WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives passed eight anti-human trafficking bills this week that take important steps to address modern slavery. However, the body is currently considering legislation in response to the unaccompanied children crisis that will roll back protections for victims in existing human trafficking law: the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008. Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery and restore freedom to survivors, continues to urge the Administration and Congress against diminishing the TVPRA at the expense of trafficking victims, while depriving children fleeing violence the care they deserve.
“Polaris is pleased the U.S. House passed another series of anti-human trafficking bills that improve the child welfare system’s response to trafficking, while further prioritizing the issue of modern slavery within our federal government,” said Chris Ann Keehner, Polaris’s Director of Policy.“However, it’s mystifying that the House can demonstrate leadership by passing bipartisan legislation to support victims of human trafficking, while simultaneously working to diminish the protections that already exist when responding to the unaccompanied children crisis.
“Congress continues to propose legislation that would weaken the country’s cornerstone trafficking law. These changes would have a detrimental impact on our ability to identify and aid children who are victims of sex and labor trafficking and who might have valid asylum claims. Turning away these children sends them back into harm’s way where they risk further exploitation. The thousands of unaccompanied children crossing our border to escape untold violence and poverty deserve the rights and support afforded to them under the TVPRA. Rather than wasting valuable time tearing away at these protections, Polaris urges Congress to pass a clean appropriations bill that can immediately fund activities to protect these children and keep them safe.”
A key component of the 2008 TVPRA requires that the federal government appropriately screen unaccompanied children at our border for indicators of trafficking and ensures that foreign children fleeing violence or who are victims of human trafficking are able to request and receive support while they are in U.S. custody. The majority of the children arriving at the U.S. border are from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. According to a recent report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, many of these children are fleeing widespread violence, gangs, and abuse. The U.S. Department of State’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report acknowledged that, in each of these countries, women and children are exploited through both sex and labor trafficking and that gangs often threaten and use children for illegal activities.
People can receive help, report a tip, or request information or training by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or by sending a text to BeFree (233733).