Insight on How to Combat Human Trafficking

Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, of the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, is the leader the government has entrusted to coordinate this effort on the national level. CdeBaca, who grew up in Iowa, has dedicated his career to fighting modern-day slavery. Even with major achievements, CdeBaca realizes there is still much work left to do.

CdeBaca recently shared his insights about anti-trafficking legislation, the victim-centered approach and ways everyone can do their part to fight against human slavery.

As much as we appreciate the hard work of our legislators, it’s like law enforcement – you can’t prosecute your way out of this problem. You can’t even legislate your way out of this problem. You have to have a society that kind of stands up simultaneously and says, “We’re tried of this.” I don’t want to contribute to slavery by not knowing where my shrimp was brought from and whether the men on those boats were enslaved. I don’t want to stay in a hotel that can’t tell me that their front desk staff and their concierges and their bellmen aren’t helping arrange prostitutes for the people, maybe the person who was in my room last night, before I checked in. I don’t want to stay in that place. I think that’s the thing, that we’ve got to get consumers to be able to say that and to not be afraid of saying that. Especially here in the upper Midwest – I grew up in Iowa – it’s very easy to be polite and to not want to talk about the thing that is upsetting. But if you can’t talk about slavery, if you can’t be mad about this, you can’t be mad about anything.

The thing I really urge your readers and everybody else is to do a bit of a self-assessment, not just by taking the slavery footprint tool, which they should. The other thing they need to do is a self-assessment of what can they do. I’m not saying what can they do as far as what you can do to end slavery. It’s rather, what can you do, what are you good at, what do you like to do? Somebody who likes construction can help at the shelters that need somebody to fix the roof. My father-in-law works at a women’s shelter in Ramsey County, and it’s important for the families – these are homeless families – to know that they’re in a clean place, which means no holes in the walls, and paint and everything else. That’s as important as having a psychologist. In some ways, it might be more important for a victim. If somebody’s a lawyer, they can use their legal skills to help victims file taxes or help try to get a person’s record expunged, because this wasn’t a crime that they committed – this was a crime that was done to them. If somebody’s a doctor or a dentist, they can volunteer; dental is one of the things we need more than anything for trafficking victims. If someone does financial services, helping people learn about financial literacy and budgeting.

In other words, no matter what somebody does, there’s a trafficking survivor who needs that – that’s what people can do. Do what you do, but do it on behalf of the trafficking survivors. I think that would go a long way to solving the resource problem.

Learn more at Rita Kovtun’s article: Anti-trafficking laws and other ways to combat modern slavery: Ambassador Luis CdeBaca offers insights.


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