There’s new hope this week for the tens of millions of trafficked and enslaved persons around the world as new bipartisan legislation has been signed into law in an effort to fight sex and labor trafficking both here at home and abroad. The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, championed by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Karen Bass (D-CA) and signed by President Trump on Tuesday, is designed to further the U.S. fight against modern slavery. “My Frederick Douglass law authorizes over $430 million over 4 years to prevent human trafficking, protect victims, and beef up prosecution of those involved in this nefarious trade both at home and abroad,” Congressman Smith said in a statement.
The new law will dramatically increase the number of training programs for government officials and airline industry employees to help them better identify the signs of human trafficking. And while funds will be allocated to various agencies and departments across the government, $315 million will go to the State Department — allowing for anti-trafficking education and diplomatic efforts, including: the training of U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials, writing and researching the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, and engaging with other countries to help them to better combat human trafficking. Departments such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will also receive funds to assist in providing transparency in anti-trafficking expenditures.
While support and resources to combat human trafficking are building, there is still much to do. According to a study conducted by the International Labor Organization, at any given time an estimated 40.3 million people are in some form of modern slavery, including forced labor and forced marriages. The study also shows that approximately one in four victims of modern slavery are children. The State Department has reaffirmed its commitment to combatting this global threat in a statement from Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo: “Modern slavery has no place in the world, and I intend to ensure, through diplomatic engagement and increased action, that the United States government’s leadership in combating this global threat is sustained in the years to come.”
At a time when partisan politics have dominated the news cycle, the passing of the Frederick Douglass Act is proof that Republicans and Democrats can reach across the aisle and find agreement. Support for this issue is only growing and our lawmakers understand the importance of the work the State Department and other agencies do overseas to fight treacherous trafficking practices and make the world a safer place for us and our loved ones.
Since 2010, January has been designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Today, January 11— National Human Trafficking Day—we reflect on the progress we have made to stop these crimes, and we look to the future as we consider what more can be done.