I have spent a lot of time on the front page of RedState covering the horrors committed by ISIS over the past several months, but lest we forget, they are not the only perpetrators of horrendously evil acts. One of the most odious ongoing crimes against humanity is human trafficking, and it could be going on right in our backyards. In fact, I live in the Atlanta area, and the city has the dubious distinction of being one of the major hubs, if not the single biggest, for modern day slavery in the United States. However, the problem is spread across our nation. As HumanTrafficking.org explains:

The United States of America is principally a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons. It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually. 1 The U.S. Government is strongly committed to combating trafficking in persons at home and abroad. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, enhances pre-existing criminal penalties, affords new protections to trafficking victims and makes available certain benefits and services to victims of severe forms of trafficking. It also establishes a Cabinet-level federal interagency task force and establishes a federal program to provide services to trafficking victims. The U.S. Government recognizes the need to sustain and further enhance efforts in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the Act

On Tuesday, one of the most important pieces of legislation since that Trafficking Victims Protection Act was announced by Senators Bob Corker and Bob Menendez. It is called the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act. Here’s [mc_name name=’Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001071′ ] explaining it at Tuesday’s press conference:

I know that we’ve had plenty of problems with Corker here at RedState and on the broader Right, but his commitment to this cause is by all appearances sincere and, more importantly, he’s in the right on this.  Here’s how the act will work, per the senator’s office:

Establishing The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation: The legislation, similar to the establishment of the National Endowment for Democracy, will authorize a 501(c)(3) non-profit grant-making foundation in the District of Columbia to be known as “The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation” that will fund programs and projects outside the United States that must:

  • Contribute to the freeing and sustainable recovery of victims of modern slavery, prevent individuals from being enslaved, and enforce laws to punish individual and corporate perpetrators of modern slavery.
  • Set clear, defined goals and outcomes that can be empirically measured; and
  • Achieve a measurable 50 percent reduction of modern slavery in targeted populations.

Funding: The initiative will seek to raise $1.5 billion, more than 80 percent of which will come through matching funds from the private sector and foreign governments. Sources of funding are as follows:

  • $251 million in authorized funds from the United States over eight years: $1 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, followed by authorizations of $35.7 million in FY 2016-2022.
  • $500 million from other foreign governments. (Double the investment of U.S. funds.)
  • $750 million in private funding. (Triple the investment of U.S. funds.)

U.S. funds must be matched by $500 million from foreign governments and $250 million from the private sector. The remaining $500 million will be raised by The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation from additional private sector contributions. The U.S. government will channel diplomatic support and additional resources for law enforcement, rule of law, economic development and training assistance in support of The End Modern Slavery Initiative.

This is an excellent opportunity for the United States to stake out a leading role on one of the most important, if all too often neglected, issues of our time. The Republican Party was founded because of its opposition to slavery, and the evil institution has not gone away just because of the Emancipation Proclamation or other countries legally abolishing it. The slavers operate in the shadows now. As [mc_name name=’Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001071′ ] explains in the video, it’s not just sex slavery that should concern us. Human trafficking for labor should be just as big of a concern. The International Justice Mission is one of the groups at the forefront of the fight against the international slave trade. They are very pleased with what they see in this act. From their official press release (emphasis is original):

“This legislation, and the critical funding that comes with it, set a new bar for US leadership to combat slavery,” said Holly Burkhalter, Vice President of Government Relations for IJM. “With traffickers hauling in $150 billion in profits every year, and the US government—the largest donor in the anti-slavery field—spending just a minute fraction of the foreign aid budget on efforts to curtail human trafficking, we have not been engaging in a fair fight. That is about to change.”

[…]

“Education, health and income generation programs are valuable in their own right,” said IJM President and CEO Gary Haugen, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month. “But these funds have not had a measurable impact on slavery. Why? Because they do not affect the behavior of the central player in every situation of enslavement and exploitation: the perpetrator. Perpetrators of trafficking, slavery, and debt bondage, whether they are unscrupulous labor recruiters in Qatar, brothel owners in Southeast Asia, or pimps in the U.S. have one thing in common. They are making money from the subjugation of others. If they are not at risk for going to jail for their crime, they will go to whatever village, slum, city or state in the world to find the poor and the vulnerable. But they will stop even trying to enslave the poor if they are afraid of going to jail.”

You can read the entire act here. This will not be a government agency. It will operate as a non-profit like the National Endowment for Democracy, an example Corker explicitly mentioned. It is set to raise $1.5 billion, but the act specifies that the foundation will seek foreign government contributions on a two-to-one ratio and contributions from the private sector on a three-to-one ratio, meaning that the majority of the funding for the Initiative will not come from our tax dollars. In addition to funding efforts to free slaves, it will also fund the necessary but neglected efforts to punish the traffickers themselves. As for establishing a compelling national interest in this matter, the United States has long been interested in serving as beacon of freedom and human rights. This act will focus on putting those ideals into action against the international slave trade. Furthermore, by combating the sources of human trafficking abroad, it becomes harder for slavery to find its way here.

For more information on the act, check out this write up from the Human Rights First organization,  and this article from the U.S. News & World Report also does a good job of explaining things. On a broader level, the Polaris Project of one the best organizations in America for fighting human trafficking. The FBI and ICE also have helpful websites on the subject. As with our forefathers in the Republican Party, ending slavery in all forms should be one of the most important priorities for conservatives. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be voting on it today, and if this bill is passed, it will go a long way towards fighting the international slave trade. It won’t end it, but it will strike a hefty blow against human trafficking. It deserves our support, and we should make sure our Senators and Representatives understand that.