WASHINGTON, D.C. – Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery and restore freedom to survivors, criticized the U.S. Senate today for failing to proceed with key anti-human trafficking legislation. Provisions within the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA), S.178, could have strengthened the criminal justice system’s ability to combat modern slavery and expand access to services for survivors. The legislation, which was intended to pass with broad bipartisan support, failed in the Senate after a partisan debate erupted last week over language applying the Hyde Amendment to funds collected from perpetrators of human trafficking.
On Monday, Polaris joined 89 other organizations working on modern slavery on a letter calling on the Senate to set aside their partisan differences to pass the bills.
“Polaris is disappointed that the U.S. Senate let partisan politics overshadow what has consistently been an overwhelmingly bipartisan effort to combat modern slavery. Republicans and Democrats have joined forces to pass key anti-human trafficking legislation in the U.S. House and across the country at the state level, and we call on U.S. Senators to emulate a similar commitment,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris. “The Senate’s failure to pass the JVTA today does not let Congress off the hook. Both parties in both chambers must come together and reach bipartisan consensus so we can strengthen the criminal justice system’s ability to combat trafficking, fill serious gaps in services for survivors, and increase funding to disrupt a $150 billion a year criminal industry. We look forward to continuing our work with Congress in our collective effort to fight human trafficking.”
Polaris also strongly reiterated its call for the Senate to pass the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, S.262, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), which reauthorizes and updates essential services for vulnerable youth. In February, the Urban Institute released a report on LGBTQ youth, which attributed homelessness as a key reason LGBTQ youth in the study engaged in commercial sex.
“If the Senate is serious about tackling human trafficking then it must recognize that homelessness is a key driver for making children vulnerable to this crime. The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act provides children with vital shelter and services that can mean the difference between a life of freedom or of modern slavery. The Senate not only has an opportunity to continue this existing safety net, but to strengthen it,” continued Myles.