Monday, December 21, 2009

House and Senate Appropriate Money to Fight Slavery

Late last week, the House and Senate passed an omnibus appropriations bill that will, among other things, provide funding to fight human trafficking. The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 will provide money to both the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services for anti-slavery work, including services for survivors.

Despite federal anti-trafficking laws, such as the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act of 2008, funding for anti-trafficking work has always lagged behind, making this funding development particularly welcome. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill includes a 25% increase in funding to the Department of Justice to assist victims of trafficking. This funding pool has been used to establish task forces in the past. Moreover, this will be the "first time since the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed in 2000, the spending bill provides that this funding is available for both foreign national and U.S. citizen survivors in need of assistance," according to Polaris Project. The bill will also provide funding for prosecuting traffickers through the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

In addition to increasing the DOJ's anti-trafficking funding, the bill also provides funding for the Department of Health and Human Services work on behalf of foreign national victims and survivors. Additionally, according to Polaris Project, the bill "is accompanied by report language that urges the Administration to request funds for assistance to all survivors, including U.S. citizens, in next year’s budget request."

You can contact the legislators who played an important role in this effort to provide additional, extremely needed funding for victims and survivors of slavery:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair, and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Ranking Member, Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Chair, and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-WV), Ranking Member, House Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Co-chairs, House Human Trafficking Caucus.

As we approach the new year, many state legislatures will be going into session, making this a prime opportunity to also contact your state-level representatives and urge them to support state-level anti-trafficking legislation.

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