Calling human trafficking "a perverse form of evil," President Bush signed a bill in January that gives law-enforcement officials more tools to combat human traffickers operating in the United States and abroad-an estimated $9 billion industry. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 also increases resources and aid for the victims of sex and labor trafficking.
"We have to get angry enough at the slavers and pimps to shut them down," said bill sponsor Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. "This is modern-day slavery, and some of it is going on in our own backyards."
The law amends and expands the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, also sponsored by Smith and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. That bill authorized refugee-type benefits for trafficking victims and tightened domestic trafficking laws.
The 2005 bill provides $361 million over the next two years to fight international and domestic trafficking. Bill language authored by Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, establishes a pilot program through the Department of Health and Human Services (hhs) for residential treatment facilities for juvenile trafficking victims. It further authorizes $50 million for grants to state and local law enforcement to prosecute human traffickers and criminals who pay for sex in the United States, in an effort to battle demand.
"This is where there was a major gap in U.S. trafficking efforts," said Joe Mettimano, senior policy adviser for World Vision. The Christian ngo has teamed with the State Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to sponsor an aggressive ad campaign targeted at Americans traveling abroad. The ads, run in destination countries, U.S. airports, and on United Airlines in-flight videos, warn travelers that they will be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sex with children overseas. World Vision's program received a $500,000 start-up grant from the State Department and last year collected $1 million from hhs to expand the program to Brazil and Mexico.
The Justice Department estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States every year. The largest numbers come from East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, and Europe. In 2004, the Justice Department reported to Congress that "the number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country each year is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry."
"Traffickers go to bus depots and look for girls on the run," Smith said.
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorneys' Offices have prosecuted 287 traffickers since 2001. As of January, there were 221 open trafficking investigations.
"We've only scratched the surface," said department spokesman Eric Holland, "but this [law] is a great tool to find these victims and bring the perpetrators to justice."
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
The text of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 is available from the Library of Congress.
The President's statement upon signing the act is available from the White House.
HumanTraficking.org has another statement by the president about the act.
News elsewhere includes:
Feds help victims of 'modern-day slavery' | Vednita Carter was slightly taken aback by President Bush's appearance this week at a bill signing in Washington, D.C. (Pioneer Press, Minn. Jan 16, 2006)
Abolishing modern day slave trade | In September 2003, President George W. Bush started something of a sexual revolution. (Napa Valley Register, Calif. Jan. 17, 2006)
Working Together | Fighting the sex-trafficking menace. (Donna M. Hughes, National Review Online, Jan. 26, 2006)
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.