Academy Award-winning actress Mira Sorvino spoke at an anti-human trafficking symposium at Georgetown January 30. Sorvino serves as a United Nations goodwill ambassador on human trafficking. She and John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were be among presenters during the 'Anti-Human Trafficking Symposium: Transforming the Coalition,' presented by Deloitte and SFS' Institute for the Study of International Migration and Master of Science in Foreign Service Program. The symposium brought together government, academic, non-profit and business leaders to re-engineer the fight against the illegal trade of human beings for sexual exploitation and forced labor.
Read more or watch the symposium via Ustream (two parts). Sorvino speaks during Part 2 and her remarks—"Beyond Awareness: Putting the Human Back in Human Trafficking"—are found below.
Remarks of Mira Sorvino at Georgetown University
as prepared for delivery
Beyond Awareness: Putting the Human Back in Human Trafficking
January 30, 2013
Hello ladies and gentlemen, students! In the four years I have had the immense honor of working as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Goodwill Ambassador to combat Human Trafficking, so much has happened to the movement, and I have learned so much. I‘ve had the incredible opportunity to travel the world, liaising between governments and NGOs and survivors networks as part of the U.N.’s Blue Heart anti-trafficking awareness campaign; interviewed scores of people whose lives have intersected with the modern-day, $32 billion-a-year slave trade, either as those fighting it, those victimized by it, or those perpetrating it.
I have seen us progress from a point where just a few years ago, a BBC televised debate anchor questioned the very existence of human trafficking, to one in which most countries in the world have acknowledged the severity of the crimes under this umbrella term, and have begun legislating to fight them. I have seen a U.S. Congress, so incapable of coming to terms on most topics, agree bipartisanly that we must fight modern-day slavery as a unified whole.
But given all that progress, we are very, very far from really making a meaningful dent in the problem statistically. The latest U.N. GIFT report shows that the conviction rates for this heinous blight: slavery compares to the rarest crimes, like homicides in Iceland and kidnaping in Norway. When our U.S. State Department Ambassador—my good and learned friend by whom you will be excellently educated later—Luis CdeBaca tells us that there are an estimated 27 million people living in slavery at any given time, yet the convictions worldwide do not exceed 4,500 traffickers, something is very, very wrong. And the global percentage of child victims reported rose from 20% between 2003 and 2006 to 27% between 2007 and 2010.
Another very disturbing trend is that in what are ostensibly law enforcement efforts to help victims and survivors of both labor and sexual trafficking, more harm is done to those emerging from the trauma of trafficking. There is very real conflation occurring across the world of the crime done and its victims; instead of survivors being treated as crime victims they are often treated as perpetrators, even though the U.N. and Federal laws denote that those who have been trafficked are not responsible for crimes their traffickers have committed or in which they compelled the victims’ involvement. The victims are rarely given something the U.N. Global Plan of Action on TIP urges every government to implement: a 30-day (minimum) period of reflection in which the suspected victims of human trafficking have a decompression period away from their traffickers in which they can recover from trauma and summon the health and courage needed to cooperate with law enforcement. Instead we hear stories of re-traumatization: victims questioned in cold rooms for hours on end immediately following their removal from traffickers’ grasps, rape victims interviewed by men and accused of lying when they later came forward with the details of their attack, because they had been too upset in the first case to relive the horrific, fresh-in-their-psyche experience for someone that intimidated them. We hear that their interviews are repeated multiple times by individuals from different agencies, compounding the psychological trauma, and that often they are put into detention-like living situations pre-trial, sometimes for years on end, due in some cases to a fear that the witnesses will run away, or repatriate if they are international victims. They are not treated with the human rights due them as victims of crimes, and this shameful treatment must end.
I also cry foul that the survivors of Human Trafficking are not called more frequently to the table when this sort of ideation is occurring. I hope we have some survivors in the audience? With all due respect, their presence would have been most beneficial for all of us to hear as voices for change which could have expressed exactly what is necessary for them, learned through experience and a vigorous and learned political advocacy, such as that expressed by members of the National Survivors Network.
