The battle to rid this country of forced labor and human trafficking is threatened with a monumental setback at the hands of governmental indifference.
With the enactment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000, the ability to combat modern-day slavery had undergone a sea change. The work of investigating and trying a complex slavery prosecution had grown far more efficient, sparing thousands of workers across the country untold suffering at the hands of their employers. The TVPA penalizes modern-day forms of slavery, updating the anti-peonage laws passed during Civil War Reconstruction to fit the forced labor and human trafficking still occurring in the homes, brothels, and workplaces of the 21st century. It provides desperately-needed emergency services and protections to victims of these crimes, empowering them to do their part in bringing abusive bosses to justice. And it both enables and requires numerous federal agencies to attack this egregious human rights abuse.
Yet today the TVPA languishes in a state of limbo, unfunded, its reauthorization in doubt.
The stakes could not be higher. In the words of Susan French, a former federal prosecutor with an unrivaled track record of successful slavery prosecutions, “If we as a nation are serious that slavery in all its forms is morally and legally wrong, then we must bring justice to trafficking victims, provide for their essential needs, and attempt to make them whole. Without the TVPRA extension, victims will not be able or available to participate in the judicial process. Traffickers will go unpunished and victims will not receive justice or restoration.”
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers‘ Laura Germino, who in 2010 became the first domestic recipient of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Hero Award for her contributions to the fight against modern-day slavery in our own country, agrees, adding, “It seems the height of dysfunction to allow the law, in this year of commemoration of our country’s enduring fight to end slavery, to expire. Modern-day slavery is prosecutable and preventable, and it is outrageous to allow more people to suffer when the solution is proven, workable, and has a steady and long tradition of bipartisan support.”
Congressional indifference threatens the existence of the TVPA, a seminal act of national vision that is fundamental to the cause of human rights and the eventual eradication of modern-day slavery. Such indifference will, with certainty, encourage those who would enslave others and result in an increase in forced labor. We as a nation cannot allow this to happen.
Learn more at Greg Asbed’s Huffington Post article: Could Congressional Indifference Kill the ‘Most Important Anti-Trafficking Law Ever Passed’?