Push on to get Trafficking Victims Protection Act reauthorized

Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are urging Congress to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act first passed in 2000.

The agencies teamed up under the Catholics Confront Global Poverty campaign to take their message to advocates across the country in a webcast Sept.28.

Last authorized in 2008, the act expires Sept. 30. But funding for programs aiding trafficking victims is expected to continue under a continuing resolution until a final vote in the both houses of Congress occurs in October.

Webcast participants were urged to call upon Congress to support another reauthorization. In the House of Representatives, the bills involved are HR 2830 and HR 2759. The companion bill in the Senate is S 1301.

“The politics have changed a lot since 2008,” said Jill Marie Gerschutz, senior legislative adviser to CRS, “so this is not a slam dunk even though one might think trafficking is an issue that must be overcome.”

CRS and the USCCB also want to see the bill add provisions to improve funding for anti-trafficking and victim assistance programs and boost screening at U.S. borders.

The webcast reviewed how people are trafficked for sexual slavery and forced labor. An estimated 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. annually, according to the Trafficking in Persons Report 2011 from the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Domestically, another 100,000 people are trafficked, largely in the sex trade with the highest caseloads in Florida, New York and the District of Columbia, the report said.

CRS has developed numerous resources for its website that can be used to by parishes, schools, organizations and advocacy groups to educate members about the moral issues stemming from human trafficking, a practice many have called modern day slavery.

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