capitol rotunda inside architect of capitolThe U.S. Senate has reauthorized the cornerstone legislation that guides the federal government’s efforts to combat human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. It happened on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, no less.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) proposed that the TVPA be attached as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act yesterday morning. Senators approved Leahy’s amendment by a vote of 93 to 5. A short while later, the Senate approved the combined bill with another strong bipartisan vote.

“We’re delighted that the TVPA and Violence Against Women Act could pass the Senate together, because gender-based violence and modern-day slavery are often closely related,” says FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg.

“Reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) sends important signals worldwide. It says that the United States is still committed to ending human trafficking at home and abroad. It tells those in slavery that they have a partner in the American government and the American people. It tells traffickers that we haven’t lost our resolve,” Middleberg says.

Senate approval came after a rapid and comprehensive mobilization of anti-trafficking supporters throughout the country. Many organizations, including Free the Slaves, sent action alerts to get supporters to phone, e-mail, tweet and petition their senators.

Senator Patrick Leahy

Senator Patrick Leahy

It worked. Thousands of people signed a petition or contacted their senators to let them know that fighting slavery is important to voters. Senator Leahy helped marshal Democratic support.

“Today is February 12, the day on which Abraham Lincoln was born,” Leahy said in a public statement. “It was 150 years ago that he delivered the Emancipation Proclamation and it would be fitting that the Senate pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act on his birthday.  Although the 13th amendment to our Constitution was ratified long ago making slavery illegal, we continue to fight human trafficking,” he wrote.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) helped rally Republican votes.

“We applaud Senators Leahy and Rubio for their bipartisan leadership and commitment to ending modern-day slavery,” says David Abramowitz, Director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking ATEST and Vice President for Policy & Government Relations of Humanity United.

“We urge the House of Representatives to show similar bipartisan cooperation to move a bill quickly to a vote and onto President Obama’s desk,” Abramowitz says.

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Senator Marco Rubio

The president has indicated he will sign the bill.

The TVPA was first passed in 2000 to authorize a wide range of federal action to combat slavery at home and abroad — from prosecuting traffickers, to providing shelter for slavery survivors, to preventing vulnerable people from enslavement in the first place.

It must be reauthorized every few years.

Now, it’s onto the House. Free the Slaves will need to demonstrate public support for the bill to House members, just as we did in the Senate.

Thanks to everyone who helped move TVPA through the Senate.

Stay tuned – we’ll let you know when it’s time to mobilize again for final passage in the House.

gI_90929_Lincoln ChairThese days, we’re used to the image of Abraham Lincoln sitting in a marble chair – at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. But another Lincoln chair is about to capture the public’s attention.

It’s the bentwood Hickory chair that Lincoln was sitting in when he learned that he was nominated to run for president. It’s being auctioned on eBay, along with a dozen documents handwritten and/or signed by Lincoln, and other documents signed by Frederick Douglass, William T. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant.

Bidding for “The Ultimate Lincoln Collection” begins at $1 million – and Free the Slaves has been chosen to receive 10 percent of the final sale price. See the official press release here from History You Can Own.

“We’re offering a unique opportunity for collectors with a passion for history,” says Seth Kaller, a leading expert in rare historic documents, “beginning with the chair in which Lincoln was sitting when he received the telegram that he had won the 1860 Republican presidential nomination.” This was his favorite seat at the Illinois State Journal, where Lincoln often went to watch the news come in via the newspaper’s telegraph wire, Kaller says.

A detailed description of the collection can be seen on Kaller’s website. It’s one of the most comprehensive collections of Lincolniana in recent memory. It includes a first edition of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, and his 1858 letter opposing the Dred Scott decision, in which a slave sued for his freedom but lost in one of the most infamous cases in U.S. Supreme Court history.

“This collection has several items of great historic and personal importance,” says Dr. James Cornelius, curator at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum.

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The timing of the auction is tied to the 85th Academy Awards. The film Lincoln is nominated in several categories, including best movie, director and actor. Kaller is guaranteeing delivery of the Lincoln chair and documents to the winning bidder in time for an Oscars party. Dr. Cornelius hopes the items will eventually be donated by the winning bidder to the Lincoln library.

Recognizing that slavery still exists, Kaller wants a portion of the auction proceeds to go to an organization that is helping to finish what Lincoln started. Kaller was introduced to Free the Slaves by historian Ron Soodalter, co-author along with FTS Co-founder Kevin Bales, of the book The Slave Next Door.

capitol_east_1With one big push – NOW — the anti-slavery movement can get the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) through the U.S. Senate.

A vote is scheduled for Monday to attach the TVPA as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act.

Please call, e-mail, Tweet or Facebook your two U.S. Senators before Monday’s vote. You can find their contact information at www.senate.gov by selecting your state in the upper right corner of the Senate webpage.

Specifically: tell them to support Senator Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) amendment (known as Amendment #21) to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (S.47).

It’s easy to do and takes less than a minute. Here’s what to say/write:

Hello. My name is ________. I am a constituent from __________.

