MIA First in Florida to Join DHS Campaign against Human Trafficking

MIA First in Florida to Join DHS Campaign against Human Trafficking

  • The Blue Lightning Initiative trains aviation industry employees to recognize and respond to potential human trafficking victims

In recognition of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Miami International Airport (MIA) announced a formal partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to fight human trafficking through the Blue Lightning Initiative (BLI) program.

MIA is the first airport in Florida to join this training initiative to help ensure that the millions of Americans who travel each year, even during these new normal circumstances, are better informed and able to assist in this fight.

Mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava, said:

“Miami-Dade County fully supports the anti-human trafficking goals of the Blue Lightning Initiative. I’m proud that Miami International Airport, under the leadership of Director Sola, continues to empower its employees and the traveling public with the knowledge to identify potential cases of human trafficking. As County Commissioner, I championed policies for public awareness and action against this terrible crime. As Mayor, I remain committed to working alongside all our partners as we fight together to end human trafficking.”

MIA officially partnered with DHS and the U.S. Department of Transportation in November 2020, building on the collaboration forged earlier in the year in preparation for Super Bowl LIV, when the agencies held training sessions for MIA employees on the indicators of human trafficking.

MIA Director and CEO, Lester Sola, said:

“MIA is proud to be the first airport in Florida to join the Blue Lightning Initiative. Airports are uniquely positioned to help raise awareness and train its employees to properly identify and report suspicious behavior.”

mia human trafficking blue lightening initiative
From left to right: Jimmy Morales, COO, Miami-Dade County; Rebeca Sosa, Commissioner, Miami-Dade County; Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Chairman, Board of County Commissioners; Daniella Levine Cava, Mayor, Miami-Dade County; Vernon T. Foret, Director of Field Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Miami and Tampa; Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations; Lester Sola, MIA Director & CEO and Major Jesus Ramirez, Miami-Dade Police Department, Airport District.

MIA will provide the Blue Lightning training program to its nearly 1,400 employees: with new employees receiving the training as part of their onboarding process. There are plans to expand the training to the entire airport community in an effort to protect employees and customers alike. Some airlines operating at MIA already participate in the program.

Acting Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, Joel Szabat, said:

“The U.S. Department of Transportation is proud to work with partners nationwide to train front-line workers across all modes of transportation to recognize and report suspected instances of human trafficking. When front-line transportation employees are trained, actionable tips are reported to law enforcement to help stop this crime.”

Travelers will also see Blue Lightning Initiative messages in new locations throughout their journey, particularly in pre-security areas of high concurrence near the checkpoints and at the passport screening areas. Other awareness materials will be made available to the traveling public at the information counters.

Director of Field Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection Miami and Tampa Field Office, Vernon T. Foret, said:

“CBP is committed to the DHS Blue Lightning Initiative partnership with MDAD as part of a collective effort to combat human trafficking. Recognizing and reporting suspected instances of human trafficking is critically important.”

The Blue Lightning Initiative is an element of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign led jointly by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a DHS agency. BLI trains personnel to combat human trafficking within the commercial aviation industry.

This article was originally published by Miami International Airport.

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