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Cassandra Clifford
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Senate Hearing Highlights Action Against Human Trafficking

Last Tuesday, the U.S Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing on human trafficking. The hearing, entitled The Next Ten Years in the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Attacking the Problem with the Right Tools, sought to address the role of the U.S in combatting this issue, current problems and concerns that are hindering further progress in the field, as well as possible solutions. Presided by Senator John Kerry, the Chairman of the Committee, the witnesses were:

       ·         Jada Pinkett-Smith, a well-known actress and recent advocate against human trafficking
·         David Abramowitz, Vice President of Policy and Government Relations at Humanity United
·         Holly Burkhalter, Vice President of Government Relations at the International Justice Mission

Other committee members who attended the hearing were Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Benjamin Cardin, Senator Richard Durbin, Senator Jim Webb, and Senator Barbara Boxer.

When asked by Senator Kerry to voice what they believe is the “single most important thing we can do [to fight against human trafficking],” the responses were more adequate funding for programs that protect victims and help victims transition, more law enforcement training and an integrated approach to victims services, and  political support and money.

Some of the other important issues addressed during the hearing included the importance of witness testimony and knowledge in educating others about human trafficking and supporting efforts to end it, the negative perceptions of human trafficking victims and the lack of adequate training for law enforcement officers in the field, the accountability of traffickers for crimes committed in and outside of the U.S., and the reduction of resentment for the U.S, by other countries, while still maintaining the standards of our legislation.

Speaking of legislation, Senator Kerry deemed U.S. legislation on human trafficking as “frankly too tame, and too limited.” According to Abramowitz, the California Transparency and Supply Chains Act “requires transparency on what companies are doing to eliminate modern-day slavery from their supply chains.” Additionally, the Senator Boxer mentioned that the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, also known as the C.A.S.E Act or Proposition 35, would “increase prison terms for human traffickers…require convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders…require all registered sex offenders to disclose their internet accounts, and…require criminal fines from convicted human traffickers to pay for services to help victims.

It seems that the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is headed in the right direction in its fight against human trafficking. Who knows? In the future, we may see the creation of a separate bureau, a Trafficking in Persons Bureau, as suggested by Burkhalter. Hopefully, one day we will see an attitudinal change among law enforcement officers that work closely with victims, where they will see them as victims rather than punishable perpetrators. Regardless, it is very important for constituents to urge their congressmen to act and place the combat of human trafficking as a priority.

To watch the hearing, go to http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/the-next-ten-years-in-the-fight-against-human-trafficking-attacking-the-problem-with-the-right-tools. If you would like to learn more about the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, go to http://www.foreign.senate.gov/.
Also, learn about the CASE Act here: http://www.caseact.org/case/factsheet/

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