The Man – The Warrior – The Conqueror; Human trafficking survivor Harold D’Souza, attains US citizenship two decades later
Written by Hriday Raval on June 15, 2023
CINCINNATI — In a remarkable testament to the indomitable human spirit, Harold D’Souza, a man who once came to the United States seeking a better life, only to become a victim of human trafficking, has achieved a significant milestone. After two long decades, D’Souza is now an American citizen, symbolizing the ultimate freedom in his life. Overwhelmed with emotions, he expressed his sentiments at his naturalization ceremony, saying, “I have no words to express my feelings, emotions, and sentiments.”
D’Souza’s journey began in 2003 when he arrived in the United States with his wife, lured by the promise of a job at a local manufacturing company that boasted an annual salary of $75,000. However, upon reaching Cincinnati, their hopes were swiftly shattered. Instead of the promised employment, D’Souza found himself working long hours at a restaurant without any pay.”
Maria Busch, the state anti-human trafficking coordinator with the Ohio Department of Public Safety, revealed the grim reality: “What Harold and his family went through was a severe form of labor trafficking. They were basically tricked into working a job that was different from the one they were originally told they would be working.””
The trafficker confiscated D’Souza’s documentation and callously exploited him, subjecting him to 15-hour workdays without any compensation. Reflecting on those dark times, D’Souza said, “We didn’t get paid a single penny for 18 months. I didn’t know the culture. I didn’t know how this country operated. I didn’t know the law enforcement agencies. I was manipulated and trapped.””
With two young sons aged 4 and 7 at the time, D’Souza felt utterly helpless. The situation took a toll on him physically and mentally, breaking him down. He vividly recalled how his trafficker would snap his fingers and degradingly refer to him as “illegal.” Such treatment left D’Souza feeling like a criminal in his own mind, body, and soul.
Despite arriving in the United States legally, D’Souza lived in constant fear. Eventually, he mustered the courage to approach the police. Now, after two decades of struggle and perseverance, he stands proudly as an American citizen, surrounded by former FBI agents, law enforcement officials, and case workers who supported him throughout his arduous journey.
Carol O’Brien, the Attorney General for Law Enforcement, expressed her admiration for D’Souza and his wife, emphasizing the incredible transformation they had undergone. “Harold is that special case — he and his wife both have come full circle, and it’s just amazing.”
For years, D’Souza hesitated to speak out about his traumatic experience. However, he now considers it his mission to be a voice for the voiceless victims. As a key partner of the governor’s human trafficking task force, D’Souza has contributed to training key stakeholders who play a vital role in identifying potential victims of labor trafficking.
Maria Busch acknowledged the invaluable contributions of D’Souza and his wife to Ohio’s anti-trafficking response, saying, “Their experience has been invaluable to assisting in our efforts to respond to human trafficking in Ohio. For example, they have trained hundreds of Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers, specifically on labor trafficking and how they can intervene for those who are national victims of labor trafficking.”
In 2015, former President Barack Obama appointed D’Souza to serve a two-year term on the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking and was re-appointed by President Trump as well. As a council member,in both his terms, he played a crucial role in crafting the group’s reports, especially the inaugural report.
D’Souza’s powerful story has reached audiences far and wide. He frequently speaks at colleges and community forums across the United States, as well as in his home country of India. Alongside his wife, Dancy, D’Souza established Eyes Open International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking globally and educating vulnerable individuals to prevent them from becoming victims.
Busch emphasized that many people remain unaware of the prevalence of human trafficking in Ohio, stating, “It absolutely is happening here, and we have cases all over the state.”
Immediately after his naturalization ceremony, D’Souza wasted no time, catching a plane to Washington, D.C., to participate in the release of the 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report). This report assesses government efforts worldwide in combating human trafficking.
D’Souza’s focus, however, remains steadfastly on others. “It’s not about my story. It is about the people who are out there,” he emphasized. “You should not be scared. There is hope. Do not be scared, be resilient, and fight for your freedom. We’ve got to help our victims and survivors.”
In a world where human trafficking persists as a grave concern, Harold D’Souza’s journey from victim to survivor to conqueror is a source of inspiration for all. It serves as a reminder that even in the face of immense adversity, one can emerge stronger, determined to make a difference and ensure that no one else suffers the same fate.
If you suspect anyone is a victim of labor exploitation or human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking hotline in USA at 1-888-373-7888 and in India at 91 7990262632