What we really want to do is make sure that we are not just emoting together in some rallying cry against what looks to be a clear-cut evil, slavery, but then not actually pursuing the very specific courses of action that will impede the growth of this horrific exploitation of human beings. We have ridden the initial wave of finding purpose, a common evil to fight—slavery—but now we must grow from what we have learned, and hunker down to the nitty-gritty. We cannot be hypocrites, halfway abolitionists, who like the feeling of being on the right side of a cause, but who aren’t willing to go the whole distance down to the ground where recommendations or policies or laws or funding are or are not being put into practice or use. It may not even be intentional, just a sin of omission: members of the Madrid Ministry of Equality who had put a law necessitating the period of reflection on the books for any suspected victim of human trafficking were shocked when I informed them, after researching with local NGOs who worked with trafficking survivors, that not once had the period been granted in the entire year after it had been made into law. This even when a very well-publicized case of a Nigerian pregnant woman vouched for as a trafficking victim by various NGOs and the local U.N. office was deported at once back to Nigeria without the period, without a full investigation into her situation. Her whereabouts are now unknown. They just assumed that writing the law and passing it was all that was needed, that it would automatically “work.”
Saying it does not make it so; just ask the world’s major chocolate manufacturers who swore a pact that they would root out child slave labor in their Cote d’Ivoire supply chains, over ten years ago. Lo and behold an estimated 200,000 children are still being paid nothing, worked day and night using machetes under extremely dangerous conditions, many against their will. Only by a new naming and shaming action were a handful of them convinced to agree to new independent outside auditing and now plan to a create packages of training and capacity-building (with the blessing of the local government) investing in sustainability; as the poor farmers who produce the raw material become more successful, they can reinvest profits to employ others, instead of using child slaves, many of whom have never tasted and do not know what chocolate is.
And we, at point of sale, were blithely buying our M&Ms and Twixes and Nutella all those years thinking just because the problem had been acknowledged, it had been solved. Why, I ask, would it be impossible or unlikely for all labels to have a labor rating on them, just as all foodstuffs have nutritional information on them? Bad for business? Not so, according to recent Harvard study that showed that sales actually rose by 20 % on items labeled simply: “made with good labor practices.” Of course paying fair wages to people as opposed to forcing labor in intolerable conditions might cost more initially, but A: So what?! We cannot endorse the “maximum profit at any cost” business motto, period. And B, in today’s markets, those complying with real zero tolerance would have, I believe, a competitive edge with the ethical consumer. Isn’t knowing that what we buy, even those objects at tauntingly low prices, was not forged by slave hands, as important as the cotton content, whether something is organic, its emissions rating or its calories? President Obama made a great first step with his executive order of last fall to create a mandatory zero slavery tolerance for all government contractors; it’s time to expand that requirement for all companies doing business in this country; but instead of the voluntary self-vetting the California law passed on this topic asks for, a robust impartial exterior auditing group must be created that is ongoing, in perpetuity. It must protect human beings from the viler impulses towards exploitation that will always exist when money is to be made.
We must make sure to give equal weight to sex trafficking and labor trafficking. I have spoken to survivors who agree, among themselves, they do not wish one to be labeled more heinous, more worthy of fighting. When news stories purport that sex trafficking is worse than labor, it creates an awkward dynamic among survivors; they don't want one to be weighed more heavily, neither from a treatment or an advocacy perspective; they feel the media is doing a disservice to the movement.
