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Western Slope Against Trafficking exists because of Sheep & the demand for Sheepherders

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Our history begins with advocating for sheepherders in rural NW Colorado

In 2005, Tom Acker, a professor of Hispanic Studies at then Mesa State College, was a community member of the Hispanic Affairs Project in Montrose, CO where he learned about the area migrant and immigrant ranch workers.

In the early days advocacy was literally on the ground meeting the sheepherders with medical and physical needs. This work continues today.

State Level Collaboration Begins

In 2009 Tom Acker participated in conducting a survey of sheep herders in the areas of Colorado for Colorado Legal Services. In that activity, he observed the working and living conditions of the Peruvian, Chilean and Mexican workers under the H2A Visa program which the US DOL used to provide workers for the cattle and sheep industry. participated in conducting a survey of sheep herders in the areas of Colorado for Colorado Legal Services. Read the results of that survey below.

Labor Trafficking on the Western Slope A community discussion (1)
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Given the power imbalance and isolation and low wages that existed in this sector of the agricultural industry, this appeared not unlike labor abuse verging on Human Trafficking.

In March of 2013 Dr. Acker was invited to attend Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking Statewide taskforce. During the statewide meeting, Acker met with the directors and researchers of the LCHT and began discussing how he might get more involved in the movement against HT, especially given his experience with labor abuses in the agricultural sector.

In the 2013-2014 school year, through the guidance of the LCHT, CMU faculty became interested in participating in establishing a local initiative (Discipline areas included Law Enforcement, Nursing, Sociology, etc.). We convened a training co-sponsored by Colorado Legal Services, LCHT and CMU Language, Literature and Mass Communications Department held in the University center. We invited over 55 community members including state agencies, law enforcement and healthcare professionals to participate in the training.

LCHT facilitated meetings in the fall of 2013 with the purpose of creating statewide guidelines for fighting human trafficking. In the 2014 session with session of the Colorado State Assembly the HB14 1273 was passed. This established the Colorado Human Trafficking Council (CHTC) within the department of public safety. The bill established the membership of the council and set forth the duties of the council. Dr. Tom Acker served on the Council from the beginning.

Western Slope Against Trafficking was founded by members from CMU, Mesa County School District 51, the Western Slope Center for Children (“The Center”), Visiting Home Nurses Program, Hilltop Services, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and others.

Our membership is constantly evolving.

WSAT members have since been trained as Trainers by the Colorado Human Trafficking Council.

The CHTC offers trainings in person and online for the general public and service professionals. WSAT has been invited to numerous community civic and agency organizations to help them learn to identify HT and learn what to do if they encounter it.

Over the years, WSAT and LCHT have offered education at the Mesa County Homeless Shelter, the MCSO Victims’ Advocates, Healthcare trainings at Community Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital and many other locations. WSAT is connected to various local initiatives and taskforces through our relationship with the LCHT as well as having a member sitting on the Colorado Human Trafficking Council. We are participants in periodical statewide meetings convened by the LCHT which enables local initiatives and task forces the opportunity to interact, sharing experiences and collaborating.

Addition of Survivor Advocates & Leaders

In 2019 Angela Clark, Lived Experience Expert joined the task force and speaks proudly about her involvement in the group and work. In 2022 a second lived experience expert has been involved and contributes professional expertise in many areas.

We're proud of the amazing skill set we have in our midst presently and how each of us is integral to our work being effective.

We look forward to continuing in the areas of Education, Prevention & Raising the Lived Experience Voice.

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