In an op-ed piece at The Washington Times, Mark P. Lagon, director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, makes a powerful case for the US to continue fighting slavery within our borders:
Across the span of his presidency, at home and abroad, George W. Bush has led U. S. government efforts to eradicate modern-day slavery.
It is a fight that has received consistent support from the White House and bipartisan backing from Congress. It is a legacy of achievement that should make Americans proud. Taking aggressive action at home is essential if the United States is to be credible and urge other nations to do more.
… Since 2001, the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorneys’ offices prosecuted 156 trafficking in persons cases, securing 342 convictions and guilty pleas. More than three times as many human- trafficking cases were filed and more than three times as many defendants were convicted in 2007 compared to 2001.
Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations have led to over 300 convictions for human trafficking and related offenses. The Department of Health and Human Services has made over 1,370 foreign adult and minor trafficking victims in the United States eligible to receive federally funded services and benefits to the same extent as refugees.
As a leader in the global effort, the United States has committed over $528 million to fund international anti-trafficking programs since fiscal 2001, including a special $50 million presidential initiative.
… The United States is always striving to improve its efforts to vigorously identify, protect, and assist U.S. citizen victims of trafficking, improve collaboration across all spectrums of the U.S. government to aid victims, and increase efforts to combat labor trafficking on par with sex trafficking. The U.S. anti-trafficking strategy has included sustained, successful prosecutorial and humanitarian efforts-endeavoring to practice at home what we preach internationally.
With the international community watching, President Bush stood up before the U.N. General Assembly and said in 2003: “We must show new energy in fighting back an old evil. The trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time.” These words have been taken to heart and turned into dignity reclaimed from Islip to India, and so many places in between. Future administrations will build on this strong foundation and continue putting victims first.