How is Congress Doing in the Fight Against Human Trafficking?
You might have noticed an important U.S. election is coming up in just a couple of months. Presidential politics aside, a big part of the action lies with Congress. How do our Congressional leaders stack up in the fight against human trafficking? Join us here for a quick inside look!
Senators such as John McCain, Amy Klobuchar, Mark Kirk, and Chuck Schumer have made a lot of waves in directing policy efforts and funding towards trafficking prevention as well as victim services–but they’re not the only ones to do so. California’s own senators, Barbara Boxer, as senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chair of the first subcommittee ever to focus on global women’s issues, and Dianne Feinstein, as the first female Senator to serve on the prestigious and influential Judiciary Committee, are both recognized “champions” of the anti-trafficking effort as well.
In the House of Representatives, The SOLD Project’s district representative, Barbara Lee, has also been an advocate for positive change, cosponsoring several bills to help prevent child marriages in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (HR 2103), to prevent international violence against women (HR 4594), and to make anti-trafficking efforts a priority (HR 2283 and HR 3344).
As Barbara Boxer has decided to retire, her seat is up for grabs in the November election. The two strongest contenders are both women:
Kamala Harris as CA Attorney General has already shown experience and dedication to fighting transnational crime like human trafficking and sexual exploitation by leading a group of state attorneys to facilitate cooperation and coordination between the US and Mexico’s law enforcement efforts, and working to empower women and girls globally by ensuring access to health care and education.
Loretta Sanchez is a recognized “supporter” of anti-trafficking efforts, and has used her position in the House of Representatives’ Armed Services and Homeland Security Committee to introduce legislation to combat trafficking in the U.S. by improving information gathering and sharing processes. She also “was the lead Democrat introducing H.R. 5116, the Human Trafficking Detection Act, which would give DHS officials the training they need to identify potential victims of human trafficking and report these cases to local law enforcement officials,” and she has secured funding for a local task force in Orange County, CA to combat trafficking in her district.
Want to find out more about your Congressional representatives’ records?
The International Justice Mission provides fantastic resources, including: a score card listing which representatives are champions, leaders, and supporters of the fight to end trafficking and modern slavery; detailed suggestions on how to lobby your representatives as a concerned citizen, and how to be an informed and influential advocate for positive change.
Want to help, but don’t know what to ask for?
Here are some legislative actions that we at The SOLD Project have been supportive of so far:
- bringing the spotlight on human trafficking in general, as well as child trafficking and exploitation in particular
- efforts to ensure law enforcement agency efforts do not re-victimize victims, but instead act to support victims with sensitivity
- FBI & HSI efforts to work with NGOs on the ground, sharing resources like expertise and information
- enlisting support from other sectors such as: the transportation industry, first responders, educators & medical professionals
Further policy actions you might like to support:
- in countries where ethnic minorities and immigrants are particularly vulnerable, we’d like to encourage better documentation (perhaps through providing incentives to register themselves, e.g. access to social services and more legal job status, or reduced penalties for illegal migration) and provide a more feasible path to citizenship
- provide “slave free” labels on items like seafood, clothing, coffee, and chocolate, for companies that can prove their supply chain is entirely fair trade
- more clarity and greater distinctions made between cases involving pedophiles versus actual traffickers–we want to be sure that cases made against pedophiles are not used to pad the number of cases against traffickers to make it appear that more progress is being made
- more effective back-and-forth communication with a variety of counter trafficking NGOs on the nature of trafficking on the ground (how they see it happening, and who it is affecting), and how we can adapt our prevention practices
- grants and funding for NGOs making advances in the anti-trafficking efforts
- more support, funding for, and reliance on pilot studies, micro-level data, etc. into best practices for anti-trafficking prevention and intervention efforts
This piece is, of course, not comprehensive, but hopefully it helps shed some light on Congress, it’s role in the fight against child trafficking and exploitation, and how you too can be an advocate for change!
Dr. Jade Keller is the Thailand Program Advisor and Editor for The SOLD Project. After receiving a PhD in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara, she moved with her family to northern Thailand to work in child trafficking prevention, education, and helping to raise awareness.