As the ratio of victims in this country seems to be about 50/50 labor and sex trafficking, why does sex trafficking get all the noise? Yes, the rape and abuse of children is especially horrific, but are the beatings, rape and threats sometimes borne out into murder endured by labor trafficking victims any less grievous, any less worthy of our abolitionism? Are domestic minors more important than foreign-born victims? NO. When you have looked into the eyes of as many survivors of unbelievably inhumane treatment as I have, you will know that the evil people are capable of inflicting on others for the love of money knows many forms, none better than the other, when human beings are relegated to what a Spanish sex trafficker told me were “like this [Ms. Sorvino held up a bottle]: a thing, a mercantile object to be traded. We don’t care about their feelings, we threaten them and their families and make them work by force.” A labor trafficking victim was told she was lower than a dog in this country of PETA; “here people care about animals, nobody cares about you.” A domestic and sex slave finally came to the conclusion that “I had nothing to contribute, nothing more to give on this earth than to stay and endure, to keep my brother alive.
Service providers report that from a trauma perspective, issues of sex and labor trafficking victims present the same way. It is therefore incredibly important that the treatment plan that NGOs use is individualized, never weighted on which kind trafficking victim he or she is. Best practices have individualized service plans so that survivors are looking forward and setting goals; the case manager sees to it that those goals are being met. So we all must keep this anti-trafficking movement universally and equally opposed to all forms of slavery.
Above all, we must make sure that by what we are endorsing, we are not doing further harm.
I have recently become aware that some of the solutions I have been vigorously advocating may be at current moment, harming the very individuals they are designed to help, and creating unintended targets of out of others. As some of you may know, one of my personal causes outside of the purview of my UNODC duties has been advocating for nationwide robust anti-trafficking legislation at the state level. I have partnered with Polaris Project, ECPAT-USA and CASTLA to name only a few, in my efforts to enlighten members of the National Conference of State Legislators, the National Association of Attorneys General, and the American Bar Association, of the vast gaps that exist between federal legislation and what the United Nations recommends as necessary in the legal fight against modern day slavery, and state laws on the topic. As you may have heard me say, no state is whole in its legislative response to human trafficking, meaning it does not harmonize with federal law, and comes up deficient in at least one and usually several of ten categories that Polaris Project has laid out as the benchmarks for what states must write to best serve victims and survivors, and to end the atmosphere of impunity that the criminal traffickers so enjoy here and throughout most of the world.
I am happy to say that at this point most states have a basic human trafficking law, save, I believe, Wyoming, whose legislators I have called out on a dare to write some of their own, not just pass what cases they accidentally find (because how can your police actively seek to fight a crime your own laws don’t recognize as one) to the feds. Many states in the past year have passed new laws, in areas like asset forfeiture of traffickers, much like that used with drug traffickers, and right to civil redress for victims, very important because often even if there is not enough evidence in a he-said she-said domestic labor trafficking case to be tried and won in criminal court, it may succeed in civil, and the deposition may reopen criminal possibilities. Some are writing laws to post the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, a 24/7 lifeline that took over 20,000 calls last year and has helped more than 3,000 victims become survivors. Many are strengthening the criminalization of trafficking charges to Class A or One felonies, reducing the appeal of expanding or switching to human trafficking from drugs for individuals and gangs who think there will be less chance of getting caught and severely punished for selling people, not a ground or rolled chemical or plant substance. These are all great advances to a point; as long as the new statutes are clearly written and then used and implemented on the ground in the sense they were meant to be used. (More on how to ensure that through vigorous training, in a moment.)
