Tag Archives: TVPRA

Victory! What’s next?

Thursday was a really good day.

After months and even years of delay, the U.S. House of Representatives FINALLY passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – and with it the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA)!

The General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church reminded us what The United Methodist Church says about Family Violence and Abuse:

We recognize that family violence and abuse in all its forms—verbal, psychological, physical, sexual—is detrimental to the covenant of the human community. – UMC Social Principles 161.G

The bill had already passed the Senate and President Obama has said he will sign it right away. Most of the news I saw about this focused on how the main bill protects all women, including native Americans, undocumented immigrants and LGBT women. As Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), herself a rape victim, sharply put it with a paraphrase of 19th century escaped slave and civil rights advocate, Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t they women?”

Yes. Yes, they are.

But the VAWA also included the TVPRA as an amendment. TVPA expired over two years ago; we finally have it back! What’s that mean? I’ll let two of our best anti-trafficking partners – Polaris Project and International Justice Mission – tell you.

From Polaris Project:

This bill sets important funding benchmarks, encourages distribution of the National Human Trafficking Hotline number by federal agencies, establishes grant programs for state agencies to assist child victims of sex trafficking, strengthens the ability to prosecute those who fraudulently hire individuals in foreign labor contracts, and more. [read the rest]

IJM adds that the 2013 version of the TVPRA has new provisions as well:

  • Gives the State Department authority to partner with overseas governments to stop child trafficking in targeted areas. It’s much more specific and measurable than previous programs
  • An emergency response provision helps the State Department quickly deploy teams of experts into crisis areas—like the situation in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake—where disorder and poverty can leave children or other vulnerable poor especially susceptible to trafficking.
  • New tools to help prosecute traffickers and people who exploit the poor.
  • Continued support for existing programs that support survivors of trafficking both in the U.S. and overseas. [read the rest]

After this victory, as President Bartlett used to ask, What’s next?
Time to talk hunger again, that’s what.

Our friends at Bread for the World ask, How is it possible that people in this country continue to go hungry, despite our abundance of food?

As an answer to that question, they are partners with a new film from Magnolia Pictures and its accompanying social action campaign. “March 1st marks the premiere of A Place at the Table, a new eye-opening documentary that answers the question through the lives of three people. Their stories reveal the depth of the hunger crisis in America and the factors that drive it.

Watch the trailer. But be careful, the trailer does its job – you will want to see the whole movie. Good thing then A Place at the Table is available right now On Demand and through iTunes. Find A Place at the Table on Facebook and Twitter.

I’d love to hear your reactions to the film in the comments.

Minding the gap

That was one of my key take-aways (gotta love conference attendee parlance, right?) from the Leadership Institute at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City last week: minding the gap.

In one of his plenary addresses, Church of the Resurrection Senior Pastor, Adam Hamilton, used that phrase – minding the gap – to describe strategic planning in the church. It was one of those moments when something you already know is presented in a different way enabling you to hear the idea anew, with clarity and power.

Hamilton said look around you, around your community and even around the globe. Ask where the world isn’t as it should be. See the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be. Our task as the church is to make the world as it is more like the world as it should be. Our task is to mind the gap.

The gap isn’t hard to find.

  • An estimated 925 million people suffer from hunger.*
  • An estimated 1.4 billion people in developing countries lived in extreme poverty, or on less than $1.25 a day. (The good news is that’s down from 1.9 billion in 1981.)*
  • An estimated 800 million people don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water.**
  • In the U.S.A., 14.6 % of households struggle to put food on the table.***
  • In the U.S.A. nearly 25% of children are at risk of hunger, that’s over 16 million children.***
  • In the U.S.A. 13% of our population lives in poverty.***
  • An estimated 27 million people are trapped in some form of modern-day slavery.

We’ve been talking about one way to mind the gap on the modern-day slavery front: by telling our members of Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).

This legislation authorizes assistance programs for victims, establishes key components of the U.S. government’s efforts to stop trafficking, including the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Passing the TVPRA will extend this law for another three years. Together we can demonstrate to our policy-makers that their constituents care about ending human trafficking at home and around the world.

What’s the status of the bill?

Holly Burkhalter, Vice President of Government Relations for International Justice Mission, reports, “The House Foreign Affairs Committee reviewed the bill (HR.2830) [this week] and passed it unanimously out of the committee.”

However, “Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), the principal sponsor of the TVPRA, explained that in order to secure Committee action on the TVPRA and support from House leadership for the measure, he had to trim off some of bill’s most important features.” The reason? Cost.

“Two Senators in particular, Senator Dr. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) raised concerns about spending.” [Read the whole post.]

It’s not too late. Being in contact with your members of Congress can still make a difference.

Together we will mind the gap. Together we will abolition slavery.

*Bread for the World, Global Faces of Hunger

**Charity:Water, What is the water crisis?

***Bread for the World, US Faces of Hunger

IL Forum to Combat Human Trafficking

I was quite encouraged by the crowd present for Monday’s Illinois Forum to Combat Human Trafficking. There were several hundred people there of diverse ages and races. The speakers were passionate and informative. Opportunities to take action to combat trafficking were offered, actions that could be taken right then and there.

