Executives from two airlines joined leaders from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Transportation in announcing the liftoff of Blue Lightning, a new federal partnership with the aviation industry to combat human trafficking, at a June 6 event at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood thanked the first airlines to join the Blue Lightning Initiative-Delta, JetBlue, Allegiant and North American-"for demonstrating great leadership in the fight to end human trafficking. I truly hope to see other transportation leaders follow in their footsteps."
Blue Lightning is a voluntary training program produced by the Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation and CBP to educate commercial airline flight crews and other relevant airline staff on human trafficking indicators that they may encounter on the job, and empower them to safely report possible human trafficking instances to the proper authorities.
Kevin K. McAleenan, CBP's acting deputy commissioner, said that Blue Lightning is one of the newer collaborations between the two federal departments "to ensure that America's transportation system is not being exploited for human trafficking."
"Blue Lightning teaches these highly trained airline personnel how to be even more effective at passenger safety," McAleenan added. "It truly empowers them to be even stronger forces for good-to better enable them to possibly save the lives of potential human trafficking victims."
An estimated 20 million people worldwide are trapped in modern-day slavery, many of them in cities and small communities across America. As professional stewards of flight safety, airline personnel can be important partners in our government's efforts to end human trafficking and save lives.
Richard Anderson, Delta's chief executive officer, told the event audience that Delta is participating in Blue Lightning and the fight against human trafficking because "we owe a duty not just as an airline, but as human beings."
"We all have an obligation; a really important ethical and moral obligation," he added.
Robert Land, JetBlue's senior vice president for government affairs and associate general counsel, said that the Blue Lightning training "fits perfectly in line with JetBlue's values of safety, caring and integrity." He stated that JetBlue will use the training materials in the airlines' initial and ongoing training for all crew members.
The Blue Lightning materials instruct airline employees on reporting mechanisms for in-flight notification or to call the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line to report suspected human trafficking activity to federal law enforcement. On international flights to the U.S., this real-time reporting mechanism provides law enforcement officials with needed time to identify suspected victims or traffickers. It also allows CBP to research and analyze all information provided and coordinate an appropriate response before the plane arrives.
Blue Lightning is an element of the DHS Blue Campaign, which began in January 2012. The DHS Blue Campaign coordinates and unites programs from DHS component agencies-and collaborates with partners across government, law enforcement, and the private sectors-to combat human trafficking and harness the DHS law enforcement and intelligence assets and authorities to combat human trafficking.
Other collaborators on Blue Lightning and the Blue Campaign include ICE, the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center, Federal Air Marshal Service, Federal Aviation Administration, nongovernmental organizations and private industry.