House must act on stalled human trafficking bill

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Last week as we wrapped up the historic celebration of Juneteenth, the day Union soldiers announced the ending of chattel slavery, in Galveston, Texas, the exploitation of human beings is still in existence, and resources to help remedy the situation continue to stall. 

The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022 (H.R. 6552) is the most comprehensive bipartisan, informed bill that has been continually reauthorized since its original inception in 2000. Now after being introduced for reauthorization nearly 8 months ago, it stalls as one billion dollars in resources lays on the table to help rebuild victims’ lives. 

This bill is appropriately titled the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act as it is inspired by his life of bravery to advance dignity for all by abolishing slavery, America’s earliest state of human trafficking. We at the Douglass Leadership Institute work to preserve Douglass’ legacy of righteousness and justice by equipping faith-based leaders, especially in the African-American community to apply biblical principles to life and the marketplace. 

We await righteousness and justice for women and children who are still on the slave block as over half of the victims of sex trafficking are underage black girls. Human trafficking continues to be for the purposes of labor and overwhelmingly for the sexual exploitation of females and children. In a two-year review of all suspected human trafficking incidents across the country, 94 percent of sex trafficking victims were female, 40 percent were Black and 24 percent were of Hispanic descent. The average sex buyer in America is a middle-aged Caucasian man with a disposable income. 

The prevention and protection programs authorized by the bill are fundamental to effectively safeguard communities from human trafficking, as well as to uniquely support and help empower survivors on their paths toward healing. H.R. 6552 reauthorizes $1 billion in funding to support these efforts, without which survivors will not be afforded quality equitable care. 

H.R. 6552, which properly renames the trafficking prevention education grants as the “Frederick Douglass Prevention Education grants,” will secure, for the first time, $35 million for housing assistance grants, to prevent human trafficking and protect survivors from becoming vulnerable again to traffickers. It will ensure linguistically accessible prevention programming, wrap-around social services, and a trauma-informed approach for all stakeholders working with survivors.  

Equally important, it strengthens federal government accountability for survivor-informed policy through a ten-year extension of the survivor-led U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking while also securing a competitive award process for the Program to End Modern Slavery. 

Together, the Douglass Leadership Institute and the Fredrick Douglass Foundation along with over 800 anti-trafficking and advocacy organizations and survivors (many of whom are members of the US Advisory Council on Human Trafficking) signed letters to House Leadership—including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) —urging them to allow a House vote on the bipartisan bill authored by Reps. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.). 

It is time to act. More than ever we need unity and bipartisan support for the issues most affecting our country and marginalized communities. Combatting the scourge of human trafficking should be a win-win for everybody that claims to care about the hurting, survivors of injustice, and bringing accountability to perpetrators. We hope there will be no more delay in getting this critical legislation passed unanimously and as soon as possible to assure that survivors are afforded the care and respect they deserve. 

Dean Nelson is chairman of Douglass Leadership Institute and Patrina Mosley is director of policy Engagement at the Douglass Leadership Institute. 

Tags Bobby Scott Human trafficking Jerrold Nadler Jerry Nadler Richard Neal

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