Modern Slavery: An Urgent Crisis
By Rushad Thomas
Human traffickers deny nearly 25 million people their fundamental right to freedom. The U.S. State Department reports that trafficking victims are regularly exploited for sex, labor, criminal activity, and forced marriages. In the United States, both citizens and immigrants fall victim to this heinous crime. In 2019 alone, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 11,500 trafficking reports and identified 22,326 victims and survivors. Furthermore, the State Department estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year.
A recent United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime report found that for every 10 trafficked individuals, seven are female, and about a third are children. In low-income countries, children account for half of trafficking survivors. The U.S State Department notes that the pandemic has exacerbated marginalized communities’ vulnerability to exploitation by traffickers—highlighting systemic racial and generational inequality in the U.S. and the world.
The Episcopal Church, through General Convention, has long supported efforts to combat human trafficking. The church supports legislation that protects human trafficking victims, particularly women and children. The church also advocates for policies oriented to the recovery and reintegration of trafficking victims into society. We urge the U.S. government to work toward solutions to end modern slavery in all its forms and to partner with NGOs, religious groups, and other governments to ensure we end this violation of human dignity.
Most recently the Office of Government Relations for The Episcopal Church has advocated for HR 5150, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2021. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), first passed in 2000, undergirds all federal efforts to prosecute and address human trafficking. The TVPA has been reauthorized five times in the last 20 years.
As Episcopalians, we believe all victims of human trafficking must be protected and support legislation that uplifts these vulnerable children of God. We all must work together to bring an end to the horror of modern slavery.
Rushad Thomas is a policy advisor for The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations. A native of Bushnell, Florida, Rushad has been a member of The Episcopal Church since 2013 and lives in Maryland.