But some of the key pieces of legislation that I felt, (and still feel with a caveat,) were most important were the “Safe Harbor” laws, those currently on the books in only 11 states but the most vital, I felt, to the wellbeing of children trafficked into commercial sex. Their intent in their best, most robust form, is to decriminalize the minor in commercial sex (and according to the TIP report there are 100,000 to 300,000 domestic American kids bought and sold for sex at any given moment, on the streets and on the internet). To declare the child/teen a victim of human trafficking of the severest form, as no one under the age of 18 according to the federal government and the U.N., has the mens rea, the legal physical, psychological and mental capacity to consent to their own sale for sex, as they are deemed incapable as minors to even consent to sex. To criminalize the adult exploiters, the pimps, and the johns, to a stronger extent than has previously been the case, where every year in every state hundreds if not thousands of minors and women are arrested for the crime of prostitution, but their sellers (pimp-traffickers) and buyers (johns) almost never charged: a survivor described how the police, in front of her, a teenager being arrested, to the man who had just committed statutory rape with her, “Go home to your wife and family; we don’t want to ruin your life!” Their intent is to flip the lens and see the child in the transaction as the crime victim, not perpetrator, thereby to expunge the criminal records of the child/teen—and these can be girls, boys, transgendered youths; there is no one cookie-cutter profile for a victim of underage sexual trafficking. To entitle the child/teen to the services they so desperately need; these include housing, food, medical care, psychological counseling, education, career training; the list goes on and on of what these kids deserve, to be able to rebuild their lives and recover from the trauma they’ve endured in an early life with little or no choices that held anything positive for them. It may surprise you to know that most states’ child welfare services or health and human resources do not consider a domestically trafficked youth to be a victim of extreme abuse and neglect, and therefore due all those state services, unless they were trafficked by a family member.
These safe harbor laws were meant to change all that, were to change the status of the discovered sex-trafficked kid from “whore, “ and “slut,” appellations hurled at the noble and wonderful survivor activist, Holly Smith, by the arresting police officer who “rescued” her off the street track when she was a teenager. They were meant to end the cruel game recounted to me by a Virginia area teen survivor, who told me when she and others were put on their track by their pimp, the police cruiser would pull up, flip on their lights, and tell the girls to take off their high heels and run! Then they would chase them in their car, sirens blaring, laughing their heads off. These laws are meant to give these young people back their dignity, their right to choose the life they want.
Well I am very disturbed to report that some of those very laws which are meant to help, not only fail to do that, but actually harm survivors. In 2010 the Illinois Safe Children Act was passed, their Safe Harbor Act. This May, Cook County’s State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez stated, “More than ever before, we are focusing our efforts on rescuing women and children caught up in this crime and punishing the traffickers to the fullest extent of the law.” Since 2010, her office has convicted 17 individuals of felony human trafficking, HOWEVER, Chicago police reports show men (johns and pimp-traffickers) are even less likely to be arrested on prostitution related charges than they were in 2005, down 7 percent. Meanwhile prostitution charges are being almost exclusively levied against sex workers: 97% of the 1,266 prostitution related felony convictions in the past 4 years, some of them minors. Only 3 buyers have been charged with a felony.
This attempt to focus on ending the demand side has actually escalated the number of arrests of those whom we consider to be the victims, and their charges have been bumped up from misdemeanors to felonies, criminal records which can and do haunt them for the rest of their lives.
It must be made very clear that the anti-sex-trafficking movement is not an anti-sexworker movement. It is a movement to end the exploitation of minors for sex work, and because of their age the state does not have the burden of proving force, fraud, or coercion. It is a movement to end the keeping of adults in prostitution who have been forced, lied to or coerced. The chains may be invisible, “the ones you can’t see,” as Chief Senslee of the Truckee, Calif. task force explained, but in sex trafficking as in labor trafficking, as the head of European Interpol expressed it, “if the person cannot walk away without the fear of harm to him or herself or their loved ones, it’s trafficking.” The last intention of laws named “Safe Harbor” is to create an atmosphere of fear and long-term punishment for the child victims of adult exploiters, those looking to sell and buy their vulnerable bodies. Their point is to end the cycle the kids are trapped in; for the society that probably at some point turned its back on them to give them a second chance, replacing homelessness with shelter, abuse with care, judgment with concern, rape with healing, a dead-end with a future rife with possibility.
