In-Depth: Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) introduced this bill to combat human trafficking. He contends that U.S. leadership on human trafficking is needed to make a difference on this issue:
“I’ve been working on human trafficking since 1995. Many people thought it was a solution in search of a problem. You’d say trafficking and their eyes would glaze over. [U.S.] leadership … is making all the difference in the world — domestically and internationally – to mitigate this horror, this modern day slavery that disproportionately hurts women and children.”
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) notes that this bill contains important reforms to both foreign and domestic anti-trafficking programs:
“This ambitious bill not only extends the legal authorities from the groundbreaking Trafficking Victims Protection Act that Rep. Smith authored 17 years ago, but also contains important reforms to our foreign and domestic anti-trafficking programs. This bill strengthens the State Department’s annual TIP Report and the Country Tier Rankings. Namely, they must tell the truth about the trafficking situation on the ground, and should not be subject to manipulation for the sake of diplomatic, economic, or political considerations.”
After this bill’s passage in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, President Trump praised it, saying, “My Administration is focused on ending the horrific practice of human trafficking, and the three bills the House of Representatives passed today [including this bill] are important steps forward.”
World Vision supports this bill. Its Policy Advisor for Child Protection, Jessica Bousquette, says that TVPA reauthorization is needed to prevent violence against children:
“With over one billion children experiencing violence globally every year, we must work together to prevent violence, including trafficking from happening in the first place. Reauthorizing the TVPA is critical in that effort. We must also maintain current foreign assistance levels to ensure we have the resources we need to end trafficking… During the last decade, we have made significant progress in identifying human trafficking victims, prosecuting traffickers, protecting survivors, and creating partnerships domestically and around the world to end human trafficking, so it’s critical that we protect those who are most vulnerable by reauthorizing Trafficking Victims Protection Act.”
Human Rights First’s Annick Febrey, a senior associate at the organization’s Bankrupt Slavery campaign, cast doubt upon the TVPA’s effectiveness in March 2016, writing that:
“Since the last reauthorization in 2013, just under 15,000 traffickers were convicted worldwide and law enforcement identified nearly 136,000 victims. The International Labour Organization also released a new estimate that traffickers are profiting $150 billion annually—about three times the previous approximation… Labor trafficking will continue to be an appealing business enterprise for perpetrators until we increase the risks for those who profit from enslaving workers both in the United States and overseas. The TVPA reauthorization gives us an opportunity to make that happen. Hopefully three years from now, the number of labor prosecutions will more closely mirror the percentage of victims who are trafficked for forced labor, disincentivizing traffickers from participating in this fundamental violation of human rights.”
This bill passed the House by a voice vote in July 2017, then passed the Senate with an amendment by voice vote in December 2018. It has 29 House cosponsors, including 16 Democrats and 13 Republicans. It has the support of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), World Vision, and Freedom Network USA.
Of Note: The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) and its reauthorizations (2003, 2005, 2008, 2013) are the cornerstone for current U.S. policy on combating international and domestic human trafficking. TVPA authorized and established the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, as well as other anti-trafficking efforts. In 2017, TVPA programs were authorized at $135 million.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline received 26,727 calls in 2016 and 7,572 human trafficking cases were reported in the U.S. that year. DHS says the majority of trafficking cases go undetected in the U.S. each year.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / aradaphotography)