We Can’t Stop Now: Fight For Human Rights And Renew Trafficking Protection Law

Human trafficking is a gross violation of human rights. Traffickers victimize immigrants and U.S. citizens across every race, gender, religion and culture. Men, women and children of all ages are exploited. And many of these violations occur right here in the United States.

With the proposed reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), we have an opportunity to set a new standard that strengthens critical programs and protections for survivors.

Originally introduced in 2000, the TVPA established the U.S. as a world leader in the fight against human trafficking through emphasis on what we call the “3 Ps” — prosecution, protection and prevention. This approach introduced measures to ensure survivors are identified and supported, traffickers are punished and that root causes are addressed to reduce vulnerabilities for both victims and communities.

The law defines human trafficking, provides funding and programs for survivors, establishes criminal sentences for traffickers and outlines the responsibilities of the federal government. It also authorizes funding for law enforcement investigations, social and legal services for survivors, prosecution and training.

To date, the TVPA has been reauthorized four times — each with revised parameters to further strengthen prevention strategies, increase victim protections and expand investigative measures to address human trafficking.

But despite this progress, we have seen setbacks. For example, the number of labor prosecutions in the U.S. has steadily declined from 60 percent of trafficking cases in 2010 to 27 percent in 2014. Victims are often arrested for the crimes they are forced to commit. More is needed to hold traffickers accountable and to protect victims and survivors. 

With TVPA reauthorization once again on the horizon, we are at a key turning point, and we must move the needle. 

The legislation proposes multiple new measures. It adds important direction to federal agencies to broaden training efforts that will expand recognition of human trafficking by law enforcement and support a victim-centered response. Current law enforcement techniques — such as interviewing victims at the scene, requiring multiple interviews, and refusing referrals to services without victims’ cooperation — often lead to victim re-traumatization and refusal to cooperate with further investigations.

The legislation focuses on a victim-centered approach that addresses these issues, and includes new requirements for law enforcement to screen for victimization in populations likely to be victims of trafficking.

In addition, it directs law enforcement to avoid arresting and prosecuting victims for crimes they were forced to commit. Local and state law enforcement continue to arrest labor trafficking victims who are forced to commit crimes such as transporting drugs and panhandling, as well as sex workers on ‘prostitution’ grounds, including minors who are eligible for victim services under federal law.

These legislative improvements are worthy of support. But our work must go further to prevent these heinous crimes. Namely, we must address the underlying issues that make people vulnerable to trafficking — poverty, violence, discrimination, weak worker protections, insufficient child welfare protections and lack of affordable housing.

To read the full story by Jean Bruggeman on The Hill: Click Here

Bishop Lauds Bill To Fight Human Trafficking

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2017 / 04:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An upgrade to a key anti-trafficking bill passed the U.S. House on Wednesday, and has been praised by one U.S. bishop as “an important step” in the fight to abolish modern-day slavery.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, called H.R. 2200 “an important step Congress can take to help prevent human trafficking and protect victims as it provides important service provisions that will aid victims.”

The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention, Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2017 makes upgrades to existing legislation, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The new bill is named after Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave in 1818 but escaped to freedom and who spent his time thereafter fighting to abolish the institution of slavery in the U.S.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House global human rights subcommittee, is the author of the act, with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), ranking member on the committee, being the bill’s lead sponsor.

The proposed legislation would increase funding for existing anti-trafficking programs in the U.S. and abroad by over $500 million.

Grants will be given to educational programs for students and teachers on how to detect and avoid the trafficking of young people for work or sex. Also, the U.S. government is encouraged under the bill to have employees stay at hotels that have taken concrete steps to prevent trafficking on their property.

To read the full story by Matt Hadro of Catholic News Agency: Click Here

Feinstein: ‘Human Trafficking Is Totally Bad. It’s Totally Illegal. It Ruins People’s Lives’

Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Thursday applauded the collaboration between Fresno law enforcement and community groups in combating human trafficking.

“Today was a really unique meeting, because Fresno seems to have a very unique program,” Feinstein said after the Thursday gathering. “Here, there’s a community-police connection.”

Stopping human trafficking has been a concern of the senator’s for some time, and she said the opportunity to hear from law enforcement officials and community leaders at the meeting in Fresno will be helpful in crafting legislation to address the problem.