We have been trying to change the lens by which society and law enforcement sees these young people (and by extension, the adults in that profession, many of whom were brought in as minors). I have met many brave and heroic and altruistic survivors of sex trafficking; I admire them to the skies. The youngest was 7, she had been put to work in a Cancun brothel from the age of 4 to a few months before I met her, doing things she didn’t even know words for besides “incorrectos;” thanks to an amazing aftercare group home for child victims, she now does addition and subtraction, and loves taking dance lessons. In Pattaya, Thailand, a notorious stomping ground for pedophile sex tourists, I met a little boy with the most beautiful smiling face who held my hand and invited me to join in Buddhist evening prayer after showing me around the self-sustaining mushroom and pig farm and the clean bright school he attended at the Child Protection and Development Center, whose founder told me many of his old friends on the street were killed after having been used by pedophiles, to leave no witnesses. After leaving “the life” one American girl had put herself through college with honors, only to be told at the end of a several-interview process at a major corporation that she could never be hired because of the prostitution conviction on her record. The last thing we want these laws to say to them and to kids in their former positions is that they are bad, in need of punishment; we want to let them know that they have been crime victims and we intend to help them to our fullest capacity. That law enforcement should not be their enemy, (which sadly seems to be the case more often than not,) but their helpers.
How is this going to happen? How do we undo this misinterpretation of law when put into action? I feel it all hinges on clarity of definition, training and political will. The legal language must be super-specific so as not to be twisted and misinterpreted; many of the sex workers arrested in Cook County fell into a linguistic grey area, and the recent California passage of Prop 35 has made the definition of trafficking offenses hazier, so they are harder to prove, easier for defense attorneys to wriggle their trafficker clients out of.
Training of law enforcement, the prosecutorial, judiciary and defense arms of the court system, as well as that of social workers and people in the foster care system is absolutely of the essence if we are to see a sea change in the way this crime is prosecuted, its victims recognized as such, exonerated and uplifted. This is not about vice squads doing sweeps and arrest quotas being met; this is about serious criminals (the traffickers of children and unwilling adults) having strong evidence-led cases built against them, and their victims being identified by an educated law enforcement that treats them with dignity, respect, and sensitivity to the trauma they have been through. It is about the legislation being put to its intended use in the courtroom to end impunity for traffickers, punishing and deterring them, while awarding victims everything they are due to rebuild their lives.
It is also about funding, both federal and state, being put into those services that are being promised. And the programs must be voluntary; we cannot take a crime victim off the street and incarcerate him or her, saying in essence, we have to lock you up for your own good, and if you cooperate, we’ll see what we can do about your criminal record. Even though some may feel they are protecting the victims from being re-trafficked, we don’t lock up any other kind of crime victim, and we cannot build trust and lives by acting as jailors. For this reason better Safe Harbor Laws like one being prepared in California mandate that minors brought in as trafficking victims not be put into juvenile delinquency court but juvenile dependency court. The relationship must be a voluntary partnership, not one the victims are told is mandatory.
All of this means an enormous amount of capacity building; as local NGO leader/survivor/visionary Tina Frundt can tell you, building a group home that caters to the specific needs of sexually trafficked youth is almost prohibitively expensive. Our government and private sector must join hands in this effort to put money where their mouths are. We need to build the responses these victims need, and we betray them by not doing so; they do not do well in group homes with other youths who have not undergone similar experiences and are quick to judge and shame.
That public/private funding has to be put into the services for victims, but not taken mainly from traffickers’ assets or johns’ penalties, which must go directly to the victims themselves, to start their new lives. That funding also has to be allocated for that education and training of all those in law enforcement and the court system I mentioned before. We must have a universality of common knowledge, common goals, fueled by experience and driven to specific goals in informed anti-trafficking, not a hazy witch hunt that felonizes anything to do with the sex industry or immigration offenses.
