Dear Congressman, Senators, and President Barack Obama,
I wrote this blog-o-letter from a place of frustration, disappointment, and passion urging you to sign the Trafficking Victims Protection Re-authorization Act. I hope that you will remember those who came together to propose this bill in 2000 — Democrats and Republicans alike. I have faith that you will put all political differences boiling in this election year aside to continue to be the leading country in the world combating human trafficking. I trust that you will live up the standards championed in the Trafficking in Persons Report.
Indeed, the United States considers itself the land of the free, however, there are hundreds of thousands of victims of human trafficking trapped, isolated, confined, and abused right now in our country. Certainly the U.S. is “a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, document servitude, and sex trafficking.” Right now, there are pimps waiting outside of group homes waiting to prey on the vulnerable young teenager that runs out of fear, confusion, and desperation for a better life. Right now, a 12 year old is being forced to turn her first trick. Right now, men, women, and children are putting in their 10th, 11th … 14th hour of the day and unsure when or if they’ll ever see payment. Right now, men, women, and children are sleeping with 20 other works on the floor of a dark, cold shack trying to catch the few ZZZzzzs that they can before their shift from hell begins again. Right now, men are purchasing sex from women and girls with very little chances of being arrested.
But you know all of this — the TIP report tells you this every year. You are more than aware of the cruel human rights violations happening on our soil, in our backyards to our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children. You’re well aware and yet you have stalled for a year without reauthorizing this critical piece of legislation. How anyone can argue against providing support and seeking justice for victims of human trafficking is beyond my ability to reason.
The services provided directly stemming from the provisions of the TVPA have saved thousands of lives in the U.S. Furthermore, the TVPA of 2005 has ensured me a job today working with foreign-born victims. In 2005, the U.S. created the T-Visa and T derivative visa for foreign-born victims of trafficking in the United States. Instead of facing deportation and returning to their war-torn, impoverished home countries, the U.S. recognized the importance of protecting these undocumented victims and providing them with services. Despite tension over immigration laws, the TVPA of 2005 earned bi-partisan support offering services, benefits, and eventual citizenship for foreign-born victims of trafficking. Because of this, men, women, and children have been able to stay here, earn an education, live independently and slowly rebuild their lives that were destroyed through enslavement.
The TVPA is deeply rooted in the United States of America’s values of freedom, justice, and the pursuit of happiness. All victims of trafficking deserve to be served, healed, and empowered to piece together the life that was shattered by selfish, profit-driven traffickers in the United States and abroad. By stalling to re-authorization the TVPA, you are steering far away from these values. If you cannot see the value and history of these values, I fear for this upcoming election year and the future of the United States. As we struggle to solve poverty, redeem the economy, and stop war and strive for peace — all complex problems with conflicting solutions, I see the TVPA as a no-brainer.
So please, consider freedom, picture the men, women, and children who have not known freedom for weeks, months, and even years, and do the right thing as Congress enters into it’s last session. As we come up on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln proposing the Emancipation Proclamation, I hope you, too, believe that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist in the United States.”