Senate moves to combat human trafficking

The Senate has passed the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act, a bill that positions the United States to remain a leader in the fight against human trafficking. Now, the House of Representatives must take up the measure in order for the bill to become law.

By James Addis, World Vision U.S.
Published February 12, 2013 at 12:00am PST

Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), a comprehensive federal law to combat human-trafficking and modern-day slavery in the United States and abroad.

Hope for the exploited

Jesse Eaves, World Vision senior policy advisor for child protection, says it’s heartening to see the Senate pass the TVPRA.

“At a time when it seems impossible to move important legislation, the Senate vote not only gives hope to millions of exploited men, women, and children around the world, but also to the thousands of advocates around the country who’ve worked tirelessly to push this legislation through,” he says.

But Eaves warns that the success of the TVPRA in the Senate could easily be scuttled by partisan gridlock in the House of Representatives. He urges both parties in the House to set politics aside and pass the bipartisan bill before the end of this Congress.

“We now implore the House to take notice and follow suit so this life-saving bill can be renewed.”

What the bill does

The reauthorization act strengthens the provisions of the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which became law in 2000. The act was reauthorized in 2008 to expand the original law’s scope and reflect evolving tactics used by perpetrators of human trafficking.

The last reauthorization expired in September 2011. World Vision helped draft the original act and has fought vigorously for its reauthorization.

Eaves says the reauthorized legislation offers important gains in the efforts to combat traffickers and provide support to those who have suffered abuse.

These provisions include:

  • Providing survivors of trafficking in the United States with better access to support services
  • Strengthening efforts to prosecute American child sex offenders living abroad
  • Allowing the United States to provide support to countries seeking to combat trafficking within their own borders

Eaves says many countries have laws in place to combat trafficking, but lack the resources to do so effectively. A prime example is the Philippines.

“They have done a good job of arresting people and getting children out of slavery,” he says. “However, there is such a backlog of cases that traffickers are not getting to court."

The TVPRA will provide the training and resources needed to ensure that offenders are successfully prosecuted in such countries and that services are available to protect the vulnerable and give help to trafficking survivors.

Eaves says the act will also be cost-effective by streamlining existing U.S. anti-trafficking efforts, and by building the capacity of countries to ultimately administer their anti-trafficking laws independently.

A reflection of Lincolnian values

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who proposed the TVPRA as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, said it was fitting that the Senate should pass the TVPRA on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago, declaring that all those enslaved in Confederate territory should be freed.

“Although the Thirteenth Amendment to our Constitution was ratified long ago, making slavery illegal, we continue to fight human trafficking, which can amount to modern-day slavery,” Leahy said.

World Vision has extensive programs to combat human trafficking and slavery in countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Romania.

Programs include providing safe havens for trafficked children; providing counseling and vocational training to help children recover from their experiences; reuniting trafficked children with their families; helping communities learn to prevent trafficking at a grassroots level; and partnering with authorities to identify and prosecute traffickers.

Learn more

Read more about the Senate approval of the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act on the World Vision Blog.

Three ways you can help

Thank God for the action taken by the Senate to protect children from trafficking. Pray that the House of Representatives would act quickly so that the United States may remain a leader in the fight against modern-day slavery. Pray, too, for those vulnerable to exploitation right now.

Call your members of Congress. Thank your senators for passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, and urge your congressional representative to take swift action to introduce a House version of the bill so that the bill may be passed and signed into law.

Make a one-time donation to help girls and women in crisis. Your gift will help prevent the exploitation of girls and women by equipping skilled, local staff to offer training, education, counseling, small business loans, and other programs that reach women and girls as well as boys.