That training must extend beyond those fine men and women responsible for our law and order: first responders and medical personnel, those in education and janitorial professions, in institutional licensing, and in the travel and hospitality industry are absolutely crucial for any national battle of human trafficking to work. For the victims are unseen; their traffickers like to keep it that way. It may be that they are generally confined to one place, or that they are moved around all the time to avoid detection. They are intimidated and told not to interact with others, to lie if questioned, and to fear authorities. When they surface, it takes a trained eye to use the moments of contact with the outside world out of the grasp of their traffickers as a ticket out of hell. All too often trafficking victims have that one chance where they could be identified and rescued, but it is missed.
Last week I was honored to be trusted to hear the story of two brave labor trafficking survivors from the Philippines; their tale exemplifies the challenges we still face fighting this crime, while testifying to their extraordinary courage. In it there are several points in which we see missed opportunities for the prevention of their exploitation by authorities, or their identification as victims which could have led to an earlier rescue by others. At the end of the day their own fortitude brought them their freedom.
Let’s call them Amy and Jonah. In the Philippines they did not know each other, but they were recruited by the same woman, one year apart. Amy had a relative who worked for her in the U.S., Jonah had worked on construction projects for her in the Philippines. Both were asked nicely if they wanted to come work for her in the US. They didn’t question what kind of work: Amy said getting an offer to come to America was like getting the winning lottery ticket. The woman told them she had done this many times before, and that getting them work visas would go very smoothly. She had them study with a taekwondo master for a little over a month, then leave the country and return with the Tae Kwon Do group, then all of them applied for athlete’s visas at the US embassy, where there were no questions they hadn’t been prepared to answer, no visible suspicions about them. Jonah was absolutely overjoyed flying into LAX. No one at the border stopped them or suspected the trafficking of this group of happy martial artists. Once in this country, the woman asked for their passports, so she could keep them safe for them. Jonah complied.
She brought them to an assisted living facility in Long Beach, California, one of two she owned and ran. There for a week Jonah apprenticed with Amy in how to take care of the elderly patients that boarded there. He was not prepared for such work and was physically ill when made to change bedpans etc… Amy had already been there for a year, stuck; she had been told shortly after arrival that she owed the woman $12,000 U.S.; she would be paid $600/month but $300 would be held back to pay off her debt, and she must work for the woman for 10 years to repay her. She was threatened with disavowal and deportation if she ever tried to leave, told not to walk on the streets because the police would pick her up, made to work for 6 months without a single day off.
Amy and Jonah (the latter who spoke almost no English when he arrived) became each other’s only allies. They were made to sleep on the floors next to the elderly clients’ beds, or wherever they could find purchase in the common areas. They were berated for steaming up the bathroom by taking showers; at first they were allowed to eat the leftovers of food they prepared for the clients, but then she complained she was spending too much money on food, so their rations were cut and were sometimes compelled to eat rotten food. Because apparently it is against labor laws to work 24 hours a day, Amy had to falsify work logs claiming all the woman’s extended family worked hours at the facility, but in reality it was herself and Jonah doing everything. Amazingly, several times ombudsmen from the various licensing agencies that had certified the facilities came, always found them on duty and questioned why they never had any time off, but were only concerned with the number of elderly clients housed in the facility, not the obvious labor infractions occurring.
Eventually a neighbor who had been watching the pair work nonstop texted Amy that if she ever needed any help.… Then one day she received a text from a woman in the FBI; the neighbor had alerted them. She met with the agent, who got Amy to agree to wear a wire. Amy went to the facility and was able to make the woman pour out all the details of the debt she said she owed her, all the incriminating evidence that would help prove her crime. Then she stayed for a week while Jonah ran away; the FBI had him call the woman and extract similar information over the phone. The woman called the police and accused him falsely of stealing jewelry (which she had hidden) and called his family at home shaming him and them, trying to get them to reveal his whereabouts or send him back to her. When he did call her she reiterated that they both owed her, and that they would have to work for her even after the ten years were over, because she was the one who brought them over and therefore they were essentially in her debt in perpetuity.
