At a meeting Wednesday with community leaders across New Jersey involved in the fight against modern day slavery known as human trafficking, Cong. Chris Smith discussed the long but crucial battle to help trafficking victims at all levels of society.
"We must all work to fight against this horrific scourge, which disproportionately victimizes children and young girls who are often trafficked into, lured or coerced sexual slavery and then trapped in a nightmare," said Smith, chairman of the House congressional subcommittee that oversees international human rights. "I am heartened to see such grassroots opposition to fight human trafficking."
In Congress, Smith founded and co-chairs the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus, and wrote the nation's first, landmark human trafficking laws to fight trafficking in the U.S.
He met with some of the many groups which have united to form the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking (NJCAHT). Organizations at the meeting, held Aug. 22 at his Mercer County Constituent Service Center, were:
Junior Leagues of New Jersey State Public Affairs Committee;
Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry of New Jersey;
New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education;
New Jersey Catholic Conference, Trenton;
Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater New MetroWest, Whipanny;
Polaris Project, Newark; and,
Contact of Burlington County, Moorestown.
All the attendees from the coalition introduced themselves and spoke about public policy and advocacy initiatives, the need for victim services, Smith's trafficking laws and prospective legislation. Also discussed was the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services' recent controversial decision to strip the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops from its longtime contract to serve trafficking victims, not based on performance or qualifications, but because of its faith-related policies.
Smith is the author of the landmark legislation the Trafficking Victims and Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), which mandated the annual reports, as well as increased penalties for traffickers and provided assistance for victims. Smith wrote two subsequent anti-trafficking laws (PL 108-193 and PL 109-164) increasing resources for crime prevention and expanding treatment assistance for victims.
Smith's TVPA mandates the U.S. State Department to issue the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The most recent report released in June showed positive news in some parts of the world, with an overall increase for 2011 in the number of traffickers convicted (3,969) and the number of victims identified (42,291) (Click here to read the 2012 Report).
PICTURED FROM THE LEFT: Patricia Devine Harms, Junior Leagues of New Jersey State Public Affairs Committee; Martin Schwartz, Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation, Whippany; Cathy Malmstrom, Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry of N.J.; Paul Winkler, N.J. Commission on Holocaust Education, Lawrenceville; Cong. Smith, Robbinsville; Pat Brannigan, Executive Director of the N.J. Catholic Conference, Trenton; Melanie Roth Gorelick, Director, Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater New MetroWest (CRC) who helped coordinate the meeting; Kate Keisel, Polaris Project, Newark; Kathy Friess, Sexual Assault Services Prevention Coordinator and past Executive Director of the N.J. Task Force on Human Trafficking, of Burlington, and Ulana Tatunchak, Polaris Project, Newark.