As National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month comes to a close, Congress is turning its attention to combatting human trafficking. New estimates suggest that as many as 35.8 million people are victims of human trafficking. Renewed attention on this international crisis is necessary if the U.S. is to continue to lead global anti-trafficking efforts.
Human trafficking takes many forms including sex trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, and child sex and labor trafficking, among other abuses. Millions of people around the world and at least 60,000 people in the U.S. are subjected to slave-like conditions and unimaginable abuse.
The U.S. government first began fighting trafficking after Congress authorized the creation of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) at the State Department through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000. The TIP leads diplomatic efforts to combat trafficking, produces the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, and allocates international aid for U.S.-led global anti-trafficking efforts. The TIP report, which measures countries’ efforts to comply with international human-trafficking norms, is considered the standard bearer of anti-trafficking efforts.
This week, Congress is considering legislation on a wide range of anti-trafficking topics, including advocating increased training in anti-trafficking best practices for federal employees, amending child-sex offender travel restrictions, and improving protection for victims of child sex trafficking, among other initiatives.
Representative Chris Smith (R–NJ) recently re-introduced legislation that would upgrade the TIP from an office to a bureau. If passed, this legislation would put it on par with other State Department regional bureaus without increasing the personnel and staff necessary to produce the annual TIP report.
In addition to congressional efforts to prioritize human trafficking, it is essential that the vacancy in the Ambassador-at-Large position in the TIP office be filled soon. Former TIP Ambassador Luis CdeBaca left office in November 2014. To ensure the veracity and continued excellence of the TIP report, it is in the best interest of the U.S. government and global anti-trafficking efforts to find a skilled and qualified replacement quickly.
Congress and the State Department should continue to focus attention on human trafficking and make the case for the U.S.’s strategic interest and moral responsibility to combat this global scourge. Researchers at The Heritage Foundation are preparing to release a paper analyzing current U.S. anti-trafficking efforts in Asia and their impact on the international human-trafficking epidemic.