At this point he told her he wasn’t coming back to work for her, but that he would find money somehow and would get it to her, whereupon she got agitated and said she needed it soon. Jonah had been placed by the FBI in the Salvation Army Shelter; he felt very alone and intimidated there by the hostility of the other homeless there who couldn’t understand why he was allowed to remain there during the day. He had worked since he was a teenager and never thought his life would come to this; currently there are almost no housing options geared for male trafficking victims, and men are more unlikely to come forward and ask for help.
Their story has a happy ending; the woman was eventually convicted to a prison sentence, albeit not long enough, but she would never be able to run an institution again. They were awarded restitution in court, and felt satisfied when the judge attacked the woman’s character for treating them the way she had. They got T visas and special recommendations for expedited green cards since they had cooperated with a successfully completed case against their trafficker and are now happily employed and members of the National Survivors Network, fomenting change for others, all with an incredible sense of humor!
But we see so many points where this could have been avoided: in their home country the recruiter (the woman) and the transporter (the taekwondo master) had been doing this for years and the authorities had never caught on. The embassy smelled nothing awry, nor did the border patrol at LAX, nor the assisted living licensing inspectors, nor the families of the elderly clients, who clearly knew these two worked around the clock. All of these were areas in which if the proper anti-trafficking education had been completed by those in charge, these friends wouldn’t have lost one or two years of their lives to indentured servitude.
To understand the entire picture, on top of the intimidation at being in a strange culture and an ardent wish to support their parents back home, their Asian culture of filial piety, duty, and respect that molded them into ideal victims for this evil woman must be understood, and to some extent, anticipated, when searching for potential victims out there now. Another domestic labor traffic survivor from Indonesia told us how she wrote her trafficker an apology note detailing all the ways she had failed her abuser and made her mad, before running away with the help of a neighbor. She asked me to mention the importance of extending the statute of limitations for trafficking charges to be brought, because of the time needed to come to the right mindset to be able to prosecute. We may be missing the possibility that those among us are trafficked, because not only is our county not rife with the same level of economic desperation some source countries are, but the American culture is so individualistic and rebellious it is harder for us to understand being bound by inherited or instilled debt. And never underestimate the holding power of trying to be a good person that the traffickers exploit: in both cases above, the victims stayed longer out of not wanting to do harm to those in their care; Amy and Jonah worried about what would happen to the elderly people they truly loved, and the latter survivor about the small children she looked after and would miss.
In effect, slave labor can be found everywhere, under every rock you can turn over, even in the most unexpectedly innocuous-seeming of settings; in California right now a big case is breaking involving many men trafficked to work on Christmas tree farm, their lives threatened if they tried to leave.
And lastly, if we have come so far in our understanding and action on Human Trafficking, how is it that the TVPRA still awaits re-passage at the federal level? This crucial federal legislation is what state legislations wish they were, and yet teeters on an uncertain brink because partisan politics have stalled its re-passage. Its latest iteration incorporates elements from a bill Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) promoted that I advocated for, and would provide funding for grant programs for states to assist victims of child trafficking, creating pilot areas for that capacity building that is so urgently needed.
In relation to the assisted living labor trafficking case, it would strengthen the ability to prosecute those who fraudulently recruit individuals in foreign labor contracts and helps foreign governments investigate labor recruitment centers where trafficking victims may be recruited, the number one priority for Jonah.
Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) continue to be staunch supporters of the TVPRA, and in honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, they both publicly committed to passing this bill this year. The Senate and House of Representatives must follow their leadership, come together and get this done. There is simply no excuse to put off the passage of this legislation any longer. We cannot let this major piece of our armamentarium against the purveyors of human beings slip away.
The great news is that we now have all this experience to learn from, some successes to build on, and an increasingly strong and vocal network of survivors to lead our path. Let’s redouble our efforts in earnest now, in a sophisticated, dedicated earnest partnership, eradicating slavery from the face of the earth. Thank you!