September 26, 2012 — President Obama on Tuesday outlined a new strategy for combating human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad, including increased protections for survivors, more penalties for perpetrators, and prevention and collaboration initiatives, U-T San Diego reports (Aguilera, U-T San Diego, 9/25).
In a speech to the Clinton Global Initiative, Obama detailed a new executive order that extends anti-trafficking protections in federal contracts to all contractors and subcontractors, including compliance from those overseas.
The administration's strategy also includes more training on trafficking issues for federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials, immigration judges and others (Feller, AP/U-T San Diego, 9/25). Obama also noted new efforts to help trafficking survivors, including more access to treatment, legal and employment services, and a simplified visa process for those brought to the U.S. against their will.
It is time to acknowledge that human trafficking is "modern slavery," Obama said in the speech, which came days after the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order issued by President Lincoln to free U.S. slaves (Flock, U.S. News & World Report, 9/25).
Lawmakers Applaud Anti-Trafficking Effort But Prefer Legislation
Although lawmakers commended Obama's pledge to strengthen anti-trafficking efforts, they expressed concern that the move would undermine more extensive legislative reforms, CQ Today reports.
Obama's executive order mostly mirrors legislation pending in the House and Senate, although it goes further on some details related to regulation of contractors. However, lawmakers noted the executive order, unlike the legislation, does not impose criminal penalties for violations.
Lawmakers said the legislation is the best hope for an anti-trafficking bill, after a dispute over abortion and contraception stalled reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (PL 106-386), which expired last year (Cadei, CQ Today, 9/25).
Opinion Piece Calls for Reauthorization of Trafficking Victims Protection Act
In a Sacramento Bee opinion piece, actress and anti-trafficking advocate Jada Pinkett Smith urges policymakers to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and "deliver on the Emancipation Proclamation's promise, to make freedom a reality for every man, woman and child forced into slavery during these times" (Pinkett Smith, Sacramento Bee, 9/26).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
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