Do you know how much a kidney goes for on the black market? What about a liver? Or a pint of blood? Adam Cortes does.
“We say our children are priceless, that human life is priceless. But to some people, it isn’t,” he said.
A Stop Human Trafficking workshop was held Saturday at Bear Creek High School in Stockton. Cortes and Elisabet Medina, of Opening Doors in Sacramento, both spoke on different aspects of trafficking. The workshop was hosted by Soroptimist International of Lodi and Lodi Sunrise, as well as the Women’s Center of San Joaquin, the American Association of University Women and the Salvation Army.
Cortes was born in Mexico and came to Lodi when he was 16 to live with his grandparents here. In his journey to California, he saw countless instances of human trafficking, from the Mexican border towns to the city of Los Angeles. Over the years he has also seen trafficking in the farm camps of the valley. But his focus for Saturday’s talk was organ trafficking.
“I’m disgusted to learn what our black market can do to people in other countries. it’s not a movie. It’s not happening somewhere else,” he said.
Cortes attended a similar workshop last year in Lodi at Jim Elliot High School. He was shocked at the statistics he learned there and was drawn to do more research on his own.
What he discovered changed his purpose in life, he said.
On the black market, a kidney is worth $262,000. A liver runs about $157,000. A pint of blood is $337. These tissues are harvested from people overseas who are hard up for money. These people sell their organs to a broker for a few thousand dollars or even less, and that broker brings in someone in need of the organ and a doctor willing to do the operation. It generally happens outside of hospitals, or even outside the United States.
The money generated from black market organ sales funds organized crime and terrorism, said Cortes.
What are the solutions? More organ donors, and more protection for those abducted for their organs.
“If I die today, I know I can save nine people, and I won’t charge them anything for it. Free. I won’t need them where I’m going.
In 2011, only 8,120 people who died in the United States donated their organs. If people are sick, desperate and have money, they will do anything to survive, he said. Increasing the number of organ donors can help ease that desperation.
Often, organs are taken from people against their will, because they have no way to fight against it.
In 2011, 100,000 children went missing in California. More than 40,000 of them are Hispanic. Cortes said many are taken for various forms of human trafficking.
“Predators have gotten smart,” said Cortes. “They know that many Hispanic kids are poor, aren’t fingerprinted and might not speak English. If the parents are illegally here, there’s nowhere to go for help.”
But Cortes has a plan to change those numbers.
He has created an organization called In One Voice with the objective to bring a mobile fingerprinting station to every church and school within 150 miles of Lodi. Cortes said Hispanic parents are often reluctant to bring their children to the police for fingerprinting and ID cards, but those are the best way to collect information about kids in case of an emergency. He talked with officers in the Lodi Police Department and learned that an officer doesn’t have to be present for fingerprints to be official.
With enough funding and support, Cortes will hold fingerprinting fairs to invite parents to create free ID cards for their children.
This is a problem facing both white and Hispanic communities, said Cortes. Coming together to protect children can help.
“We need to connect the two cultures,” he said. “We’re living together in Lodi, but we need to work together, too.”
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.