human trafficking victims

Emma Buckthal deals in happy outcomes to sad stories.

An immigration attorney with the Erie County Volunteer Lawyers Project, Buckthal works with victims of human trafficking and domestic violence as they go through the immigration process.

Her clients come to her with horrific stories but, with her help, can turn their lives around.

On Friday, the FBI in Buffalo honored Buckthal with the Director's Community Leadership Award.

"A lot of people want to know how I can do my job," Buckthal said during a news conference at FBI headquarters. "You can't deal with horrible stories unless you can change some of them."

Jennifer Amo, a FBI special agent, said she nominated Buckthal for the award because of the intellect and passion that lies beneath her unassuming nature.

Emma Buckthal, an immigration attorney with the Erie County Volunteer Lawyer Project and an advocate for human trafficking victims, was honored by the Buffalo FBI this morning. (Phil Fairbanks/Buffalo News)

Every time they talk, Amo said, Buckthal will invariably relay the story of old clients who call to tell her of the big developments in their lives.

She said most people have a short list of friends and family they call when something major happens, and that Buckthal is often one of those people.

"Emma is on the list because of the importance she has had on their lives," Amo said.

In announcing Buckthal's honor, Gary Loeffert, special agent in charge of the Buffalo office, pointed to her fierce advocacy on behalf of her clients and her ability to ensure that their dignity is always maintained.

The people she helps, he said, are individuals compelled into labor or sex trafficking through force, fraud or coercion.

"Human trafficking cases are oftentimes very complex, and partners like Emma Buckthal can make a huge difference in providing justice to victims and saving others from potential harm," Loeffert said Friday.

A graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Law, Buckthal was honored in 2016 as "New Lawyer of the Year" by the regional chapter of the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York.

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