As States Combat Human Trafficking, Federal Support Comes Forward


A handful of states have recently launched task forces aimed at combating human trafficking. Human trafficking in the US and worldwide is a widespread problem, and many of the individuals caught up in trafficking are US citizens. Tennessee recently launched its own task force – the Knoxville-based Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and now that state’s Senator is working on his own federal effort.

The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015 aims to build a public-private partnership model focused on ending trafficking. “There has been a lot of interest in this bill,” Corker said on a call with reporters. “The House asked the Senate to move first.” Corker a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, was able to move the bill out of committee with unanimous support. Corker expects a formal vote in the near term.

The bill also has the support of philanthropic organizations like the United Way and the International Justice Mission (IJM). “People were surprised to hear that the United Way was involved in this issue but it’s a $150 billion a year industry for organized criminals and some of our chapters brought it to us directly,” Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide said on the same call.

One of those chapters is in Toledo, Ohio. Ohio has been at the forefront of this issue from a state level. Toledo became known as part of a major corridor for trafficking minors on I-75 and I-80 between Chicago and Pennsylvania. Led by Celia Williamson, Ph.D., Professor of Social Work at the University of Toledo, who founded the first program for domestic victims in Ohio in 1993, the local coalition on this issue includes some 60 organizations including the FBI, Homeland Security, Juvenile Court and Child Services.

Ohio was also one of the first states to pass various laws aimed at stemming the tide of slavery. Now traffickers there can face felony prosecutions, while victims have safe harbor provisions for crimes they were forced into while trafficked.

Gallagher noted that United Way brought some of its experience from this chapter into the discussions with Senator Corker.

“I don’t think people fully understand that trafficking is a crime of economic opportunity. The traffickers and people who purchase individuals profit directly. You don’t see that in other crimes,” Holly Burkhalter, vice president of International Justice Mission (IJM) said on the call. “But it is also a highly elastic crime that responds to regulation.” IJM which is focused on ending trafficking also consulted on the bill.

The proposed bill will establish a non-profit grant making foundation that will raise money from both public and private entities for programs aimed at preventing and ending slavery. The foundation is aiming to raise $1.5 billion. Funding will come from a range of sources including: $251 million in authorized funds from the United States over eight years: $1 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, followed by authorizations of $35.7 million in FY 2016-2022; $500 million from other foreign governments, and $750 million in private funding.

Progress will be tracked against baseline data to achieve a 50 percent reduction in slavery. Projects that fail to meet goals will be suspended or terminated.

“This is not an additional spending bill, this will come out of existing funds and from other sources,” Corker said. “We want to remain highly focused in terms of what we write grants for and will measure the outcomes closely.”

The full text of the bill is available here.