December 6, 2015 will mark 150 years since the ratification of the 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery in the United States. Yet the scourge of slavery remains and is, in fact, growing at an alarming rate.
It is happening in your city and mine, in the streets surrounding the campuses where our faculty teach our students that slavery ended in 1865. It is labeled as human trafficking, but make no mistake - it is slavery, and worldwide more than 20 million people are its victims. Girls, boys, and women are imprisoned and forced into sexual or labor servitude. They are tortured if they resist. Modern slavery debases our common humanity, tears at our social fabric, and fuels violence and organized crime.
Awareness has been raised sufficiently in recent years to produce a public outcry for action. Human trafficking is even an issue on which politicians from all parties can agree. Last month, the House of Representatives passed a package of 12 human trafficking-related bills, and the Obama Administration announced regulations to eliminate human trafficking from federal contracts. Heroic work is being done nation-wide to rescue victims. Yet human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Why? Because risks are low, and profits are high ($150 billion annually) for traffickers. Ending trafficking requires that we reverse this risk/reward equation.
Recently, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and I convened a group of prominent leaders from domestic and international business and financial sectors, law enforcement, the military, civil rights advocates, and federal, state and local governments to put our collective energy and influence behind an effort with a new focus: disrupting the business of trafficking by increasing risk and eliminating rewards. We launched this campaign with Human Rights First, a non-partisan organization with a reputation for pragmatic, results-oriented advocacy known for building winning coalitions. To flip the risk/reward equation, we must attack every link in the exploitation network -- everyone who wittingly or unwittingly enables this trade. That requires more and tougher prosecutions higher up the food chain, more stringent financial investigations, and governments working with businesses.
As a college president, I have committed to bring in expert speakers so that all affiliated with my college can be informed properly, to investigate our supply chains for potential violations, and to work with business and government to target perpetrators, so that slavery need not be part of the future our graduates inherit.