The press announcement for Senator Corker's new bill called, the End Modern Slavery (Everywhere But Here*) Initiative Act of 2015, cites the figure "27 million" to describe the scope of slavery in the world today. By chance, this was the exact same figure published in the late 90's that was also meant to capture the scope of what was then and still is called, the world's fastest growing illegal industry - modern slavery. I certainly don't doubt the accuracy of the figure because, for more than 16 years, it was always listed first in Google searches... or at least until another figure was divined just last year. I'm hoping the new figure won't have a similar shelf life.
Okay, I don't really care about the figure, but its role in framing the bill made me wonder 27 million times silently to myself: how much analysis actually went into Senator Corker's, End Modern Slavery (Everywhere But Here) Initiative? What I do care about quite passionately is the money that Senator Corker seeks to raise for his End Modern Slavery (Everywhere But Here) Initiative and where that money is going.
You should read the bill yourself but, just so there's no suspense: Senator Corker is asking for $1.5 billion and none of that money is going to address human trafficking in the United States. The good news, according to Senator Corker's End Modern Slavery (Everywhere But Here) Initiative, is that U.S. taxpayers will only be directly responsible for about $251 million of the $1.5 billion. Another $750 million will be raised privately, but that shouldn't affect anyone except the organizations working to address human trafficking in U.S. communities. Being the Co-Founder of one of those organizations, it's not hard to predict likely outcomes. Here's what my phone conversations will sound like in 2016:
Robert (in friendly fundraising voice): "We could really use some help addressing human trafficking in the U.S."
Grant-Making Foundation: "Human trafficking? Hey, we're totally on-board! In fact, we're investing in Senator Corker's, End Modern Slavery (Everywhere But Here) Initiative! Call me back in 2023 when the End Modern Slavery (Everywhere But Here) Initiative is over because, by then, we will have helped to end modern slavery everywhere else. Yay!"
Senator Corker's fear that not enough U.S. taxpayer dollars are being spent on human trafficking outside the U.S. is not unfounded. For example, only 78% of the $109.5 million that U.S. taxpayers invested on modern slavery in fiscal year 2010 went to address trafficking in other places. By that I mean: 78 cents of every taxpayer dollar spent on trafficking in persons went outside the country despite President Obama saying in January 2015, "This modern-day slavery occurs in countries throughout the world and in communities across our Nation."
In order to successfully confront modern slavery wherever it happens there will have to be a much greater investment and better strategies moving forward. But why is Senator Corker raising $1.5 billion to send overseas while U.S.-focused anti-trafficking organizations are already fighting for the meager scraps from the domestic share? And why, 15 years into this "movement", are we still at square one struggling with the basics like agreeing upon the boundaries, definitions and the origins of slavery - not to mention the scope? (I guess I did mention the scope earlier.)
The last thing I want to say about Senator Corker's End Modern Slavery (Everywhere But Here) Initiative is related to this quote from the bill about how organizations that receive funding will be evaluated:
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.
Excuse me? Baseline data? 50 percent reduction in slavery? How does the same person who quoted ancient statistical data (27 million) -- that very well could have been gleaned from hieroglyphs -- then speak with authority about this theoretical "baseline data" and mandatory achievement levels? Oh please!
Let's get real. Before allocating more funding for human trafficking, we need to evaluate where the money is going and exactly how it's being spent. At some point, there must be nonfictional accountability for every dollar that leaves the pockets of American taxpayers. Is it right that almost 80% of our trafficking in persons investment is being used outside the country when the U.S. needs funding so badly for its own trafficking problem? Should 100% of a new $1.5 billion investment be used exclusively outside the country when U.S. resources are already so scarce?
In the U.S., we need funding to educate young people to prevent them from becoming victims of human trafficking. We need funding to train members of our communities to recognize and respond to incidents of human trafficking. We need funding for health and social services to support the victims of human trafficking.
If you're concerned about human trafficking within the U.S., help me stop Senator Corker's End Modern Slavery (Everywhere But Here) Initiative.
Contact Senator Corker's office right away to protest this bill by calling 202-224-3344 or email the Senator at: Tara_DiJulio@corker.senate.gov.
Contact your own representatives in Washington D.C. about this bill by going to.
* Author takes some license (within the parentheses) in characterizing Senator's new bill.