House passes the 13th Amendment.

Jan 31, 1865

On this day in 1865, the U.S. House of Representatives passes the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in America. The amendment read, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. “When the Civil War began, President Abraham Lincoln’s professed goal was the restoration of the Union. But early in the war, the Union began keeping escaped slaves rather than returning them to their owners, so slavery essentially ended wherever the Union army was victorious. In September 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in areas that were still in rebellion against the Union. This measure opened the issue of what to do about slavery in border states that had not seceded or in areas that had been captured by the Union before the proclamation.

In 1864, an amendment abolishing slavery passed the U.S. Senate but died in the House as Democrats rallied in the name of states’ rights. The election of 1864 brought Lincoln back to the White House along with significant Republican majorities in both houses, so it appeared the amendment was headed for passage when the new Congress convened in March 1865. Lincoln preferred that the amendment receive bipartisan support–some Democrats indicated support for the measure, but many still resisted. The amendment passed 119 to 56, seven votes above the necessary two-thirds majority. Several Democrats abstained, but the 13th Amendment was sent to the states for ratification, which came in December 1865. With the passage of the amendment, the institution that had indelibly shaped American history was eradicated.

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Recent Federal Bills regarding Sex Trafficking in the U.S.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a several bills addressing human trafficking. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been patting themselves on the back and boasting about their good work here. However, the bills do very little to address ,labor trafficking, which comprises the majority of human trafficking within the U.S. , according to the U.S. State Department. For an organization who not only assist adult survivors of sex trafficking but one that also assists adult survivors of domestic servitude and labor trafficking, this is very discouraging. It is sad to see that both at the Federal and State level, forced labor continues to be swept under the rug. In recent years, the U.S and the state of Florida have not been in full compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000.

Of the 11 anti-trafficking bills passed by the House, few seem likely to actually assist victims. None of the bills really seem to address any of the root causes of human trafficking and does not appear to state anything that will actually help make a dent. However, the bills do help build a facade of hard-working legislators. Within the bills you will find important-sounding terms such as “Human Trafficking Detection Act of 2015” and “International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking.” They mandate reports! re classifications! distance-learning courses on preventing trafficking!

Here is a brief description of the individual bills:

H.R. 181, sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.): Changes federal criminal code to subject anyone who “patronizes or solicits” commercial sex from someone under 18-years-old to a mandatory minimum federal prison sentence of 10 to 15 years (up to life). Raises the standard under which a defendant charged with soliciting commercial sex from a minor must prove they didn’t know the minor’s age, from “a preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.”

The bill, known as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, would also give more money to state and local law enforcement for anti-sex trafficking task forces, rescue missions, and prosecution units; set up special court programs that include “continuing judicial supervision of (people) who have been identified by a law enforcement … as a potential victim of child human trafficking, regardless of whether the victim has been charged with a crime related to human trafficking”; and create state-administered outpatient treatment centers for trafficking victims, among other things.

H.R. 515, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.): Creates an “Angel Watch Center” within the Department of Homeland Security which will “facilitate the implementation of an international sex offender travel notification system in the United States and in other countries.” The center would notify foreign countries whenever a U.S. citizen convicted of a child-related sex crime was traveling there, as well as collect such information from other countries (and provide money to other countries to help them comply)

H.R. 159, from Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.): Allocates money for the development and creation of a “national human trafficking hotline.” Authorizes the Attorney General “to give preferential consideration in awarding Community Oriented Police Services grants” to applicants in states that treat minors engaged in prostitution as victims rather than criminals.

H.R. 460, sponsored by Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.): Implements a training program to help Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection officials learn “how to effectively deter, detect, and disrupt human trafficking.”

H.R. 469, from Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.): Conditions eligibility to receive state grants for child abuse prevention on the state having a law or program dedicated to identifying and providing services for child sex-trafficking victims. Requires the HHS Secretary to report to Congress on child trafficking prevalence, state anti-trafficking practices, and “any barriers in federal laws or regulations that may prevent identification and assessment of children who are such victims.”

H.R. 514, from Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.): Changes the status of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to a Bureau to Monitor and Combat Trafficking and changes the way we classify foreign countries on our “special watch list” for those not living up to U.S. trafficking-elimination standards.

