Obama’s Failed Record on Combatting Human Trafficking

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One of President Bush’s last acts in office was to sign the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVRPA) into law. What greeted President Obama when he took office was a new law chocked full of provisions to fight human traffickers and render aid to victims.

Unfortunately, President Obama did not take advantage of the tools provided to him in the TVPRA of 2008. In fact, there are many mandates from the TVPRA of 2008 that have yet to be implemented which is something President Obama should have ensured would be done, as dictated by the law.

Here is but a few of the important provisions that have not yet been implemented (almost four years after the passage of the TVPRA of 2008) which in turn means these tools cannot be utilized to combat human trafficking.

A study of the illegal commercial sex industry in the United States (if we do not understand the scope of the problem, how can we combat it?) Disaggregating the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports “Prostitution and Commercialized Vice” category to show those unlawfully assisting or promoting commercial sex acts; those unlawfully purchasing commercial sex and those unlawfully providing the commercial sex acts (this provision was requested by Concerned Women for America so that we might know who is being arrested because it has long been believed that law enforcement is going after prostitutes while ignoring johns and pimps) Reporting the “service gap” in victim services between foreign and domestic victims (prior to the 2008 law foreign victims in the U.S could access far more services than domestic victims) A new stand-alone minimum standard by requiring that country Tier ratings be based on whether it is making “serious and sustained efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex” (this is to ensure that countries address the issue of demand because demand drives sex slavery) Ensuring the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Office Director’s statutory role to coordinate and serve as the principle pre-decision consultant for all State Department and USAID trafficking-related policies (this is in part to ensure the stature of the TIP Office is understood and respected)

These are five examples from a list that is at least 30 provisions long. Provisions that had they been enacted according to the schedule in the TVPRA of 2008, some should have been accomplished starting in 2009, would have gone a long way to ending human trafficking.

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