Smith Awarded “Trafficking In Persons Hero Award”
At an award ceremony held yesterday evening just minutes from the White House, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of a House panel on Global Human Rights, was awarded the “Trafficking In Persons Hero Award” by the Airline Ambassadors for his unrelenting fight against human trafficking and those who perpetrate it.
“We are all in this together,” said Smith, who is the author of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TPVA) of 2000. “Cooperation and coordination are key to mitigating—and someday ending—the cruelty that is human trafficking. Turning a blind eye just simply is not an option.”
Airline Ambassadors, founded by the tenacious Nancy Rivard, began as a group of flight attendants who repeatedly noticed the signs of human trafficking—such as not being in control of their identification documents, notable discomfort with or control by a traveling companion, or confusion about the destination—but had no formal training or protocol to do something about it. The tipping point came when Rivard noted that children were allowed to leave the airport with their traffickers due to pilots who refused to take action.
Rivard and her colleagues created a flight crew training program to identify and report to authorities those who are being trafficked. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) saw the importance of her idea and turned it into official U.S. government training. Delta, Jet Blue, and Silver Airways have since joined DHS in the project, training their staff to view and report the signs of trafficking.
Smith will soon be introducing the reauthorization of the TVPA, with updates to increase its effectiveness, including a requirement that the U.S. government give preference for contracts to airlines that properly train their employees to spot human trafficking.
“Government travel dollars should only be going to the airlines that do something about the human trafficking epidemic,” said Smith on his upcoming legislation. “Combatting modern-day slavery is everybody’s business.”
Smith has been a champion for trafficking victims for more than two decades. He has held 23 hearings on Human Trafficking with the most recent entitled “Accountability Over Politics: Scrutinizing the Trafficking in Persons Report.”