This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
In October of 2000 the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. This legislation was enacted to pressure countries to address the growing problem of modern day slavery and to provide these victims access to freedom. The current version of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act is awaiting action before the full Senate and the full House of Representatives. For the good of the victims of trafficking and the continued leadership the United States has thus far provided, it is our hope that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act will be given serious consideration by the Congress in the coming months.
The TVPA and its successor reauthorization bills authorized United States government resources to confront trafficking inside our country and around the globe. A system was developed to grade both the United States and all other countries’ responses to trafficking, known as the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which is produced yearly by the U.S. Department of State.
The TIP Report is written in Washington using information supplied by our U.S. Embassies. This information includes clear indicators such as the number of trafficking victims identified in a certain year, the number of cases prosecuted, and efforts to assist trafficking victims through protections. These indicators are compiled and each country is issued a score on a four tiered system. The recently released TIP Report for 2012 says that it is estimated that as many as 27 million individuals worldwide are victims of human trafficking, a term which includes sex trafficking, indentured servitude and modern slavery. These TIP Reports provide clear evidence of the commitment governments have when they decide whether or not to complete ongoing trafficking prosecutions, address problems in judicial systems, and create protections for victims that constrain traffickers from operating in their countries.
In the TIP Report for 2012 a total of 185 countries were given a rating. Only Tier 1 countries, which include the United States, are considered compliant and achieving the TVPA minimum standards for reducing trafficking. Over 83 percent of the countries received a non-compliant rating of a Tier 2 or worse in the 2012 report.
Places like the Philippines are illustrative of the weight given to the TIP Reports in foreign capitals. According to recent testimony in the Senate Foreign Relations committee by Holly Burkhalter with the NGO International Justice Mission (IJM), the pressure of the TIP Report ranking system encouraged the Philippine government to reach out to the U.S. Government and IJM for assistance in addressing the problems of trafficking in their country. According to Ms. Burkhalter, IJM’s work with Philippine authorities on child prostitution led to a 79% reduction in children available for sex in the large town of Cebu. These numbers were achieved through working with a newly created “anti-trafficking unit which received training and worked closely with IJM investigators, lawyers and social workers.” Ms. Burkhalter notes that the Philippines deserve great credit for the increased focus on both labor and sex trafficking, but the U.S. government’s “effective and unified diplomacy played an important role, and reflects well on the Embassy, the Regional Bureau and the TIP office.”
Even using just this one example, it is clear that this important law, passed initially by Congress 12 years ago and refined through reauthorization bills has played a prominent role advancing the cause of freedom and the discussions among governments over what to do about trafficking in persons.
The Senate and House of Representatives should allocate time to fairly review the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act before the end of the 112th Congress. Trafficking in persons is a serious issue that deserves a serious debate.