On February 17, 2010, the last page in the front section of The New York Times reads: "If 12 fully loaded jumbo jets crashed every year, something would be done about it..." Every year more than 2 million children are trafficked world-wide. That number is at best conservative and at worst speculative since there is no systematic data in place. Problem number one. Problem number two is that the number is tripling by the minute as girls become more expensive to traffick into and out of the U.S.
"When one plane crashes," the ad continues, "the story is in the headlines for weeks. But the equivalent of 12 planes full of dying teens every year is barely a blip on the national radar." Agree. In the past four years I have spent working on this issue the silence behind congressional doors has become deafening. The upshot today is that Hollywood has begun to shine its golden lights on the subject. Three good American movies can bring you up to speed: Taken, starring Liam Neeson, Human Trafficking, featuring Mira Sorvino and Trade with Kevin Kline as the lead. Maybe this will push congress to get going.
A bipartisan caucus lead by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) scheduled an internal staff briefing on child sex trafficking Thursday, February 18th. This is indeed an auspicious beginning. The challenge lies with those involved in tomorrow's briefing. They are only at the tip of the iceberg. Secondly, no one is taking notes. My suggestion would be for Congress to schedule a full scale hearing featuring experts on all sides of the issue that is also open to the public.
Since I began this journey I have left few stones unturned when approaching television producers. Time and again I am told that network news directors, program producers and cable stations are simply not interested in taking this on. First, it doesn't bring additional ad dollars and secondly, the subject doesn't attract enough "eyeballs" as they say in show biz. In my opinion, it doesn't quite fit with the network's government affairs policy either.
I'll tell you why. The single most divisive issue blanketing child trafficking remains immigration. The second of course is national security. Thanks in great part to Monsieur Dobbs immigration has, become the blazing red hot tamale for all the networks. So what does it take? A demented Salvadorian fugitive posing as a lawyer representing alleged American child traffickers in Haiti to focus national attention? I suppose so. Otherwise, each child would be just another case of "mistaken identity."
Lastly, if you believe that only Latin, Russian, Balinese, Haitian or Eastern European children are being sold for sex outside of America take a long close look at the latest Congressional figures given to me today: "Over 100,000 children in the United States are currently exploited through commercial sex. Although it is hard to believe, the average age of first exploitation is 12-13. We can no longer ignore that American children in our country are being so horrifically exploited for economic gain."
Don't be fooled child traffickers are also an equal opportunity employer. The bottom line remains the same for them as for any other businessman. The children are simply a commodity to be bought and sold. Their business is driven by two fundamental principles: supply and demand and long term productivity.
If we want to abolish child slavery in the 21st Century our world view must change once again. Congress must shift gears like it did in 1861. For two thousand years or so we have used visible realities to remind us of invisible ones. So I say, let's create a visible reality that can sharpen that distinction; the distinction between an active and inactive Judiciary and one that will allow Congress to create more stringent legislation against child traffickers.
As Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Rep. Chris Smith judiciously assert in their letter: "In order to reduce child trafficking we must all care for the victims, ensure adequate resources for law enforcement and prosecutors... put pimps behind bars, strengthen deterrence and prevention programs aimed at buyers, and require timely and accurate reporting of missing children." Amen to that.