Friday, April 15, 2011

My Weekend on Capitol Hill

There's so much to say about last weekend that I'm not even sure where to start.

Ok, the beginning. I spent last weekend at International Justice Mission's Advocacy Training in DC. Sunday we spent the say learning a little bit about Human Trafficking and how to be an effective advocate and lobbyist before going to Capitol Hill on Monday to put it in action.

Backing up a bit, I've been getting more and more involved in the modern-day abolition movement. I first learned that slavery is still happening about a year and a half ago. I was stunned to learn that there are 27,000,000 people enslaved around the world today. I sort of ignored it for a while. But then God started....gently throwing it in my face, I guess. It was everywhere I turned. A book on sale at my favorite warehouse, an email from a missionary, a TV show. So I started to pay attention. I started educating myself, reading books, following websites. This past October I took a big step and attended the Global Forum on Human Trafficking. Since then, I've been following Not For Sale, IJM, attended the Justice Conference and have been reading everything I can find and praying about where I'm supposed to fit in all of this.

I don't think I've really written about it here just because its such a big issue and I wasn't sure how to address it. And I figured there were much more experienced and knowledgeable people out there than me. But I've come to realize, that compared to the general population, I'm an expert. I know a lot more that I thought I did, especially after this weekend. And I think since this is such a big passion in my life, and becoming an evermore present part of it, its a fitting subject for my 100th blog post!

So moving on. We spent Monday meeting with big shots on Capitol Hill (still can't believe that little old me met with all these lawmakers and discussed an upcoming bill!!!!!). Our goal for the day was to make our senators and representatives aware of the upcoming TVPRA bill.

This is the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. This law was created in 2000 and made great strides towards the abolition of slavery by making HT against federal law and creating the TIP (Trafficking in Persons) office, which investigates and prosecutes in HT cases, among other things. The office publishes the annual TIP report which ranks countries according to their efforts to eradicate slavery on a tier system. The TIP office also gives grants to organizations in 68 countries working to abolish slavery. This bill needs to be reauthorized every two years, this being one of those years. With the reauthorization this year, some added provisions are being recommended, including fully funding the TIP Office, creating "focus countries", and increasing resources to provide an effective emergency response team (for situations like the earthquake in Haiti that left many children and women vulnerable to trafficking).

Some of these provisions are taken from a proposed law known as CPCA (Child Protection Compact Act). This bill passed the Senate unanimously last year, but time ran out in the house so it didn't make it to law. This year, it has been reintroduced by one of the senators, but IJM (and myself), while they support the bill, is putting more of an emphasis on the TVPRA. This is because the TVPRA includes many of the provisions of the CPCA and there stands to be more lost if the TVPRA doesn't pass. It must be reauthorized by September 30th. If it doesn't pass, the TIP Office would not necessarily close right away, but would be severely impacted.

The other thing I learned about during this training was IJM's Project Lantern. I think this is so cool! In Cebu, Philippines, human trafficking, in the form of the child sex trade, was at extremely high rates. IJM partnered with local law enforcement, training them in how to recognize HT and enforce the laws. Giving these officers the tools and confidence to deal with Human Trafficking made a huge impact in this area. In the 4 years of this project, an outside agency found a 79% drop in child sex slavery! 79%!!!!!!!!!!!!!! With this information, one hope of the TVPRA is to implement this plan in other Tier III countries.

So, that's how I spent my weekend. Talking about these things with lawmakers. I was really nervous going into this weekend, and going into each meeting, but God is awesome and gave me and my team the words to speak. It was definitely a time of growth and stepping outside of my comfort zone. There is so much more to this issue, such as the who's what's and where's of trafficking, but I think this is enough for today!

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