I mentioned this in a previous post today, but I may have buried it so that only dedicated readers would ever excavate it. So here’s the news.

Roxie Bacon’s February column in Arizona Attorney Magazine was the subject of a news story in the Huffington Post last week. The story by Andrew Becker is here.

It includes a response by the Department of Homeland Security.

Roxie’s column is here.

Retweet at will.

Roxie Bacon at Human Trafficking conference, Mar. 11, 2011

It’s funny how news can start locally, wing its way around the country (or the world), and land right here back at home.

We saw this happen at least partially a few months ago, in regard to judges visiting Arizona from Turkey. They stopped by to chat, we at Arizona Attorney Magazine covered their innocuous (we thought) comments, and government opposition in Ankara got their paprika up.

For the record, we were not part of any cabal. That’s the story, and we’re sticking with it.

It got all déjà vu-ey recently, after we published a great piece on immigration by our own columnist Roxie Bacon. Let me explain.

Roxie is Roxana Bacon, accomplished immigration lawyer, former President of the State Bar of Arizona, and, most recently, an Administration official with the Customs & Immigration Service (inside the Department of Homeland Security). In fact, she had come out of retirement to take the top counsel job there. As she headed east, she had high hopes that the Executive Branch would do some serious good on the immigration front.

About a year later, she and her husband happily drove their Penske rental truck (no joke) back to Arizona, older and wiser.

When I asked her whether she was ready to get back into “column rotation” with our other writers, she agreed—and asked if I’d like something about her time in Washington.

Well, as they say, I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid. So it took me the time to draft an e-mail response to say, “Send it our way.”

Roxie did not disappoint. Professional yet passionate, she explained the sorry state of affairs. (You can read her column here.)

As they say in the trade, the story had legs. It was picked up in stories and blogs nationwide, and even was the subject of a news story in the Huffington Post on March 4. As that story indicated, there even was a response from the Department of Homeland Security, which had been none too pleased by Roxie’s candor. Risk-averse, thy name is DC.

Laura Rundlet at Human Trafficking conference, Mar. 11, 2011

This past week, more of that risk-aversion was on display. And that’s what brings the story full circle back to Arizona.

On this past Friday, ASU Law School hosted a daylong conference on human trafficking. (I previewed it for you here.) It put together terrific panels who explained the problem and explored solutions. (I’ll have more on the panels soon.) The schedule and speakers list are here.

The topic is tragic, and the expert brain power on display promised to be huge. But I was especially interested in the opening keynote address, to be delivered by our own friend and writer Roxie Bacon.

She was marvelous and her comments spot-on (again, more in a future post). She managed to be dire and uplifting in the same speech—not easy, that.

So she was great, but that was no surprise. The aha moment came at the end of the first morning panel. Moderated by law professor Daniel Rothenberg, its speakers gave an “Overview of Trafficking.” The speakers were a helpful combination of prosecutors, professors and policy experts.

The last of those to speak was a woman from the U.S. State Department. Laura Rundlet is the Coordinator of the Senior Policy Working Group on Trafficking in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

From all of that, we understood her position: Trafficking = Bad.

It is worth pointing out that that position was not controversial, either in the room—packed with what appeared to be like-minded people—or in Washington. Speaker after speaker had already told us that trafficking was a non-partisan issue, one that horrified legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Which made an exchange during the Q&A portion so odd.

P.J. Crowley, formerly of the U.S. State Department

After all the speakers were done, and moments before a well-deserved coffee break, an audience member rose and tossed Ms. Rundlet the softest of softballs.

A key piece of effective federal legislation that fought trafficking—the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act—was due to be taken up for renewal by Congress, he said. What could she say to encourage attendees to contact their Congressional representatives to urge them to vote for this non-partisan law?

I was not videotaping, but I detected a deer-in-the-headlights look in her eyes.

“I’m not sure whether I can speak to that exactly,” she responded. “It is something that we will be working on diligently this year, and working with other agencies.”

The questioner look surprised.

“At this time, I don’t have any prepared remarks on the reauthorization,” she added less than helpfully.

“Just reauthorize it!” the speaker insisted, clearly thinking she had not understood his question.

In response, he got a wan smile. And then it was time for coffee.

I scratched my head at that one, but this weekend, we got another detailed lesson on the minefield that is Washington and the U.S. State Department. And that made me sympathetic to her hesitation to add a helpful comment—however true it could have been.

In the breaking story, a State Department spokesman was forced out after he made remarks that the White House apparently didn’t cotton to.

P.J. Crowley, in response to a question at a speaking engagement (on social media, of all things) criticized the U.S. Army’s treatment of a private Bradley Manning, “who is currently detained over suspicion he was complicit in leaking classified government documents to WikiLeaks.”

Read the complete story here (why not – let’s make it a HuffPost day).

The story—and his sort-of firing—came about because he had called “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid” the Army’s detention tactics with the private, including having him sleep for multiple nights naked and with no blanket (the Army had claimed security concerns).

Putting to rest the notion that intelligent minds may disagree (even on what constitutes humane treatment), Crowley found his presence at Foggy Bottom was less than welcome. And so, three adjectives later, he was a part of State Department history.

Coincidence or not, l’affaire Crowley was coming to a boil just as panelists sat down for Friday’s Tempe conference. Any State Department official—and any Administration official—would have to have been aware of the object lesson unfolding back East, where talking without talking points—however safe it may appear—may not be safe at all.

And so at an ASU conference committed to eradicating human trafficking, hesitation crept in among the ardor. And that may say volumes about the atmosphere that pervades the United States Capitol—and the states that depend on its leadership.

Last Wednesday, September 22, an event was held that invited service providers who aided undocumented victims of domestic violence. Hosted by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, it was slated for the State Bar of Arizona boardroom.

The meeting notice read:

“An interactive community forum discussion about the challenges undocumented victims in Arizona face when seeking safety and justice.”

January Contreras, Department of Homeland Security

What the flyer did not reveal was the identities of the invited guests. Two high-level officials from Washington, DC, came to listen to the providers.

They were:

  • January Contreras, the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman for the Department of Homeland Security
  • Virginia Davis, the Deputy Director for Policy at the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice

As Contreras said, the officials were there to listen to the assembled group of providers, to hear what they believed was the role of the federal government in regard to undocumented immigrants who are domestic violence victims.

Virginia Davis, Department of Justice

It is unlikely that a more delicate question could be posed by members of the current White House administration. But throughout a morning of polite conversation, barely a mention of controversial state immigration policy arose (SB1070, anyone?). Nor did any provider prod the visitors about the recent decision of the administration to decide against providing a significant grant request to Arizona, funding that would have benefited probably every provider in the room.

In the December Arizona Attorney Magazine, we will provide more detail on what was said—and what was heard—in the State Bar boardroom that day.

For more photos of the events, go to the magazine’s Facebook page.