“Human trafficking has been relayed to me to be the second largest criminal industry in the United States, Feinstein said. “And young girls are trafficked all throughout America and throughout California. And pimps make a lot of money, and young girls have their lives ruined.”

California has the most cases of reported human trafficking in the U.S., and Fresno has the seventh-highest number of those cases, according to the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission’s Central Valley Against Human Trafficking Project. Bakersfield is ranked eighth.

And human trafficking is increasing, in part because of awareness in the community to report it, but also because of gang-related trafficking, the commission said.

Feinstein said 49 percent of girls who are traffficked are between ages 15 and 19, but 10 percent are 11 years old. Those involved in human trafficking should be vigorously prosecuted, she said.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, who participated in the roundtable at Fresno police headquarters, said victims are often promised love and money, but “before they know it, what they’re promised is violence and death.”

To read the full story by Barbara Anderson on The Fresno Bee: Click Here

‘Frederick Douglass’ Bill Introduced in Congress to Curb Human Trafficking

Members of Congress have introduced a bipartisan bill named for American abolitionist Frederick Douglass that would seek to curb human trafficking.

The new legislation, titled the “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act of 2017,” is co-sponsored by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith and California Democrat Rep. Karen Bass.

Seven other sponsors have put their support behind the bill, which would reauthorize $130 million in funding to stop human trafficking and provide aid to victims.

“It is an honor to commemorate Frederick Douglass with this legislation, highlighting his unending dedication to the prevention and eradication of slavery,” Smith said in a statement.

Ken Morris, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and co-founder of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative — co-founded in 2007 by descendants of Douglass and Booker T. Washington with the intention of ending modern day slavery — told NBC News this bill has come about at the perfect time.

“Douglass’ bicentennial is in 2018 and as our current president said on February 1, Frederick Douglass has done amazing things,” Morris said. “And whether that’s past tense or present tense we agree because the spirit of Frederick Douglass is with us today, and we are so honored this act is named for him.”

To read the full story by Kalhan Rosenblatt and Chandelis R. Duster on NBC NEWS: Click Here

Caught In Modern-Day Slavery, She Thought She’d Die. Could This Idea Help Others?

Us Senator Sees Vatican As Partner In Fight Against Modern-Day Slavery

ROME- United States Senator Bob Corker was in Rome this week to meet Vatican officials, including Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, discussing a possible partnership between the U.S. and the Holy See in dealing with human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

“We see the Vatican, the Holy See, as a great partner in this effort. I know the pope has spoken about it on several opportunities,” the Republican senator from Tennessee told reporters on Friday.

The meeting between Corker and Vatican officials took place on the same day President Donald Trump pledged to work on “solving the human trafficking epidemic, which is what it is,” calling it “a priority for my administration.”

Trump was speaking at a Session on Domestic and International Human Trafficking, held at the White House on Thursday.

Corker is also the Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee, and late last year he was rumored to be a candidate for Trump’s Secretary of State.

As Corker pointed out on Friday, there’s an estimated 27 million people today living in slavery, more than at any time in the world’s history. An estimated 24 percent of the total are in sexual servitude, with 76 percent of them in hard labor.

“The awareness of this is obviously growing, there are many people around the world working diligently,” Corker said.

As an illegal industry, the human trafficking is among the most profitable, comparable to drug and gun trafficking.

“There are so many people around the world working towards [the end of slavery], but there’s yet to be an international effort to bring all of that together, like the international community did with PEPFAR and dealing with the global AIDS issue,” Corker said.

PEPFAR is the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a governmental initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world launched under President George W. Bush.

To read the full story by Inés San Martín on Crux: Click Here

 

Reps. Cohen, Kinzinger, Cárdenas and Wagner Introduce Bipartisan Human Trafficking Bill

January 31, 2017 Press Release

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) today introduced the Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond (SOAR) to Health and Wellness Act. This bipartisan legislation would provide health care professionals at all levels training on how to identify and appropriately treat human trafficking victims. It is a companion to a Senate bill also introduced today by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Susan Collins (R-ME). January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

“Human trafficking is a hidden crime that impacts hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S., and many of these victims end up in a health care setting while being exploited,” said Congressman Cohen. “Our bill aims to ensure health care professionals are trained to identify victims of human trafficking and provide them with critical, victim-centered health care.  Our bill also enables health care providers to implement protocols and procedures to work with victims, service organizations, and law enforcement so that victims can get proper support and perpetrators of human trafficking are brought to justice. I would like to thank Reps. Kinzinger, Cárdenas and Wagner for joining me in introducing this bill in the House and Senators Heitkamp and Collins for introducing this bill in the Senate as we recognize National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.”