International Justice Mission was the main sponsor of the event, in partnership with five Chicago-based anti-trafficking organizations: Traffick Free, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), Salvation Army PROMISE Initiative, STOP-IT Initiative Against Human Trafficking, and The Dreamcatcher Foundation. Representatives from each were present to talk about the work they are doing.

So the forum was very well done. I really don’t know how it could have been better. I am proud to say that of the six forum sponsors, my church has partnered with five of them! (Dreamcatchers is the only one we haven’t connected with…yet!)

By far the most powerful part of the evening was hearing Amanda’s story.

When she was 15, Amanda was trafficked into the Chicago-area sex trade. She was held captive and abused for over two years. Hearing her describe the manner and frequency with which she was abused was truly gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. Her story is a stark and horrific reminder that modern-day slavery is all too real and all too local.

But Amanda’s story also reminds us that there is hope in the midst of this ugly evil. Amanda eventually escaped her captors. She is receiving care for the physical, sexual and emotional trauma she endured. And she is not remaining silent. Working with Dreamcatchers, Amanda is bravely telling her story, shining a light in some very dark places, inspiring people to join (or continue) the fight against human trafficking.

Ready to act?

Here (again) is a simple way to make a difference: tell your members of Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). This legislation authorizes assistance programs for victims, establishes key components of the U.S. government’s efforts to stop trafficking, including the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Passing the TVPRA will extend this law for another three years.

All you have to do is click here. Or here. Or here. Just pick one and raise your voice. Together we can demonstrate to our policy-makers that their constituents care about ending human trafficking at home and around the world.

One thing did disturb me though. If I understood him correctly, U.S. Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL), the Keynote Speaker at the Forum, said that the TVPRA likely will end up on a calendar of bills that are non-controversial.

Which makes sense, right? Who could possibly be for human trafficking?!?

So far, so good. Here’s the disturbing part: Rep. Roskam also said that funding for TVPRA will be hard to come by. It will have to fight for very limited funds just like every other bill. It sounded to me like Rep. Roskam doesn’t expect to find that funding. In fact, it even sounded to me like he didn’t think it should be funded.

I admit that I don’t know a lot about Rep. Roskam. I don’t live in his district so I haven’t encountered him or paid attention to him before. I do know he spoke passionately in support of IJM and in encouraging everyone at the Forum to engage in the fight against modern-day slavery. But if I heard and understood him correctly, my serious question is this:

What does it mean to be in favor of passing TVPRA but not in favor of funding it?

Maybe I’m wrong about that. Maybe I misunderstood. I hope so. Because that seems to me like a distinction without meaning. It seems to me that the only way to truly be in favor of TVPRA is to be in favor of funding it. Maybe we need to add a line about funding to those petitions.

It does no good to reauthorize the act without also funding it.

Reach globally, gather locally, end slavery

“Jesus said, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me… He sent me to liberate those held down by oppression.’” – Luke 4:18

Now is the time, the time is now…We need to get the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) passed through Congress and signed into law.

This week, it’s back to anti-trafficking work. Why? We are under a time crunch. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act expires September 30. Fortunately, a multi-organizational push to get Congress to pass the TVPRA is in full-court-press mode.

What will the TVPRA do? As International Justice Mission (IJM) writes:

In particular, this legislation supports the State Department‘s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP)–our government’s most important asset for combating modern-day slavery internationally. TIP’s skilled diplomats monitor slavery and press governments around the world to confront it. By providing grant funding to organizations like International Justice Mission, the TIP Office has enabled the rescue and rehabilitation of thousands of survivors of sex trafficking and forced labor slavery, and the prosecution and conviction of hundreds of trafficking perpetrators.

IJM does great work all over the globe. And they are not alone. Change.org, World Vision, and Polaris Project, just to name a few, are all helping to get this legislation passed.

Polaris Project seems to have the most detailed information on the TVPRA. Here’s a taste:

Both the House and Senate versions of the TVPRA include language that strength the following efforts:

  • Encouraging the distribution and posting of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center within Federal Agencies as well as by states;
  • Requiring stricter regulations for contractor employees abroad to work within the U.S.;
  • Strengthening enforcement of child exploitation laws against U.S. citizens living abroad; and
  • Providing assistance for minor victims of trafficking. {Read more}

The wording may differ a bit among the organizations, but each of them encourages you to let your voice be heard. I certainly hope you will! It doesn’t really matter to me which one you pick, but, please, pick one and let your members of Congress know that this is important to you. With just a few clicks you can make a difference for people enslaved all over the world. (Ok, I know that’s corny. But being corny doesn’t make it untrue.)

Digitally signing a letter is important and a good, quick, easy way to help. But sometimes a more tangible way to respond is desired. This Monday, September 19, is the Illinois Town Hall Meeting to Combat Human Trafficking. It’s 7:00pm at Park Community Church (1001 N. Crosby, Chicago).

This is a joint effort of IJM, CAASE (Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation), Traffick Free, and more. Featured speakers are:

  • U.S. Rep., Peter Roskam, IL District 6
  • Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church
  • Holly Burkhalter, IJM’s VP of Government Relations

This is a time “to demonstrate to our policy-makers that their constituents care about ending human trafficking at home and around the world.”

I’ll be there. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join us.