From Joe Kim, Children’s Rights Advocate, United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (http://www.umc-gbcs.org):
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to read and re-read the “2011 Trafficking in Persons Report” (http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2011/) recently released by the U.S. Dept. of State’s Office to Monitor & Combat Trafficking in Persons.
I invite you to reflect with me about the following two stories:
Samantha was born in Feira de Santana in Brazil. She grew up in poverty and with little education. At 15, she ran away from home to live on the streets after being sexually and physically abused by her father.
A woman she met offered Samantha a job as a maid in another city in the state. Samantha accepted, excited by the opportunity to both earn money and move further away from home. But the destination house turned out to be a brothel. Samantha was forced into prostitution and drug abuse. She was stripped of freedom and overcome by fear and sadness.
After cycling through various assistance programs, government agencies, and shelters, Samantha went back to Feira de Santana, where she lives with a partner and his brother and sister. Her partner beats her, and she still occasionally has sex with men for money.
Ravi was among hundreds of workers lured to the United States from India by an oil rig construction company operating in the Gulf Coast. Lacking skilled welders and pipefitters to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the company brought Ravi and others from India on H-2B visas, promising them permanent visas and residency. But, the promises were false.
Instead, Ravi was forced to live with 23 other men in a small room with no privacy and two toilets. The camp was lined with barbed wire and security guards, so no one on the outside knew Ravi’s whereabouts. The company charged so much for food and a bunk bed that Ravi was unable to send any money home or repay what he borrowed for his travel expenses to the United States.
When the workers began organizing to protest their working conditions, the company began arbitrary firings and private deportations of the protest leaders. Those who remained filed a class action lawsuit and applied for immigration services.
Sadly, these stories are not uncommon. The reality is that modern-day slavery, or human trafficking, is a reality for an estimated 27 million people, rather than an isolated few. It comes in many different forms. These include: forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor, debt bondage among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, child soldiers, and child sex trafficking.
While we are far from ensuring a just and safe world for all, the United States has taken this issue seriously and has had legislation for the past 10 years to combat human trafficking. In 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA; http://www.state.gov/g/tip/laws/), which was later signed into law.
This groundbreaking legislation strengthened the United States’ efforts to protect victims, expanded law enforcement’s capacity to prosecute traffickers, and enhanced prevention measures. Since then, Congress has reauthorized the bill three times: 2003, 2005 and 2008. This year, Congress must reauthorize it once again to extend the TVPA for three more years.
Already, there is movement in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives to reauthorize the TVPA. In the Senate, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) was introduced on June 29 by Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Scott Brown, R-Mass.; John Kerry, D- Mass.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Benjamin Cardin, D-Md.; and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. In the House, the TVPRA was introduced on August 30 by Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Howard Berman, D-Calif.
Now, it’s up to us! I hope you will take time to contact your members of Congress, both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Encourage them to support the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
For steps to call your member of Congress, go to http://josephdkim.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/call-your-member-of-congress/.
For a template to write to your Senators, go to http://josephdkim.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/write-your-senator/.
For a template to write to your Representative, go to http://josephdkim.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/write-your-representative/.
As always, thank you for your commitment to children’s advocacy and for your ministry with and for children. I look forward to hearing more of your stories of how you are working for children.