“It’s critical that healthcare providers are trained to recognize human trafficking cases and have the proper procedures in place to help those most vulnerable,” said Congressman Kinzinger. “I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of the SOAR Act, which I believe will have a significant impact towards identifying cases of human trafficking and helping assist more individuals across the country from falling victim to this heinous crime.”

“In the last decade, Los Angeles has become one of the top three hubs for human trafficking,” said Rep. Cardenas. “While we’re making strides in dismantling this industry, we must do more. Ensuring that health professionals are able to address and recognize human trafficking is crucial in our fight. This legislation will help meet that goal, and I’m proud to join my colleagues in this effort.”

“Education and awareness are critical in the fight to end human trafficking. That is why I spent time with both trafficking survivors and healthcare providers in St. Louis this fall to discuss how they can better identify trafficking victims. The SOAR Act will provide healthcare providers on all levels with the appropriate training and tools necessary to identify and report potential cases of human trafficking,”said Congresswoman Wagner. “With tens of thousands of victims being trafficked in the United States each year, I am happy to work with my colleagues across the aisle to introduce and quickly pass this legislation.”

“This month when I spoke with a mother whose young daughter was terrorized on a near daily basis after being trafficked for sex, I asked her what she thought needed to change going forward. Her answer was simple – health care professionals need the training and the tools to recognize and protect victims of sex trafficking, especially children like her daughter,” said Senator Heitkamp. “Today, Senator Collins and I are reintroducing our bipartisan bill to make sure health providers – sometimes some of the only people victims interact without their trafficker in the room – can identify and get help for victims of sex trafficking. Our nation recognizes Human Trafficking Awareness this month – and by training health professionals to spot potential victims – we can expand awareness in the medical community so they are prepared to intervene and have a clear process on handling the situation. By building on the success of pilot training programs of about 60 doctors, nurses and others in Williston and New Town, we can strengthen our community and nationwide network that unmasks and effectively combats human trafficking, protects victims, and prevents these crimes from proliferating in our towns.”

“Every state in America is affected by the evils of sex trafficking. Human traffickers prey upon the most vulnerable, often homeless or runaway children. Identification is the first, and frequently missed, step in helping victims and stopping these atrocities,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan legislation would bolster the current success of the U.S. Health and Human Services pilot program by expanding it and greatly increasing the number of our health care providers who will have the training to protect victims and expose these heinous crimes.”

The Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond (SOAR) to Health and Wellness Act directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a pilot program to combat human trafficking to be known as ‘Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond to Health and Wellness Training.’ While human trafficking victims are often difficult to identify, a reported 68 percent of trafficking victims end up in a health care setting at some point while being exploited, including in clinics, emergency rooms and doctor’s offices.  Despite this, out of more than 5,680 hospitals in the country, only 60 have been identified as having a plan for treating patients who are victims of trafficking and 95 percent of emergency room personnel are not trained to treat trafficking victims. The SOAR Act will help close the gap in health care settings without plans for treating human trafficking victims.

Press release originally found on the website of Representative Steve Cohen: Click Here

Polaris and Clear Channel Outdoor Americas Launch Anti-Human Trafficking Digital Billboard Campaign Across Minnesota

Congressman Erik Paulsen and other Minnesota Leaders Endorse Campaign to Alert Human Trafficking Victims About How to Reach Out for Help

MINNEAPOLIS, MN—Polaris and Clear Channel Outdoor Americas (CCOA), a division of Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CCO), together with Congressman Erik Paulsen, today unveiled an anti-human trafficking awareness campaign to run on 53 digital billboards throughout Minnesota. The new campaign, launching today and running for three weeks, will alert victims how to reach out for help through the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) (1-888-373-7888), as well as raise awareness about the true nature of modern slavery.

