On Friday, April 13, 2012, I was fortunate enough to hear Luis CdeBaca give the keynote address at the Open Society Foundation's conference entitled "Ending Human Trafficking, or Something Else?" It was an impressive 30 minute (more or less) lecture on the current developments of the U.S. State Department's anti-human trafficking efforts both in the U.S. and around the world. Mr. Cdebaca is the current Ambassador-at-Large of the U.S. Department of State's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
He mentioned that the first sentence in the Trafficking Victim Protections Act (TVPA) says "human trafficking is modern slavery." But he said that when U.S. State Secretary Hilary Rodham-Clinton saw that. She said, "Let's just call it slavery!" Ambassador CdeBaca emphasized that anti-human trafficking efforts must have a victim-centered approach, and not just punishing the traffickers and the exploiters. We must focus on the victims' restoration, giving them a better life so they cannot re-enter the trafficking situations they've been rescued from. He also stressed the preventative approach and victim protection. This would entail working closely with law enforcement.
Ambassador CdeBaca talked about the success of the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-3737-888) operated by the Polaris Project. Experts thought people would only call to ask questions about what human trafficking was. But instead, they found actual victims and witnesses calling that turned into rescues, raids, arrests and criminal charges against the traffickers.
On the international front, he talked how foreign governments are using other laws as an excuse not to take the crime of human trafficking seriously. They'll say it's just labor violations, an illegal immigration problem and/or prostitution. Ambassador CdeBaca encouraged attendees to have the "courage to point" to tell governments and the whole world the seriousness of human trafficking.
Everyone from churches, schools and other institutions must work together to abolish slavery. But people must also remember that only governments can do certain things--to make arrest, to fine and incarcerate criminals, and to make official legislation in jurisdictions. We must work in a way where we should not use euphemisms to dilute this huge problem in our world today. It is very important to use a particular language so when we do talk to others that we know we are all on the same page. But over-using "human trafficking" and "modern-day slavery" will lead into apathy in the general public instead of action.
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca closed his address with the statement "We must advance the fulfilling of freedom for our sons and daughters." I personally think he was talking about what the flag of the United States of America symbolized...