More than a century after ratification of the 13th Amendment, thousands of slaves are still transported to America each year.
The International Labor Organization estimates that over 12 million people worldwide are held in bondage at any point in time, nearly 2 million of whom are child sex slaves.
Modern day human traffickers have developed creative and ruthless methods to extend the practice of slavery into the 21st century, making their crimes more difficult to detect and counter.
The United States, starting with leadership from the U.S. Helsinki Commission, has always been at the forefront of combating these crimes, but more work remains, not only at home, but abroad where developing nations often lack the resources and mechanisms to confront traffickers. That is why Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sam Brownback (R-KS) and I recently introduced the Child Protection Compact Act.
This legislation is critical to protecting children, the most vulnerable prey of human traffickers. This bill will help coordinate an international response against trafficking in persons by empowering the State Department to partner with foreign governments, so a lack of resources in one country does not mean a lack of action to protect children from these crimes. Under this legislation, if a government demonstrates a commitment to eliminate trafficking, they will qualify for a 3-year agreement with the Secretary of State.
The agreements, or compacts, will identify effective measures to address institutional weaknesses and increase local governments' capacity. Under the agreement, the United States would provide up to $15 million to support government initiatives such as improved law enforcement, victim-friendly courts, and shelters for rescued children.
The Senate bill is similar to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by my colleague on the Helsinki Commission, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), whose bill has attracted 95 bipartisan cosponsors.
By supporting bills like ours, lawmakers stand up to remind the world that slavery in all forms is unacceptable. The Child Protection Compact Act is the next stage of the American effort in leading the world in fighting this atrocity.
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Representative Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) with European Parliamentarians at the Transatlantic Minority Political Leadership Conference June 2, 2010, in Brussels.