Break the Chain Campaign
Break The Chain Campaign seeks to prevent and address the abuse and exploitation of migrant women workers through holistic direct services, leadership training, community engagement and survivor-driven outreach and training.
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The Institute Policy Studies started Break the Chain Campaign (BTCC) in 1997 after an expose in the Washington City Paper by IPS Fellow Martha Honey (entitled "Capital Slaves"), which chronicled the lives of women living in virtual slavery while working as domestic servants for officials of the World Bank and other international agencies.
Upon discovering the extent of exploitation of migrant women workers in the D.C. metropolitan area, the BTCC project expanded beyond reporting to better serve and empower these women. The project has provided legal, moral, economic and other support for hundreds of these migrant domestic workers, from dozens of countries, for over a decade. The project also helped raise awareness of the problem of exploitation of domestic workers in the World Bank and other agencies, and was a key advocate for new policies in these agencies.
Today, the project is a leader in the Freedom Network – a national network of anti-trafficking organizations, which greatly contributed to the creation of current legislation protecting the rights of victims of human trafficking, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and its reauthorization in 2008. We are also a key partner with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, bringing the domestic worker rights lens to trafficking work, and vice versa.
Currently, we focus on research, writing, policy advocacy, and training, all based on our 14 years of direct service experience and our commitment to a rights-based approach.
News on Mistreatment of Indian Diplomat Ignores Story of Domestic Worker Abuse, says expert at Institute for Policy Studies
December 18, 2013 - "The treatment of Khobragade during her arrest raises serious concerns for us and for our international allies, but it is our belief this cannot be used as an excuse to ignore the deeper questions raised by the case," said Tiffany Williams, Institute for Policy Studies. By Tiffany Williams
Domestic Workers Deserve Protection: Hold Diplomats Like Khobragade to Account
December 18, 2013 - Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was clearly mistreated by U.S. officers, but what about the abuse that migrant domestic workers live through every day? By Tiffany Williams
Human Trafficking and Immigration: The Ties That Bind
January 10, 2013 - President Obama has declared January as "National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month," and immigration will be near the top of President Obama's political agenda in his second term. By Tiffany Williams
Key Facts from "The Dual Mandate: Immigration Enforcement and Human Trafficking"
January 10, 2013 - Between 14,500 and 17,500 persons are trafficked into the country each year and that approximately 50,000 trafficked individuals may be present at any given time. By Tiffany Williams
What Will Excluded Workers Celebrate Next Labor Day?
September 5, 2012 - After this year's celebrations of workers' history, it's time to focus on the ongoing fights for the rights of domestic workers, direct care workers, and guest workers. By Tiffany Williams
- Released November 1, 2010
By Premilla Nadasen and Tiffany Williams
A look at the history and future of household work in the United States from a gender justice and worker rights perspective.
- Published March 31, 2007
- ISBN 978-0979100307
By Joy Zarembka
Author Joy Zarembka and her brother, Tommy Zarembka (featured on the front of cover of the book), look strikingly similar but were labeled totally two different races at birth. Joy's birthing document states that she is "black" while Tommy's states that he is "white." How do these and other racial classifications effect the lives of mixed race people?
By combining vivid anecdotes of her travels, historical context, and oral histories from mixed-race families, Joy Zarembka examines the notion of race in order to explore the vastly different interpretations of racial identity in various parts of the world in her new book, "The Pigment of Your Imagination: Mixed Race in a Global Society" (Madera Press 2007).
- December 4, 2013
American Association of University Women (AAUW)Visit the publisher's website
“Human trafficking is a violation of human rights where an individual is forced or tricked into work and unable to leave for any number of reasons,” says Tiffany Williams, advocacy director at the Institute for Policy Studies Break the Chain Campaign.
But the challenges to ending trafficking are many. Part of the problem, says Williams, is that there are stereotypes about who can be a victim—typically young girls tricked into sex slavery—when in reality, “human trafficking can occur within any age, gender, occupation, or education level.” She cites Cruz’s case to support her point.
We have to ask ourselves, says Williams, “Why do people continue to be vulnerable? What structural problems do we have as a society that allows people to slip through the cracks?” These root problems make it easy for traffickers to evade arrest and to confuse potential allies. For example, although trafficking victims don’t have to be transported, many are, which raises immigration questions. And victims engage in illegal activities—prostitution, working without proper authorization or documentation—that can throw off police or immigration officials who lack proper training.
Williams points to tensions within the anti-trafficking movement that are also hampering progress. “There is a divide between the human rights approach, which is more about allying with survivors, understanding the environment that led them to this place, versus the victim-saving approach, which looks at swift and immediate rescue as the primary goal.”
Williams encourages AAUW members and branches to get involved in the fight against trafficking. “We need allies who have the resources and brainpower to break us out of the Band-Aid approach,” she says. “Reflect on the complex causes, on how we can respect autonomy and still provide services, and where our voices can make the most impact when it comes to effective prevention.”
- November 27, 2013
OtherWordsVisit the publisher's website
"The new film Sunlight Jr. starring Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon so accurately portrays the difficult yet mundane lives of a working poor family in Florida that I was struck with a mix of discomfort and catharsis. I saw parts of my own life reflected on the screen.
