It was down to the wire in the final days of the current Congress, but near-unanimous bipartisan action has renewed an important package of legislation that shapes the U.S. government’s efforts to eradicate modern slavery.
The four bills (S. 1311, S. 1312, S.1862 and H.R. 2200) reauthorize provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was originally passed in 2000 and requires periodic renewal. The bills authorize programs throughout the federal government — from the FBI and Homeland Security to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Passage reaffirms America’s global commitment to leading by example, according to Free the Slaves Executive Director Maurice Middleberg.
“Here’s why I love my country: When confronted with great injustices, America inevitably rises and leads,” Middleberg says. “The perpetuation of slavery is a moral travesty. And so the United States is once again rising to the challenge through a wide-ranging strategy that puts slavery survivors at the center.”
The legislation addresses human trafficking inside the U.S. and around the world. Several new provisions strengthen key international components:
- Ensuring foreign goods tainted by forced or child labor aren’t imported into the U.S.
- Prohibiting U.S. government contractors from charging recruitment fees to laborers
- Requiring the U.S. to advocate for anti-trafficking activities in projects funded by multilateral development banks
- Requiring the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report to rank countries on anti-trafficking performance only
The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, which Free the Slaves co-chairs, worked with key members of Congress to guide the legislation to final passage — including Representatives Karen Bass and Chris Smith, and Senators Bob Corker, John Cornyn, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Grassley, Amy Klobuchar and Robert Menendez. Even as Congress deadlocked over keeping all federal agencies open, a broad bipartisan effort ensured that human trafficking remains a federal priority.
“A loud, resounding cheer for the United States Congress,” Middleberg says. “Members from both parties with very different ideologies have joined to overwhelmingly enact powerful legislation that asserts our national commitment to ending human trafficking and demonstrates respect and compassion for its victims. The abolition of modern slavery is a cause that transcends political differences.”
The bills were sent to the White House for the president’s signature.