Statement on the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons

As delivered by Margaret Paton
at the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons Conference
Vienna, October 11, 2012

The United States commends the Office of the Special Representative and Coordinator for Trafficking in Human Beings for convening the Twelfth Alliance against Trafficking in Persons event.  We appreciate this opportunity for the OSCE to strengthen its partnership with international and regional organizations – as well as civil society – in our efforts individually and collectively to combat the heinous crime of human trafficking.  We welcome the innovative focus this year on the issue of discrimination.

In our national experience, we have witnessed how discrimination impacts our ability to identify and respond to foreign and domestic victims of trafficking.  Since the late 1990s, the United States has prosecuted seminal federal servitude cases in Florida with the assistance of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an organization of Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian workers who have fought for better conditions among farm laborers. The lessons from those early cases were critical in shaping the national approach: urging the public, social services, and the authorities to look beneath the surface and consider that an undocumented foreign worker may be in an exploitative situation and need help – and to make sure that help is available.

As public awareness campaigns, law enforcement efforts, and victim assistance efforts became focused on helping foreign victims in the United States, advocates urged the United States to also recognize and address the situation of domestic victims – often American children exploited in the commercial sex industry.  Civil society organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Polaris Project, and Shared Hope, as well as the Department of Justice’s Innocence Lost Task Force, its Child Sexual Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and its Office for Victims of Crime, have worked tirelessly to fight the sex trafficking of these children.  While foreign and domestic victims may encounter different types of discrimination, any discrimination can have the same effect:  it impedes their identification as victims, impacts their involvement in the judicial system, and hinders their effective access to services.

Last month, the United States commemorated the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln issuing the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation – which provided a historic occasion to call attention to the fact that modern-day slavery still persists in egregious forms in all regions of the world, whether it is in sweatshops, brothels, factories and mines, in private homes, or on farms and fishing boats.  Thus, we also appreciate the unique opportunity to share more on the American experience of historical and modern slavery and extend a special welcome to fellow Americans, Mr. Kenneth Morris of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, Mr. David Lopez of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Ms. Rani Hong of the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.

Thank you, Madam Moderator.