Freedom Network USA (FNUSA) hosted its first congressional briefing on Tuesday April 3rd in Washington, DC. The briefing, sponsored by Representative Don Beyer of Virginia, focused on a comprehensive approach to addressing human trafficking in the United States. FNUSA Executive Director, Jean Bruggeman was joined by Policy Co-Chair, Kate D’Adamo and Survivor Advocates, Nat Paul and Ima Matul of the CAST’s National Survivor Network.
Support for Survivors
The panel advocated for providing quality services and support for survivors. As a national coalition of direct service providers working on the ground, FNUSA understands how policies and legislation impact survivors’ everyday lives. One such bill, the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act would provide post-conviction relief to survivors who were forced to commit non-violent crimes as a result of their trafficking situation. Paul noted, “These convictions create barriers that hinder the ability to move past the exploitation and perpetuates the cycle of abuse.” Many survivors with criminal records find it difficult to secure employment and safe housing, which are both essential in moving beyond their victimization. FNUSA supports this legislation and believes it will have a positive impact on thousands of survivors.
FNUSA’s approach to prevention involves addressing root causes that create vulnerability to both sex and labor trafficking. One of the most effective ways to fight human trafficking is to promote legislation that would increase the rights of the groups most vulnerable to exploitation. The panel voiced its support for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act which protects LGBTQ youth who are over-represented in the runaway youth population and at an increased risk for sex trafficking as minors. By ensuring they cannot be discriminated against when accessing safe housing programs, this reduces the likelihood of being exploited in order to meet their basic needs. “There’s a lot more into getting someone safe and sustained,” says D’Adamo, “we need to move beyond serving this one crisis moment.”
The last piece of legislation discussed addresses weak worker protections afforded to youth working in agriculture. The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment or CARE Act would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to close some of its loopholes, reinforce existing protections of child workers, and increase penalties for employers who repeatedly violate child labor laws.
Bruggeman noted how timely the briefing was with the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protections Act (TVPA) in final development. Over the past several weeks, FNUSA has been working collaboratively with several congressional offices to provide input on language to be included. “As a coalition of direct service providers, we have a unique perspective that can inform how these policies influence the survivors our members serve everyday,” states Bruggeman. The TVPA was passed in 2000 and remains the cornerstone of federal legislation – outlining funding and programs for survivors, establishing criminal charges and sentences for traffickers, and describing the responsibilities of the federal government to address human trafficking.
FNUSA is proud to engage in this work and will continue to fight for, and alongside, survivors and those exploited in all labor sectors across the country.
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