Rotary district governor: Human trafficking a major issue for Texas, Port Arthur

Published 12:24 am Friday, September 24, 2021

There were a number of times Port Arthur Rotary members applauded or nodded along as District 5910 Governor Jerry Springfield spoke during Thursday’s meeting.

But the room filled with loud gasps when the conversation turned to a topic Rotary works to fight — human trafficking.

“There are three types of human trafficking: forced labor, involuntary servitude and sex,” he said. “According to the state department, the biggest sector is forced labor, not sex.”

Port Arthur Rotary President Art Thomas presents District 5910 Governor for Rotary Club Jerry Springfield with a gift of appreciation. (Monique Batson/The News)

Texas is second in human and child trafficking, according to information from the Texas Attorney General’s Office. At any given time, 234,000 individuals are being trafficked in Texas — 79,000 of them are minors.

And males, Springfield said, are more likely to be victims than females, as they are “groomed” for it.

“If you think it’s not happening in Port Arthur, you’re wrong,” he said. “They’re being trafficked here, right now. Some of them are from Port Arthur and some of them are from other places.”

And, he added, it’s a problem in all cities.

Warning signs include people who appear malnourished, show signs of abuse, avoid eye contact and law enforcement, sound rehearsed or scripted when they speak, lack personal possessions, have certain tattoos or branding on their body, suffer from poor physical and/or dental health, and not being allowed to speak for themselves, among others.

Another topic Springfield talked on was equality versus equity.

“Equality: Everybody gets the same thing, but not everybody gets to participate if it’s equal. Equity gives us an opportunity to participate,” he said. “Equity promotes justice, provides fairness, gives everyone an opportunity to be involved. Equity is a seat at the table.”

While speaking, Springfield explained the large chain of nametags he donned around his neck.

It started with former District Governor Joe Byrd in 1950 and includes name tags from everyone that has served as District Governor since — including the grandfather of his wife and fellow Rotarian Roschelle Springfield.

“Most of the district governors don’t wear this because it is quite heavy,” he explained. “When I was told that I was going to be recommended by the nominating committee to be the district governor, I made a personal commitment to wear this at every club visit.”