A collaborative effort between Polaris and CCOA, the Out-of-Home (OOH) media campaign, which is estimated to deliver approximately 6.5 million impressions, is designed to reach trafficking victims who may be unaware that resources exist to help them and residents who can help identify suspicious activity with raised awareness that human trafficking is a major problem in Minnesota and throughout the U.S. 365 days a year. CCOA is donating ad space across its digital OOH media platform in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan areas for the campaign.

The estimated $150 billion a year trafficking industry forces approximately 20.9 million people worldwide to live in modern day slavery. In just the first six months of 2016, human trafficking was reported in all 50 states, with 37 cases of human trafficking reported to the NHTRC from Minnesota, already a 12% increase over all of 2015. The top cities that received reports in Minnesota include Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, St. Cloud, Blaine and Moorhead. In total, the NHTRC has received reports of over 265 cases of human trafficking from Minnesota since 2007.

In a news conference earlier today held at the Minnesota State Fair, Congressman Erik Paulsen, Ramsey District Attorney John Choi, Kyle Loven, Chief Division Counsel, FBI – Minneapolis, Washington County Attorney Imran Ali, Executive Director Patina Park of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Polaris National Hotlines Director Caroline Diemar and the President of CCOA-Minneapolis/St. Paul Susan Adams Loyd joined local and state law enforcement officials to speak with an audience of reporters and supporters to underscore the need for preventing and combatting human trafficking across Minnesota and the country. Also in attendance to endorse the campaign in solidarity were representatives from Uber, Mysister.org and the Hennepin County – No Wrong Door Initiative and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

“We must do all that we can to eliminate the scourge of human trafficking – too many young girls and boys, and their families are affected by this heinous practice,” said Congressman Erik Paulsen (MN-03). “This awareness campaign is an important and meaningful step in accomplishing that goal. By coming together, educating our communities about available resources, and empowering others to play a role in combating human trafficking, we can all contribute in this fight.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, who could not attend today’s event said, “Raising awareness is critical in the fight against human trafficking. This campaign, which educates and empowers people to join the fight against trafficking, has the power to help prevent children from being victimized and help those who have fallen victim to this heinous crime get the support they need to get their lives back on track. I was proud to lead the effort to pass the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act that is helping law enforcement further crack down on human traffickers in communities across the country while bringing about greater restitution and justice for victims. We must continue to ensure that children who are sold for sex are treated as victims, not criminals.”‎

“People exploited in forms of modern slavery are receiving help and services to rebuild their lives every day in America, including here in Minnesota. From the domestic worker provided with her visa, to the young girl sold online for sex who now has counseling and therapy support, survivors are reaching out to the national human trafficking hotline more than ever,” said Caroline Diemar, Polaris’s National Hotline Director. “Too often, though, survivors aren’t aware the national hotline exists or that they can be connected to a network of support across the country. Minnesota’s awareness campaign is critical to ensuring survivors of sex and labor trafficking get the help they need.”

“Our digital OOH campaign has the power to reach many victims of human trafficking across Minnesota and let them know that there is help and way out of this modern slavery,” said Susan Adams Loyd, President, CCOA-Minneapolis/St. Paul. “What is also important about this campaign is that we are reiterating to residents that human trafficking is a real, crucial issue that needs a call to action immediately. Together with Polaris, and with the support of Congressman Paulsen and Minnesota law enforcement, our goal is help these victims gain back their freedom and ultimately decrease the number of cases of this heart-breaking crime.”

Polaris and CCOA have forged a national partnership to combat human trafficking with campaigns in cities across America. CCOA launched its first anti-human trafficking campaign alongside Polaris in Philadelphia in 2012 and has since supported campaigns with Polaris and/or local partners in Baltimore, Iowa, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Jersey, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, and across the entire state of Texas. This is CCOA’s 20th anti-human trafficking campaign and data show that the campaigns drive calls to the hotline, including tips and requests by victims for help.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center is operated by Polaris, and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other private donors. The NHTRC (1-888-373-7888) is a confidential, multilingual hotline that connects victims and survivors of all forms of human trafficking to nationwide available services to get help and stay safe. It also provides the anti-trafficking community with actionable tips and insights. By offering a robust 24/7 infrastructure and sharing data and resources, the NHTRC unites local efforts into a national movement that is helping survivors restore their freedom and eradicating human trafficking at scale.

