By Erica Boonstra
Erica is the Program Manager for Justice Campaigns, the official grassroots advocacy program of International Justice Mission. She works with IJM’s grassroots advocates around the country to support policies that will lead to the abolition of human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
On October 1, 2011 Congress allowed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to expire,
jeopardizing the U.S. fight against modern-day slavery. On September 4 th, call your senators and
tell them now is the time for action.
The best part of my job is seeing up close what a big difference it makes when people are willing to advocate with their members of Congress on behalf of victims of slavery. I’ve been working with Justice Campaigns, the grassroots advocacy program at International Justice Mission, for almost four years.
While there have been so many incredible success stories, a few stick out to me.
In 2011, several advocates in Ohio heard from an aide in Senator Portman’s office that the senator had agreed to cosponsor the TVPRA. One month earlier—just one week after the National Call-in Day to Pass the TVPRA—their other senator, Senator Sherrod Brown, had cosponsored the bill as well, and they were elated at this strong response from their members of Congress. Senator Portman’s aide told us that the senator knew there were hundreds of Ohioans who cared about passing the TVPRA. They had called his office, sent him letters, and met with his staff. Finally, he responded.
A few days before I heard about Senator Portman’s co-sponsorship, I got a call from Alan, an IJM advocate in Georgia. Alan and others in Georgia spent two years building a relationship with Senator Isakson’s office and asking for the senator’s support on anti-trafficking legislation. An aide from Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson’s office had just called to let him know that the senator, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would be cosponsoring the TVPRA. Alan, along with hundreds of others in Georgia, had written to or called Senator Isakson’s office about the bill, and he had heard them.
Without hearing from their constituents, Senator Portman and Senator Isakson may not have cosponsored the TVPRA, which now has 47 cosponsors in the Senate. Senators Portman and Isakson are not the only ones who cosponsored the bill because their constituents asked them to. In fact, four of those co-sponsors signed on within a week of our National Call-in Day to Pass the TVPRA in 2011.
Your voice really can make a difference. Members of Congress have a lot of competing priorities on their plates, and it’s easy for an issue like human trafficking to get buried. By making the call to your member of Congress on September 4, you can help bring this issue to the top of their agenda.
Take 5 minutes on September 4 to call your senators and let’s send Congress a clear message: it’s time to pass the TVPRA.
Inaction will not stop modern-day slavery. Congress will not act unless you do. On September 4th call your senators and ask them to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (S 1301) immediately. Visit www.passTVPRAnow.org to learn more and download resources, such as senator contact lists and suggested call scripts.