Marking the anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ self-emancipation from slavery,Smith, Bass joined by descendent of Frederick Douglass to introduce anti-trafficking reauthorization bill named after the renowned abolitionist
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) was joined by the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass, Ken Morris, and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) to introduce the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2021 (H.R. 5150) on Capitol Hill today on the anniversary of Douglass’ self-emancipation. The bipartisan legislation would provide $1.6 billion over five years to combat forms of modern-day slavery in the United States and around the world. Trafficking survivors and leaders from anti-trafficking groups also participated in the forum.
Authored by Rep. Smith with Democrat co-lead Rep. Bass, the legislation—which already has been endorsed by 17 anti-trafficking organizations and coalitions—would bolster successful programs enacted by Smith’s landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA, PL 106-386) while also creating new programs and strengthening laws to prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.
“Frederick Douglass’ life and mission are incomparable—and inspire,” said Smith, a longtime advocate for trafficking victims who authored four additional anti-trafficking laws since the TVPA. “Remembering his tenacity, today we combat the scourge of sex and labor trafficking—modern-day slavery—and rededicate ourselves to abolishing it.”
“I have the great privilege of being descended from one of America’s best-known abolitionists,” said Ken Morris, who is also the great-great grandson of Booker T. Washington and serves as President of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. “But I didn't inherit an understanding of contemporary forms of slavery. That’s why our knowledge of these crimes—and the institutional support to stop them—must continue to expand. This bill will do that.”
“The bill also provides resources for Survivor Employment and Education program that includes wraparound social services, case management, life skills training, education, employment and college scholarships,” said Bass. “It is not enough just to rescue people, you have to be able to help them prevent being trafficked again, because that is often what happens.”
“We introduce this comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation on this special day—September 3rd—to recognize, remember and celebrate the anniversary of the self-emancipation of Frederick Douglass and how emancipation from modern-day slavery is also the goal of this bill,” said Smith, who also authored the Frederick Douglass Act of 2018.
Among those who made remarks in support of the Smith-Bass bill were Natalie Grant, co-founder of Hope for Justice and Grammy-nominated recording artist; Nina DeJonghe, Director of Public Policy at ECPAT-USA; Congresswoman Linda Smith, founder of Shared Hope International; Ashlie Bryant, co-founder and CEO of 3Strands Global Foundation; and Lance Lemmonds, Director of Government Relations at the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking.
The survivor-informed bill has also received notable contributions and support from survivor-leaders affiliated with the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.
“This bill presents innovative, promising, and best practice interventions that will help survivors to overcome the numerous and often complex challenges they frequently navigate through justice, human service, and other institutions on their paths to recovery and economic self-sufficiency,” said Bella Hanoukey, a trafficking survivor and member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.
“I have been very impressed with how trauma-informed, survivor-informed and proactive this newest legislation is in its approach, provisions and fundamental philosophy,” said Judge Robert Lung, a survivor who has previously served as chair of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking and is a current member of the National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth in the U.S.
In addition to continuing successful programs created by Smith’s Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and subsequent reauthorizations, the Smith-Bass bill would also:
· Strengthen the elementary and secondary school prevention education grant created in the Frederick Douglass Act of 2018—which will be known as “Frederick Douglass Prevention Education grants”—to prevent online grooming and trafficking of children through linguistically accessible, culturally responsive, and trauma-informed approaches and scalable programs;
· Reauthorize and strengthen Smith’s International Megan’s Law to track convicted sex offenders living abroad and returning to the U.S. after living in foreign countries;
· Add accountability for the U.S. Federal and foreign governments, hotels, and airlines through anti-trafficking training and codes of conduct for their staff, as well as transparency in anti-trafficking expenditures;
· Permanently incorporate the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking as part of the U.S. government commitment to survivor-informed policies; and
· Highlight the delinquency of reporting by state child welfare agencies and the Department of Justice in reporting missing and abducted children at-risk of being trafficked.
Upon its introduction, the Smith-Bass bill has already received broad bipartisan support from anti-trafficking organizations and coalitions, including the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, ECPAT-USA, the Foundation United, Covenant House International and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
“The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2021 is a testament to bipartisan recognition that prevention of trafficking in persons is both key and possible,” said Taina Bien-Aime, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.
“This legislation would expand supportive programs for human trafficking victims across the country, allowing for greater access to urgently needed services they rightfully deserve,” said Nina DeJonghe, Director of Public Policy at ECPAT-USA.
The Foundation United said: “This legislation authorizes funds for vital education programs in our schools such as our S.P.E.A.K. UP Train-The-Trainer Prevention Curriculum that teaches students, faculty and staff what they need to know and do to help bring an end to the scourge of sex trafficking.”
“We thank the bill’s sponsors for leading the effort to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act,” said Covenant House International President Kevin Ryan. “Covenant House has identified a direct correlation between youth homelessness and human trafficking. Young people need strong federal leadership to find safety as well as the opportunity to heal.”
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) said: “[This bill] underscores the disproportionate impact human trafficking has on vulnerable and marginalized communities, especially women and girls of color. NCOSE is especially pleased to note new incentives for confronting cybercrime, as human trafficking is increasingly acted out online; renewed commitment to the Domestic Trafficking Victims Fund, which collects fines from offenders to support services for victims; new research on primary prevention; and sex buyer demand reduction criteria for TIP Report country tier rankings.”
PHOTO: Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) is joined by Ken Morris, the great-great-great-grandson of the renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass, on the 183rd anniversary of Douglass’ escape from slavery to introduce the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2021.