Smith joins trafficking survivors, anti-trafficking groups in urging Congress to advance Smith-Bass bill to help victims of trafficking
Over 800 anti-trafficking and advocacy groups send letter to House Leadership
WASHINGTON—At a Capitol Hill press conference today, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), an internationally recognized leader in the fight to combat human trafficking, joined trafficking survivors and top anti-trafficking organizations in urging members of Congress to take immediate action and advance the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022 (H.R.6552) to the House Floor for a vote. The bill would reauthorize the historic Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 authored by Smith.
The event comes as over 800 anti-trafficking and advocacy organizations together with 18 trafficking survivors (many of whom are members of the US Advisory Council on Human Trafficking) signed onto letters to House Leadership—including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)—urging them to allow a House vote on the bipartisan bill authored by Smith and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA).
“For more than a year, Congresswoman Bass and I have worked tirelessly to write this comprehensive, bipartisan bill with valued input from trafficking survivors and anti-trafficking groups to bolster programs and address critical gaps in combatting modern-day slavery,” said Rep. Smith. “It is long past time for Congress to vote on this legislation to fund essential programs that have expired to protect the most vulnerable among us and prevent trafficking in the first place.”
“The reauthorization of this Act moves to not only support those who have already fallen victim, but also to prevent future risks of trafficking by adding preventative measures to online grooming and trafficking and bringing perpetrators to justice,” said Rep. Bass. “It is our duty to protect these vulnerable populations and to stop this heinous crime when and where it is discovered.”
Winning unanimous support from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, H.R. 6552 would provide approximately $1 billion over five years to strengthen and expand education, restorative care, and other critical programs that protect victims, prosecute perpetrators and prevent trafficking.
Human trafficking survivors Barbara Amaya and CocoEva LuzGuerrero Alcazar spoke of the dire need for Congress to take quick action by passing the Smith-Bass bill.
“It took many interactions over many years during and after being exploited to recognize that I was being trafficked,” said Barbara Amaya. “This legislation gives the power back to survivors by providing more tools needed to identify trafficking victims.”
CocoEva LuzGuerrero Alcazar, a Bolivian American immigrant and human trafficking survivor said, “I have experienced the challenges of living with this severe trauma and its ramifications, as well as the challenges of accessing services, particularly services that are trauma-informed, culturally relevant and equity-centered. A full recovery is continuous, and relies not only upon the support and empowerment of all survivors, but on Congress’ willingness to act.”
Top anti-trafficking organizations also emphasized their widespread support for the Smith-Bass bill and joined the survivors’ plea for a House vote on the critical legislation.
“For every day that Congress fails to act in reauthorizing the TVPA, hundreds more women, men, and children fall victim to human trafficking,” said Safe House Project Chief Operations Officer Brittany Dunn. “We must not let this victimization go unseen and without response. Congress must act so that we can mobilize every resource to identify victims and empower them as survivors.”
“Human Trafficking is the most heinous form of exploitation,” said Douglass Leadership Institute Chairman Dean Nelson. “This crime disproportionately impacts the African-American community where over half the victims of the domestic sex trade are our black women and children. It is time for Congress to work together to reauthorize vital resources for getting our families off the slave block to surviving and thriving.”
“At 3Strands Global Foundation, we have worked directly with communities, schools, and survivors for over a decade in our mission to combat human trafficking through prevention education and employment programs,” said CEO and Co-founder Ashlie Bryant. “Human trafficking hides in plain sight in the United States and we need strong legislation to disrupt this criminal ecosystem. HR 6552 enhances education through the identification and prevention of child trafficking and adds provisions providing employment programs for survivors. This bipartisan bill is essential to ensure the continued protection of students, at-risk populations, and human trafficking survivors.”
“For over a decade, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act has been the foundation of federal policies to protect children across the country from exploitation and trafficking,” ECPAT-USA said in a statement. “The bipartisan support this bill has already received illustrates how critical its provisions are. We thank Congressmembers Chris Smith and Karen Bass for their longstanding commitment and leadership in advancing legislation that supports survivors of sex trafficking. ECPAT-USA urges Congress to pass this crucial legislation.”