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Press release from the Polaris Project: Click Here

US Should Increase Efforts to Combat Trafficking of Syrian Refugees – Senators

US Senate member said that US Secretary of State Kerry should increase efforts to fight human trafficking among the Syrian refugee population.

US Secretary of State Kerry should increase efforts to fight human trafficking among the Syrian refugee population, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Chris Murphy and nine other senators said in a letter on Thursday, Sputnik reports.

“We encourage you and the State Department to continue to do everything possible to combat human trafficking,” the letter stated. “This reprehensible criminal industry has exploited millions of men, women, and children across the world, and it is our duty as a beacon of freedom to protect the dignity of the most vulnerable populations.”

The senators’ letter emphasized the importance of continuing collaboration with the governments of Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon affected by the migration of refugees from Syria and Iraq.

To read the full article from News.Az: Click Here

Klobuchar, Warner Join Flight Attendants, Law Enforcement & Anti-Trafficking Advocates At National Airport To Call On Congress To Combat Human Trafficking On Commercial Air Flights

May 16,2016

Washington – Today, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined flight attendants, anti-trafficking advocates, and federal law enforcement at Ronald Reagan National Airport to urge Congress to pass legislation that would help to combat human trafficking on commercial air flights.

By a bipartisan vote of 95-3, the Senate last month approved legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that includes a provision championed by Sens. Klobuchar and Warner to combat human trafficking in the skies. The legislation – modeled on the Stop Trafficking on Planes (STOP) Act that the Senators introduced earlier this year – requires airlines to provide training for flight attendants to recognize and report suspected human trafficking to law enforcement. Sens. Warner and Klobuchar worked to include language modeled on the STOP Act in the FAA bill because flight attendants, through their interactions with large numbers of air travelers, are uniquely positioned to identify potential victims and help bring human traffickers to justice.

“Trafficking is now estimated to be the third largest criminal enterprise in the world. We need to ensure that flight attendants who are on the frontlines of the battle against trafficking are armed with the proper training needed to identify and report these heinous crimes,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “By working together to move our bill forward, we can help stop trafficking wherever it exists – on land, at sea, and in the sky.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States are estimated to be victims of human trafficking, but too often, they are hidden in plain sight. Bringing traffickers to justice and helping victims to safety requires a concerted effort. We need to use all available resources to assist law enforcement in identifying and protecting those who are being exploited. Fortunately, we have allies in the sky who are uniquely positioned to spot and report suspected cases of human trafficking,” said Sen. Warner. “With appropriate training in how to notice common signs of trafficking – such as a traveling companion who keeps physical control of a fellow traveler’s documents, or a child who is accompanied by an adult who isn’t a parent or guardian – flight attendants can help magnify our efforts to combat this crime. I hope that the House of Representatives will act on the FAA bill soon, so that we can move one step closer to saving more women and children from becoming victims of exploitation.”

“CBP is uniquely positioned to recognize and intercept human traffickers and, hopefully, rescue their victims as they travel through our ports of entry and across our borders,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “It takes a whole of community approach to combat human trafficking, which is why we value our partnerships with the airline industry as well as federal, state, and local governments, private sector businesses, nonprofit organizations and service providers.”

“Trained Flight Attendants can serve as 100,000 eyes in the skies to save lives by recognizing and reporting signs of trafficking,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. “We join Senator Klobuchar and Senator Warner to call on Congress to move this legislation that will allow us to stop traffickers from using our skyways as a means to transport innocents to a life of slavery.” 

“Human trafficking victims are often isolated and there are few opportunities for intervention. Airlines are on the front lines of stopping this by identifying victims who are being transported,” said Michelle Guelbart, Director of Private Sector Engagement, ECPAT-USA. “They may also overhear international child sex tourists or abusers who talk about exploiting local children while traveling domestically in the United States. ECPAT-USA applauds Senator Klobuchar and Senator Warner for their leadership in introducing this legislation and know that when passed, will literally change lives.”

The legislation builds on the voluntary Blue Lightning Initiative (BLI) currently administered by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation. BLI provides training and educational materials for U.S. commercial airlines and their employees on how to identify suspected human trafficking victims and notify federal authorities.

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