H.R. 357, from Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.): Requires certain federal personnel to take “a distance learning course on trafficking-in-persons issues,” U.S. ambassadors to receive “specific trafficking-in-persons briefings,” and “at least annual reminders” to various federal personnel about “key problems, threats, methods, and warning signs of trafficking in persons.”

H.R. 468, from Rep. Joseph Heck (R-Nev.): Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to give priority to staff training projects that relate to sex trafficking and authorizes the Secretary to make grants to private nonprofit agencies providing services to “runaway and homeless, and street youth, who have been subjected to, or are at risk of being subjected to, sexual abuse, prostitution, or sexual exploitation.”

H.R. 246, from Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio): Changes the language the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children must use for its “cyber tipline” from “child prostitution” to “child sex trafficking, including child prostitution.”

H.R. 350, from Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.): Requires the Inter-agency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to survey “state activities to deter individuals from committing trafficking offenses,” review the “academic literature on deterring individuals from committing trafficking offenses” and identify “best practices and strategies.” Also requires the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress about trafficking issues and authorizes grants for programs that assist trafficking victims with housing.

H.R. 398, from Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.): Allocates funding for the development and dissemination of anti-trafficking training for health care professionals.

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The True Definition of Human Trafficking

As you may know, January has been proclaimed to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This month was proclaimed as such by President Barack Obama in January of 2009. Since then, our organization has continued to see an increase in dialogue surrounding the topic of human trafficking……well more of an increase on the dialogue of sex trafficking. Our organization is thrilled to see so many within the United States speaking up and speaking out against the issue of sex trafficking. But it also leaves us confused as to why the other forms of human trafficking are rarely mentioned. If you think about it, it truly is a catch 22. The Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking is one of very few agencies that not only educates the community on the issue of sex trafficking, but we are also very vocal on the issue of domestic servitude as well as labor trafficking. Not only do we assist survivors of sex trafficking, but we also assist survivors of domestic servitude and labor trafficking, both male and female. One of the things that are staff has noticed is the fact that the anti human trafficking field is literally pitting victim against victim. According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000, this should not be happening.

Recently one of our staff members came across this statement: Human trafficking is the trade of people, usually for the purpose of sexual slavery, and experts claim the epidemic is on the rise in the U.S.

This statement could not be further from the truth. Human Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.

Sex trafficking is defined as a modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years.

Understand that human trafficking is domestic servitude. It is labor trafficking and it is sex trafficking.

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Now the statement mentioned above states that human trafficking is the trade of people, usually for the purpose of sexual slavery. Let’s see what the true experts in the field are reporting on this:

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According to research conducted by the International Labour Organization, the statement shown above is false. The ILO has been researching the topic of forced sexual exploitation and forced labor since 1973. Their research has been accepted by The United Nations, The White House and the U.S State Department.

Now according to the chart, it shows that labor trafficking far exceeds sex trafficking. One of the main reasons why this is simply due to demand. Think about it. How many of us depend on the commercial sex industry? How many of us truly are part of the demand for the commercial sex industry? Now let’s flip the script and ask those same questions regarding forced labor? How many of us depend on cheap labor? How many of us depend on the workers in the agricultural industries? How many of us depend on the workers in the garment industries? How many of us depend on services provided to us in locations such as hotels, nail salons, and restaurants? These are all industries in where victims of forced labor have been recovered from.

Due to the fact that there is a higher demand for cheap labor vs. the commercial sex industry, there will always be a higher amount of victims of forced labor throughout the world and throughout the United States. Plus you add in the fact that very few labor trafficking cases are investigated in the United States, this will add onto the number of labor trafficking victims. Understand that is fewer numbers of victims of forced labor that are recovered and assisted, the less traffickers that are arrested equals to the fact that less prosecutions will take place. It is a free for all for anyone involved in labor trafficking and or domestic servitude?

In conclusion, it is important to not just shed light on sex trafficking, but it is important to also shed light on domestic servitude and labor trafficking. We often come across victims of forced labor on a frequent basis and yet not recognize them as victims due to the lack of awareness. Many of these men, women and children, both from foreign countries and the United States are hopeful that one day someone will recognize their silent pleas for help. And yet, very few of us actually recognize their pleas.