Modern slavery thrives as reauthorization languishes

Published 7:18 pm Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Slavery is very much alive and well in the United States.

Though it was abolished more than 150 years ago, if a profit can be made off of the exploitation of others there is usually a willing profiteer ready and able to take up the mantle.

And what a great tragedy modern slavery and human trafficking is. Through means of manipulation, assault and abuse and threats, traffickers force their victims into performing commercial sex acts — the majority being women and children. Through those same means, traffickers put other people to work in restaurants, hotels and the fields and with blood, sweat and fear these victims toil for nothing in return.

As North Carolina ranks No. 8 in the nation for cases of human trafficking, locally there appears to be news report after news report about a human trafficking charge or sentencing in the eastern part of the state.

Modern slavery close to home looks like an arrest that was made in May by the Greenville Police Department in which a woman was charged with the trafficking of a child.

In June, a man was sentenced to 40 years in prison for forcing a young girl to perform commercial sex acts at migrant worker camps in Wilson County.

When we see these cases in our neighborhoods or right in our backyards, we as a community are left bereft and befuddled as to what to do about it.

Of course, stiffer penalties for traffickers are an obvious deterrent. Collaboration with federal, state and local agencies to raise awareness about human trafficking — that would, of course, come along with funding — would definitely be a preventative measure as well.

And though ratcheted up federal sentences for traffickers and easing the burden for successful prosecution of traffickers are certainly necessities, there will still be victims to rescue and treat.

Ways to help these people are to provide resources and funding to groups that ensure identified trafficking victims are rescued, treated and placed in recovery.

It would appear that I have a pretty solid framework of how to combat human trafficking, wouldn’t it?

In all actuality however, these provisions that I outlined are in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2017.

Right now, this incredibly important piece of legislation is sitting in a Senate, where it has been since September of last year.

For nearly 20 years, the TVPA has garnered strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House.

As a matter of fact, when it first became law in 2000, it was the cornerstone of federal human trafficking legislation.

It may make it out of committee one day, and when it does the North Carolina delegation to Congress will be casting a vote on it.

Their vote will be a reflection of their districts’ standards, moral integrity and beliefs. It is incumbent upon us to raise our voices, pick up the phone, write an email or send a letter showing that we will not allow for such barbarism, greed and abuse in our nation, in our state and in our communities. It is our responsibility to direct our representatives to expeditiously reauthorize the TVPA.

Melinda Sampson is the community outreach coordinator for ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now. She can be reached by email at