I am calling/writing to urge Senator _______________ to support Senator Leahy’s amendment #21 to the Violence Against Women Act (S.47), which will reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), and the final passage of VAWA. The TVPA expired in September 2011 and unless it is renewed, critical federal programs and the victims they support will be at risk. Reauthorization of this legislation must be a national priority. Thank you for your support.

Here’s the background on the TVPA: It was first passed in 2000 and it’s the cornerstone legislation that authorizes a wide range of federal action to combat slavery — from prosecuting traffickers, to providing shelter for slavery survivors, to preventing vulnerable people from enslavement in the first place.

The law must be reauthorized every few years, and it always has been in the past – with broad bipartisan support. But the 112th Congress adjourned in January without acting on the bill (it was called S.1301 in the 112th Congress).

Now that the 113th Congress has begun, there’s a fresh chance to get this vital piece of legislation passed. The TVPA makes America a global leader in fighting modern-day slavery. Failing to reauthorize this law tells traffickers that we’ve lost our resolve to stand up for human rights.

Efforts to fight trafficking and modern-day slavery also protect women from violence. That’s because women comprise a huge percentage of people in slavery today. Attaching the TVPA to the Violence Against Women Act makes sense.

We’re near the finish line in the Senate. Let’s get it done!

Slavery in this Week’s News

We see slavery and trafficking stories throughout the world each week. It’s great news that journalists and bloggers are exposing the problem of slavery, and examining solutions to it. Awareness creates momentum for change. Here are 10 top stories that caught our eye:

1. Ghana Business News. “Ghana agric workers campaign against child labour in cocoa growing areas.” http://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2013/02/08/ghana-agric-workers-campaign-against-child-labour-in-cocoa-growing-areas/

2. Enough Project. “Conflict Gold 101.” http://www.enoughproject.org/blogs/conflict-gold-101

3. The Times Picayune. “Authorities nab 85 in effort to combat Super Bowl sex trafficking.” http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2013/02/85_sex-trafficking_arrests_in.html

4. ABC News. “Congo, M23 Rebels Sign Preliminary Agreement.” http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/congo-m23-rebels-sign-preliminary-agreement-18420841

5. The Sun Sentinel. “Human trafficking coalition grows as awareness does, too.” http://www.sun-sentinel.com/fl-human-trafficking-meeting-20130204,0,4281755.story

6. Asian Human Rights Commission. “INDIA: Police officers run human trafficking cartel.” http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-036-2013

7. The New York Times. “Notorious Attack Spurs India to Approve New Rape Laws.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/world/asia/india-approves-tougher-rape-laws.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

8. Ghana Web. “Princess Ocansey arrested for human trafficking.” http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=264251

9. International Business Time. “Voiceless Cargo: Symposium On Human Trafficking And Sex Slavery.” http://www.ibtimes.com/press-release/20130205/voiceless-cargo-symposium-human-trafficking-sex-slavery-1062630

10. Arizona Daily Star. “Guest Column: Modern slavery is brutal reality in US, and we must act to stop it.” http://azstarnet.com/news/opinion/guest-column-modern-slavery-is-brutal-reality-in-us-and/article_2ba74ebd-7cac-5c55-b4e4-b3b90da61866.html

brazil graphicThe Brazilian state of São Paulo is taking a dramatic new step.

The state’s governor has just signed a law to shut down companies caught using slave labor. Violators would be banned from opening a new business for 10 years.

The man behind this groundbreaking law is human rights activist, Carlos Bezerra Jr., a São Paulo state senator.

He believes the measure is the toughest of its kind since Brazil abolished slavery in 1888.

“In this state,” Bezerra says, “profit at any cost will never be worth more than human life.”

logo_topoNews about the law comes to us from Reporter Brasil, one of our frontline partners. The group’s president, Leonardo Sakamoto, says it’s good for business in a country whose economy depends on exports. “Cleaning the supply chain is a quick way to gain markets and improve the lives of workers,” he says.

Senator Bezerra was in Washington, D.C. this week, visiting U.S. government officials and activist organizations, including Free the Slaves.

“Brazil is taking some of the most progressive and far reaching steps in the world to remove slavery from product supply chains,” says FTS Executive Director, Maurice Middleberg. “What they are doing is a global model.”

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Carlos Bezerra Jr. (center) meets in Washington with FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg (left) and FTS Programs Director Karen Stauss (right).

Brazilian activists are hoping for a domino effect, where other states will follow São Paulo’s lead.

Middleberg believes Brazil is setting an example for politicians in other countries as well.

“The successes in Brazil highlight the need to network members of parliament worldwide, to help build a community of parliamentarians who are committed to taking action against slavery in their countries,” he says.

FTS is pushing for a nationwide law in the U.S. where all large companies would be required to investigate and root out slavery in their supply chains.

You can see more about the successes of FTS frontline partners in Brazil, including Reporter Brasil, in the minidocumentary, “Partners in Action.”

 

FTS Partners in Action: CPT & Reporter Brasil from Free the Slaves on Vimeo.