Smith’s Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization ACT (TVPRA) authorizes an estimated $361 million over the next two years for investigation and prosecution of domestic trafficking within our borders. It also guarantees that the United States will continue to lead the global battle against modern-day human slavery.
“With this new law, the United States assumed a leadership role in combating the modern-day slavery known as human trafficking,” Smith said. “Make no mistake, this legislation is about protecting women, since the majority of the victims of this abhorrent crime are young girls and women.”
Smith said his bill provides law enforcement agencies “with the necessary tools to continue the liberation of unfortunate women and children who are forced into this horror.”
As many as 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. Millions more are trafficked internally within the borders of countries. The problem is escalating at a rapid rate. Twice as many people in the United States have been prosecuted and convicted in the past four years then the previous four-year period. More than 3,000 traffickers were convicted worldwide last year.
“With a crime as abhorrent as human trafficking, it is essential that the United States takes the lead and that includes within our own borders,” Smith said. “We must work to target the criminals slaveholders who force these young children and women into unimaginable horrors.”
The US Catholic bishops also touched upon this growing problem in their annual National Migration Week message. This year’s observance, which takes place the week of January 8-14, focuses on solidarity with immigrants and refugees.
San Bernardino Bishop Gerald B. Barnes, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Migration, said all people are called to make a journey “in solidarity with migrants, immigrants, refugees, human trafficking victims and other people on the move seeking justice and peace.
“Never has this call to solidarity been needed more than today,” Bishop Barnes said. “Too often those who have come to our land seeking a better life for themselves and their families face discrimination and exploitation.”
The bishop said National Migration Week provides a good opportunity for parishes and schools to address issues facing immigrants and to find ways to learn more or help others in their community. He suggested that parish and school leaders could increase their awareness of these issues by looking into the Justice for Immigrants campaign launched this year by more than a dozen church organizations and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The campaign is intended to educate the public, and Catholics in particular, about how immigration and immigrants benefit the nation; to improve public opinion about the contributions of immigrants; to advocate for changes in immigration laws and policies; and to organize networks that assist immigrants with legal problems.
More information on the campaign can be found online at www.justiceforimmigrants.org. The campaign's Web site and materials from the bishops' migration committee provide resources for parishes and schools to use during National Migration Week.
(Michael F. Flach is editor of the Arlington Catholic Herald, where this article first appeared.)