Our fight isn’t over: Ensuring Funding for Anti-Trafficking Programs
By Jesse Eaves and Jessica Bousquette, World Vision Advocacy
Over the next few weeks, members of Congress will be making important decisions about how to spend taxpayer money to fund U.S. government programs. With across-the-board spending cuts in effect, political bickering, and a budget deficit, our elected leaders are going to have tough conversations and make difficult decisions. These conversations and decisions are critical in the U.S. fight against modern-day slavery. Advocates’ voices are needed to ensure that the vulnerable are not forgotten in the halls of Congress during the chaos of planning the budget.
In February, advocates had a huge victory when the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act passed with broad bipartisan support after more than two years of hard work by advocates. As the President acknowledged at the signing ceremony in March, “this victory shows that when the American people make their voices heard, Washington listens.” This is great news! Washington is listening and your voice has power.
Keep the pressure on
In these tight fiscal times, crucial funding for anti-trafficking programs is still in jeopardy. You all worked so hard to ensure the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act was renewed as a law. Now it’s time to keep the pressure on and implement the law. We are not asking for new funding. We are asking for sustained funding. We recognize that talking about money is not easy and can be uncomfortable. But in the case of anti-trafficking programs, money saves and restores lives. As Christians, we are called to speak out on behalf of the oppressed and to ensure they are not forgotten in the halls of power.
Last week I wrote about the small but effective amount the U.S. government spends on anti-trafficking programs. Today I thought I’d share some details. For starters, Congress has never fully funded the programs created under the TVPRA. In 2010 the U.S. government spent about $162.2 million domestically and internationally to combat modern-day slavery. That’s 68 cents per American taxpayer in 2010. 68 cents is not a lot of money. It will buy neither a cup of coffee nor an hour of parking nor even a box of crayons. But somehow, with my 68 cents and yours, the U.S. government provides services to trafficking survivors, prosecutes their traffickers, and prevents others from being enslaved, not just in the U.S. but around the world. Together, our funding goes a long way.
Domestically, the government funds victims’ services, including legal services, psychosocial support, and basic needs, law enforcement training and investigations, taskforces across the country that facilitate better collaboration between law enforcement and service providers, education campaigns to prevent human trafficking, and research to learn more about human trafficking in the U.S..
Internationally, the U.S. government has worked with the government and non-profit organizations to increase prosecutions of human traffickers, protect survivors, and increase the protective environment around children to ensure they are not enslaved. Additionally funding also supports the anti-trafficking office at the State Department and allows them to create the Trafficking in Persons Report, which evaluates 186 countries (including the U.S.) on their progress to prosecute traffickers, protect survivors, prevent trafficking, and partner with others to combat modern-day slavery (it is also a crucial tool that World Vision uses for advocacy efforts around the world). In 2009 and 2010 the Trafficking in Persons Report evaluated the Philippines and put them on the report’s Watch List. In 2011, due to increased U.S. funding of programs and diplomacy in the Philippines, the country made measureable progress and was upgraded. These efforts were possible because of the framework of the TVPA. This framework and the funding that goes with it work together to make the U.S. a global leader in the fight against modern-day slavery. Your voice makes that possible.
Our fight isn’t over
The two year fight to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act may be over, but the fight to ensure the U.S. remains a leader in the global fight end modern-day slavery is not. We have the momentum of an overwhelming victory in Congress. Don’t let the echoes of your victory fade away. Laws only work if they are funded and implemented. Call your Members of Congress today and urge them to support robust anti-trafficking funding.
Here’s a sample script:
Hello, my name is ____________ and I’m a constituent from ___________. Last month Congress reauthorized the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. I’d like to ask Senator/Representative ____________ to support strong funding to fight human trafficking. I support funding the law at last year’s levels.