Sunlight Jr. follows a relationship between a weary convenience store clerk, Melissa, and her achingly flawed boyfriend Richie. Living in a weekly rate motel, they struggle to make do on his disability checks and her tenuous job.
Having grown up poor on Florida’s Gulf coast, I found the film chilling- not because the poverty shown was overly dramatic, but because it was the subtle, seeping kind of poverty that permeated my childhood."
- July 18, 2013
The Daily BeastVisit the publisher's website
- July 2, 2013
Foreign Policy In FocusVisit the publisher's website
"In the summer of 2011, I visited a community organization in Georgia to hear the testimony of immigrant women who had been impacted by anti-immigrant legislation recently enacted in the state. As a social worker, I listened in horror as a counselor at a domestic violence service center noted a sharp decline in women coming to the center since the state had passed its draconian new anti-immigrant measures.
When I came home I called colleagues at programs in other states, and they confirmed that it was something they were noticing too. Immigrant victims of domestic violence were terrified of deportation and potentially being separated from their family, so they were not coming forward to report the abuse to the police or otherwise get help. Immigrant women should not have to choose between suffering from abuse and facing separation from their families, yet because they are terrified of the very real threat of deportation or detention, many silently suffer.
This phenomenon is just one example of how the U.S. immigration system—and efforts to reform it—can impact women differently from men. While much of the U.S. immigration debate has centered on controversies over citizenship and “border security,” less attention has been paid to the enormous impact of immigration policies on women, who make up 51 percent of undocumented immigrants and face unique challenges as they try to make a living in a new country..."
- April 2, 2013
U.S. News & World ReportVisit the publisher's website
Tiffany Williams, advocacy director for the Institute for Policy Studies' Break the Chain Campaign, a D.C.-based migrant workers' rights organization that's also part of Freedom Network, says she and other social workers are seeing "more fear and reluctance" about coming forward, particularly in states with aggressive immigration enforcement laws, like Arizona and Georgia, and since the expansion of the Secure Communities initiative, a federal fingerprinting program to identify undocumented immigrants. "What we've seen on the ground is that the more aggressive they are with these [enforcement] programs, where they're allowing local police to arrest people for being undocumented, the more that the Secure Communities programs and others are growing, the less likely it is that an immigrant survivor would be willing to come forward and ask for help," Williams says, referring to victims of trafficking and other crimes.
"It impedes our work significantly," she adds.
- February 11, 2012
Progressive Charlestown (RI) features article “Those Bad Old Days Are Still with Us”Visit the publisher's website • See the article
- February 10, 2012
The (Easton, MD) Star Democrat features article “Those Bad Old Days Are Still with Us”Visit the publisher's website • See the article
- February 7, 2012
YubaNet features article “Those Bad Old Days Are Still with Us”Visit the publisher's website • See the article
- December 23, 2011
San Francisco Bay GuardianVisit the publisher's website
Tiffany Williams of the Institute for Policy Studies says raising the minimum wage "would be a step toward restoring dignity for millions of workers, enabling many ordinary working Americans to become part of the economic recovery rather than its collateral damage."
- October 27, 2011
The Washington PostVisit the publisher's website
"These children have no ability to defend themselves if things go awry,” said Tiffany Williams, advocacy director of Break the Chain Campaign, a Washington-based group that advocates on behalf of foreign domestic workers.
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Project StaffTiffany Williams
Become engaged in issues affecting migrant women workers
- Educate yourself, read articles, exposes, NGO and government reports and share your knowledge with friends and family
- Volunteer with BTCC and learn more about the issues
- Donate to our advocacy work or directly to local rights-based direct service organizations
To report suspected human trafficking or find information about nationwide crisis/emergency services for survivors of human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888
Volunteer or Intern at BTCC
Click here to check out our current openings
Your donations keep our programs running so we can continue the fight against migrant worker exploitation, and provide policy resources to grassroots movements
To donate go to http://www.ips-dc.org/donate
or send a check or money order (payable to IPS with BTCC in the subject line) to:
Break the Chain Campaign
Institute for Policy Studies
1112 16th Street, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036
BTCC is a leader in the Freedom Network USA, a national network of nearly 30 anti-trafficking direct service organizations that greatly contributed to the creation of current legislation protecting the rights of victims of human trafficking, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and its reauthorization in 2008.
BTCC is a key ally of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and work on several projects related to international, national, and local campaigns focused on improving the lives of domestic workers in the US and globally.
BTCC is a Campaign Leadership Team Member of Caring Across Generations, a powerful new movement transforming policies, perceptions, and as connected communities, how we understand long-term care. Families, workers, communities, and generations are tightly intertwined. Valuing quality and affordable care, vital intergenerational and interconnected relationships, and the uncompromised dignity of care workers, seniors, and people with disabilities, Caring Across Generations envisions and seeks to build a more just long-term care infrastructure. Caring Across Generations is initiating 2 million new and fair home care jobs, carving out a path for citizenship for care workers, and strengthening and safeguarding Medicare and Medicaid.
Insightful and useful links
- International Labor Organization (ILO)
- National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)
- Freedom Network USA
- Free the Slaves
- Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST)
- Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
- International Organization of Migration
- The Campaign to Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking
- United States Department of Justice Human Trafficking
The Slave Next Door by Kevin Bales
Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild
A Crime So Monstrous by Ben Skinner