WASHINGTON D.C. — On July 12, the House of Representatives passed the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2017, after it was unanimously signed into effect in an uncommon bipartisan vote. The bill, first introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), essentially reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which created some of the tools the U.S. uses in combating domestic and international human trafficking.
The act will allocate $520 million over the course of four years to various programs that will identify and aid victims of trafficking, as well as prevent trafficking from occurring.
Some programs included in the bill are educating children on how to avoid traffickers and providing training to certain employees of airlines on how to identify potential victims. Both international human trafficking and domestic trafficking will be a priority through this act, which will help to prevent the sale of goods made by forced labor in the U.S.
The modern-day plague of human trafficking is a global epidemic. It is estimated that more than 20 million people are currently victimized by forced labor and sex trafficking, domestically and internationally. It is an industry worth billions of dollars that destroys families and communities, fortifies criminal networks and erodes a human’s self-worth. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) calls human trafficking, “one of the fastest growing crimes in the world,” while House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) deems it as, “modern day slavery.”
Also lead by Rep. Smith, The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 previously produced notable successes. The Foreign Affairs Committee states that over 120 countries have brought into effect anti-trafficking laws, and many have improved their abilities to prosecute and convict traffickers. As a result, this has saved and improved countless lives.
Still, it is important to keep in mind that enacting a law and enforcing a law are not the same thing. While 27 countries show improvements and became upgraded to a higher tier through combating domestic and international human trafficking, a 2017 report shows that 21 countries slipped to a lower tier.
Further strides forward must be made in combating the horrifying evils of human trafficking, both domestically and internationally.
– Sara Venusti