The U.S. Senate has reauthorized the cornerstone legislation that guides the federal government’s efforts to combat human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
Reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. It happened on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, no less.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) proposed that the TVPA be attached as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act yesterday morning. Senators approved Leahy’s amendment by a vote of 93 to 5. A short while later, the Senate approved the combined bill with another strong bipartisan vote.
“We’re delighted that the TVPA and Violence Against Women Act could pass the Senate together, because gender-based violence and modern-day slavery are often closely related,” says FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg.
“Reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) sends important signals worldwide. It says that the United States is still committed to ending human trafficking at home and abroad. It tells those in slavery that they have a partner in the American government and the American people. It tells traffickers that we haven’t lost our resolve,” Middleberg says.
Senate approval came after a rapid and comprehensive mobilization of anti-trafficking supporters throughout the country. Many organizations, including Free the Slaves, sent action alerts to get supporters to phone, e-mail, tweet and petition their senators.
It worked. Thousands of people signed a petition or contacted their senators to let them know that fighting slavery is important to voters. Senator Leahy helped marshal Democratic support.
“Today is February 12, the day on which Abraham Lincoln was born,” Leahy said in a public statement. “It was 150 years ago that he delivered the Emancipation Proclamation and it would be fitting that the Senate pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act on his birthday. Although the 13th amendment to our Constitution was ratified long ago making slavery illegal, we continue to fight human trafficking,” he wrote.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) helped rally Republican votes.
“We applaud Senators Leahy and Rubio for their bipartisan leadership and commitment to ending modern-day slavery,” says David Abramowitz, Director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking ATEST and Vice President for Policy & Government Relations of Humanity United.
“We urge the House of Representatives to show similar bipartisan cooperation to move a bill quickly to a vote and onto President Obama’s desk,” Abramowitz says.
The president has indicated he will sign the bill.
The TVPA was first passed in 2000 to authorize a wide range of federal action to combat slavery at home and abroad — from prosecuting traffickers, to providing shelter for slavery survivors, to preventing vulnerable people from enslavement in the first place.
It must be reauthorized every few years.
Now, it’s onto the House. Free the Slaves will need to demonstrate public support for the bill to House members, just as we did in the Senate.
Thanks to everyone who helped move TVPA through the Senate.
Stay tuned – we’ll let you know when it’s time to mobilize again for final passage in the House.