Today’s commentary is not my own. It a posting of ATEST’s letter expressing our concern over the failure to yet pass the TVPA Reauthorization.
It says it all. It’s posted after from The New York Times op-ed below.
The Fight Against Modern Slavery
Published: March 21, 2012
President Obama, in convening the annual meeting of his cabinet-level task force on human trafficking last week, noted the work the administration has done in law enforcement, aid to victims and diplomatic pressure to help the millions around the world who toil “under the boot of modern slavery.”
But a crucial element is missing in this important campaign. Congress has yet to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a law passed with strong bipartisan support in 2000 and reauthorized in 2003, 2005 and 2008. It expired at the end of 2011.
A Senate bill to reauthorize the act through 2015 cleared the Judiciary Committee in October but has not come to a floor vote. The bill, trimmed for lean times, cuts appropriations to $130 million, but toughens enforcement measures and modestly increases victim assistance to $25.5 million. A reauthorization bill has also been offered in the House, with wrongheaded Republican modifications. It would, for example, shift financing for victims’ services to the Justice Department from the Department of Health and Human Services, which is far better-suited for the job but has been a recent source of Republican obstructionism over contraception and health insurance.
Passing a law to fight human trafficking and slavery is one of those bipartisan no-brainers that Congress used to be able to accomplish — as it did three times in the administration of George W. Bush. But it’s a different era now, one in which conservative Republicans also find reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act unacceptable.
Allowing politics to hamper the campaign against human trafficking is especially tragic at a time when innovative approaches are making gains. A new trafficking hot line, financed through a grant by health and human services, for instance, has taken more than 49,000 calls, connected 5,770 potential victims with services and provided more than 2,155 law-enforcement tips. Those fighting modern-day slavery need support to find and help survivors. Congress should move quickly to keep this effort moving.
January 11, 2012
Senator Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader
522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510
Senator Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader
317 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510
Representative John Boehner Speaker of the House
H-232 The Capitol Washington, DC 20515
Representative Nancy Pelosi House Minority Leader H-204, US Capitol Washington, DC 20515
Dear Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader Pelosi:
On behalf of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a national coalition of anti- human trafficking groups, I write to you today to express our serious concern with the failure of Congress to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 prior to the statute’s expiration on September 30, 2011. The programs authorized by the TVPA, which are crucial to the work to end modern-day slavery and human trafficking in the United States and around the world, are jeopardized by Congress’s inaction. We urge you to act now to put partisan differences aside in the interest of the protection of trafficking survivors.
The TVPA, first signed into law in 2000, has been successfully renewed three times by overwhelming bipartisan majorities. However, it now appears that Congress is setting aside the reauthorization of numerous programs it agrees are effective in combating human trafficking and protecting survivors because of a debate concerning methods used by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants for services. This debate has effectively stalled reauthorization efforts for the first time since the inception of the law. That is not an outcome that is in the interest of preventing trafficking, protecting survivors, or punishing traffickers.
The House version of the TVPA reauthorization bill was first introduced in August 2011 (H.R. 2830), garnering 44 bipartisan co-sponsors, and was formerly voted out of the Foreign Affairs Committee in October. The Senate version was introduced in June 2011 (S. 1301), garnering 32 bipartisan co-sponsors, and was voted favorably out of the Judiciary committee in October. However, in response to concerns regarding HHS’s grant-making methods, the House bill’s original sponsor introduced a new version of the reauthorization bill in December (H.R. 3589). We understand that members from both parties and chambers have vowed not to pass any of the competing bills. This situation jeopardizes Congress’s legacy of collaboration on the critical effort to end modern-day slavery.
For well over a decade, the work to combat modern-day slavery and human trafficking has been an example of Congress’s ability to put partisanship aside in the interest of tackling a difficult and seemingly intractable problem. That willingness to be thoughtful, practical, and balanced in approach has proven successful in this work, and made tremendous contributions to the fight against this heinous crime. Unfortunately, these recent political developments jeopardize this pragmatic balance in favor of a partisan confrontation that undermines the achievement of our joint goal of ending modern-day slavery in the United States and around the world.
Therefore, for the reasons outlined above, and on behalf of ATEST, I urge you, as we honor National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, to put partisan politics aside and reauthorize the TVPA in order to continue the critical support for programs that prevent human trafficking, enhance the prosecution of perpetrators, and protect and serve the needs of survivors.
Thank you for your time and attention to this critical matter. If you have any questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to call me at (202) 503-3219, or Cory Smith, ATEST Senior Policy Advisor, at (202) 361-1442.
Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking
Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006 www.endslaveryandtrafficking.org
cc: Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee Representative Howard Berman, Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee Representative Chris Smith, Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee
ATEST is a diverse alliance of U.S.-based human rights organizations, acting with a shared agenda to end all forms of modern-day slavery and human trafficking domestically and globally. ATEST member organizations include: Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), ECPAT-USA, Free the Slaves, International Justice Mission, Not For Sale Campaign, Polaris Project, Safe Horizon, Solidarity Center, Verité, Vital Voices Global Partnership, World Vision, and one individual member, Julia Ormond, former U.N. Goodwill Ambassador and president and founder of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking (ASSET).