Trafficking and Politics

Last week, President Obama announced efforts to combat human trafficking in the U.S. and around the globe. Trafficking, which affects more than 20 million around the world, is also found in the U.S. Building on the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the President announced four initiatives to further combat human trafficking:

Executive Order Strengthening Protections in Federal Contracts: This order bans trafficking-related activities that applies to federal contractors and subcontractors and requires compliance measures for large global contracts and subcontracts. It also gives federal agencies more tools to foster compliance.

Tools and Training to Identify and Assist Trafficking Victims: The Obama Administration is providing human trafficking training and instruction to federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and immigration judges. It is also providing guidance to commercial transportation officials and state workforce agencies and educators. This training will help professionals to detect trafficking and ensure victims are not treated as criminals.

Increased Resources for Victims of Human Trafficking: The Administration will expand legal assistance and services to trafficking victims. They will also streamline current procedures for the T-visa process, which allows trafficking victims to stay in the U.S., and aid in the prosecution of their traffickers. The President will also establish the annual Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Person, which will recognize outstanding contributions in the field.

Comprehensive Plan for Future Action: The President’s Task Force will create the first-ever federal strategic action plan to increase services for victims of trafficking. In addition, the interagency Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center (HSTC) will develop the first domestic human trafficking assessment to follow trafficking trends within the U.S. This will allow law enforcement and service providers to allocate resources more efficiently. In addition, the intelligence community is growing its focusing on international human trafficking and working more with the HSTC.

President Obama believes human trafficking should be a concern of every person, community, business, and nation.

“Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it…,” said President Obama.

While President is bringing positive awareness and change to human trafficking, Congress is allowing partisanship to prevent the reauthorization of an anti-human trafficking bill.

In 2000, when Congress first passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), it received robust bipartisan support, according to an article by Jonathan Serrie. The bill has been reauthorized three times, but has been gridlocked by Congress for more than a year.

“The law imposes tough federal penalties on traffickers and funds programs to detect arrest and prosecute them. It also supports services for victims of human trafficking,” said Serrie.

It’s interesting to note that the current political climate is allowing Congress to play a game of chicken over something as tragic as human slavery. Why can the Obama Administration create efforts to combat human slavery, but Congress can’t even reauthorize a similar bill?

We at HRI believe human trafficking is a critical human rights violation, that’s why we’re co-sponsoring the Third Annual Human Trafficking Summit on Thursday, October 11, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Please click here for more information.

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