The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) – first passed in 2000 and reauthorized four times since – is the first, most substantial and consequential federal human trafficking legislation in the United States. The bill allocates $520 million over four years toward programs that aim to identify and aid victims of trafficking and prevent it from occurring. Authorizations must be made every four years to ensure that critical funding for law enforcement, victim services, and training is not interrupted.
With the TVPA facing its fifth authorization in 2017, it’s a fitting time to discuss the progress that’s been made regarding this landmark legislation. The federal funds dedicated to anti-trafficking through the TVPA are set to expire in September, so the need to reauthorize is pressing. Thus far in the legislative process, the authorization has overwhelmingly passed through the House with a bipartisan effort. Now the Senate must now do the same. So what exactly is unique about the TVPA in 2017?
Revised TVPA Parameters in 2017
Each authorization has revised parameters to strengthen prevention strategies, increase victim protections, and toughen penalties for traffickers. The reauthorization in 2013 had an increased focus on victim-centered strategies supporting prevention, protection and prosecution and introduced survivor-led initiatives to the fold. In 2017, the updated law puts a greater emphasis on prevention methods and supporting survivorship; specific modifications to the law this year are as follows:
- Directs grant money for the education of vulnerable children to avoid traffickers
- Incentivizes hotels to train their employees to identify potential trafficking victims
- Requires pilots and flight attendants to have airline industry-specific anti-trafficking training
- Enhances and funds Department of Labor reporting to Customs and Border Patrol and businesses on foreign products and components likely tainted with human trafficking
- Educates procurement officers in U.S. government agencies to apply all U.S. law and regulations preventing purchases of goods made with trafficking or services from contractors who participate in human trafficking
- Empowers trafficking survivors to educate government on better, more effective anti-trafficking policies. (More detail on updates to the bill can be found on Rep. Christopher Smith’s official webpage)
Importantly, the revised TVPA directs the federal government, and recipients of federal funds, to implement a victim-centered, survivor-informed approach to anti-trafficking efforts. LCHT welcomes this new emphasis on the empowerment of survivors to help inform trafficking programming and policy as this is a critical shift from the more top-down approach the movement has taken until now.
Elevating Survivor Voice
In 2017 LCHT has prioritized elevating Colorado’s survivor voice. This summer we are piloting the Survivor Leadership Initiative which aims to develop a cohort of survivor leaders in Colorado who can inform and lead at all points of the statewide movement, advancing efforts in prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership. We often see professional networks — through speaking engagements or appointments to task forces — tokenize survivors, only asking for them to retell their traumatic experiences instead of creating empowering spaces and level playing fields for participation. This expansion of our Leadership Development program will ultimately model a more inclusive way to support those most impacted by the crime – survivors.
While the anti-trafficking movement has seen great progress in recent years, there remains a lack of consistent survivor leadership guiding the response to this crime. In Colorado, survivors are often left out of strategic conversations where their wisdom and experience are essential. This program will fill that gap by empowering survivors with the tools to leverage their lived experiences towards making anti-trafficking efforts in Colorado more effective and supportive of the specific and unique needs of survivors of human trafficking.
Follow Progress This Month
The Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking joins Polaris Project, Freedom Network USA, and others in supporting the authorization of the TVPA this month. Funding set out to fight human trafficking domestically and abroad is set to expire on September 30, 2017. To track Congress’s progress is passing this vital legislation please visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2200.