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October 01, 2012

President unveils human trafficking initiatives

The fight against human trafficking intensified recently as President Obama announced initiatives Sept. 25 to expand resources and legal assistance to human trafficking victims and to strengthen government contractor compliance with anti-human trafficking efforts.

 “The president’s action is a meaningful victory for human rights that should rally policymakers and the public to fight the practice of modern day slavery where hundreds of thousands of victims are forced into labor or exploited for sex in the United States alone,” according to ABA President Laurel G.  Bellows, who has made efforts to combat human trafficking a priority for her year in office.

President Obama’s initiatives build on his earlier announcement in March 2012 directing Cabinet officials to redouble efforts to eliminate human trafficking, which is believed to impact more than 20 million individuals worldwide. The initiatives do the following:

  • prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from engaging in specific trafficking-related activities, which include using misleading or fraudulent recruitment practices, charging employees recruitment fees, and destroying or confiscating an employee’s identity documents;
  • provide tools and training to federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials and a wide range of other professionals so they will be better equipped to identify and assist victims of human trafficking;
  • expand services and legal assistance to victims of trafficking; and
  • develop a federal strategic action plan and a tool for tracking trafficking trends within the United States.

At the ABA, Bellows has appointed a Task Force on Human Trafficking, which is working with businesses and lawyers to develop model business-conduct standards, expand pro bono legal assistance, and conduct training for those who are helping to free victims and prosecute perpetrators. The task force also is working with the Uniform Law Commission to develop a uniform anti-trafficking law for the states.

The 17-member task force is co-chaired by Jimmy Goodman of Oklahoma City and Linda Hayman of New York City.  

In addition, the association continues to urge Congress to pass legislation to promptly reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, first enacted in 2000, to continue the domestic and international efforts against human trafficking. The pending reauthorization legislation, S. 1301 and H.R. 3589, would extend and expand anti-trafficking programs and ensure that they receive adequate funding.

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