ATEST Advocacy Report | January 2019

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) has chosen this month to launch our first annual ATEST Advocacy Report. Each January we will update you on our coalition’s accomplishments in the previous year and priorities for the year ahead. We will provide updates during the year as warranted.

The past year was a critical time for ATEST and the anti-slavery movement: it was ATEST’s first year as an independent coalition after a decade operating as a project of Humanity United, and it was crunch-time in the 115th Congress for renewal of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. On both counts, 2018 was a remarkable success.

Congress Renews Anti-trafficking Legislation

After nearly two years of intense advocacy by ATEST and other anti-trafficking groups, in the final days of the 115th Congress, the House and Senate approved a package of four bills that renew America’s commitment to ending human trafficking and modern slavery at home and abroad. ATEST applauds the passage of this vital legislation. The president has signed the bills.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, first passed in 2000, requires periodic reauthorization from Congress. This cycle, the landmark act’s anti-trafficking provisions were spread across four separate bills (S. 1311, S. 1312, S.1862 and H.R. 2200). Together, they constitute the architecture for federal programs across numerous agencies, including the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice (including the Federal Bureau of Investigation), Labor, State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The renewal strengthens several aspects of the U.S. government’s programs. The bills passed with overwhelming support, receiving unanimous approval in the Senate and near unanimous support in the House. This underscores that ending human trafficking and modern slavery is a cause that crosses political and ideological boundaries.

Congress Must Hold the Line on Anti-trafficking Spending

ATEST continues to advocate to Congress to maintain America’s efforts to combat human trafficking with detailed recommendations for federal spending across several agencies and departments. The number of trafficking victims significantly exceeds the availability of services. These agencies, if properly resourced, are well positioned to prevent human trafficking and ensure that the most vulnerable do not become victims. Continued funding will help federal agencies and civil society organizations better understand trafficking prevalence and provide comprehensive services to victims. Such funding is also crucial to support initiatives to prevent such exploitation through addressing root causes and the exercise of rights.

ATEST FY2019 letters to House and Senate appropriations subcommittees covered programs in three key appropriations bills: 1) Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS); 2) State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs (SFOPS); 3) Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS). See the letters here.

Our advocacy is already underway for FY2020, which also includes funding programs at the Department of Homeland Security. See our FY2020 letter to the Office of Management & Budget here.

Three Organizations Join ATEST

Three remarkable organizations joined the coalition in 2018. The new members expand the reach and expertise of ATEST, strengthening the coalition’s collective influence.

The new member organizations:

  • Human Trafficking InstituteThe Human Trafficking Institute is combating slavery at its source by empowering justice systems to stop traffickers. Working inside criminal justice systems, the Institute provides the embedded experts, world-class training, investigative resources, and evidence-based research necessary to free victims.
  • T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human RightsT’ruah brings together rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism, together with all members of the Jewish community, to act on the Jewish imperative to respect and advance the human rights of all people. Grounded in Torah and our Jewish historical experience, and guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call upon Jews to assert Jewish values by raising our voices and taking concrete steps to protect and expand human rights in North America, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
  • United Way WorldwideThe United Way Center on Human Trafficking & Slavery believes that it is possible to end human trafficking and modern-day slavery in our generation and is mobilizing civil society, governments and businesses to that end. Founded in 2015, the center is focused on mobilizing a collaborative effort across sectors, building public and political will needed to spur greater action and expanding comprehensive solutions to the communities around the world.

See descriptions of all 12 ATEST member organizations here.

Taking a Stand in 2018

ATEST advocacy reached beyond legislation and appropriations as the coalition took a stand on other key initiatives. ATEST statements and position papers may be accessed on the ATEST homepage:

Oak Foundation & NEO Philanthropy Sustain ATEST Transition

ATEST is grateful to the Oak Foundation and NEO Philanthropy for generous support of the ATEST coalition during our first year of independent operations. The Oak/NEO grant has allowed ATEST to establish a secretariat, create briefing materials to educate policymakers, and continue the coalition’s essential function as a coalition that provides unparalleled budgetary and policy advice to Congress and federal agencies. Oak/NEO has helped ATEST with a range of other capacity-building support. Oak/NEO supports “innovative organizations on the front lines of social change,” and ATEST is honored that the foundation has added us to its efforts to end human trafficking and modern slavery.

2019 ATEST Priorities

With renewal of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA) accomplished, ATEST will transition its advocacy focus in 2019 toward implementation of federal initiatives. Some of ATEST’s key goals for 2019:

  • Advocate for newly-authorized initiatives in the TVPRA and related legislation to receive full financial appropriations for FY2020 and beyond
  • Advocate for effective implementation of new provisions that require tier ranking of countries in the annual Trafficking in Persons Report to be based on anti-trafficking impacts only
  • Engage with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security for implementation of the new victim protocol
  • Engage with USAID in the update of its Counter-Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) Policy
  • Engage with the Treasury Department for implementation of a new initiative to get multilateral development banks to create anti-trafficking provisions in international projects
  • Continuing to speak out when policies or practices harm trafficking victims and survivors, or hurt immigrants or others who are vulnerable to trafficking (see current example here and our values statement below)

ATEST looks forward to working with Congress, federal agencies, and civil society allies to make 2019 another productive year in advancing the cause of ending modern slavery and human trafficking at home and abroad.

Advocacy Rooted in Core Principles and Human Values

In 2018, ATEST member organizations reaffirmed the pillars of our collective approach:

  • The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) is a U.S.-based coalition that advocates for solutions to prevent and end all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery in the United States and around the world. We promote sustainable solutions to prevent labor and sex trafficking, hold perpetrators accountable, ensure justice for victims and empower survivors with tools for recovery and opportunity. We advocate for solutions within a human rights based approach that encompass prevention, protection and the rule of law. And we advocate for the mobilization and protection of resources to accomplish this work.
  • We believe in a holistic, comprehensive approach to anti-trafficking work, striving to address the needs and vulnerabilities of communities particularly at risk, including immigrants, migrant workers and refugees, LGBTQIA, children, runaway and homeless youth, communities of color, and ethnic and religious minorities.
  • We are committed to focusing on racial and gender equity throughout our work.
  • We promote victims’ rights and access to justice and remedy, and the decriminalization of coerced and forced conduct. We insist on the separation of labor law and immigration enforcement.
  • We take a victim-centered, trauma-informed, and worker-experience approach and center our work in a human, civil, and worker rights framework. We advocate for inclusion of survivor voices in the shaping of anti-trafficking policies and programs.
  • We believe in consensus building, collaboration, and partnerships to support bipartisan solutions that address the root causes of trafficking and the vulnerabilities of the populations for whom we advocate.
  • We promote inclusive growth and sustainable development in our anti-trafficking programming and advocacy, focused on concrete actions, long-term solutions, and measurable impact.

ATEST member organizations include: Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), Free the Slaves, Human Trafficking Institute, National Network for Youth (NN4Y), Polaris, Safe Horizon, Solidarity Center, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, United Way Worldwide, Verité, and Vital Voices Global Partnership.