Obama administration promises action on human trafficking

The Kansas City StarDecember 17, 2009 

The Obama administration is weeks away from announcing a new surge — this one aimed at escalating the war on human trafficking in America.

"In January we are going to be announcing a major set of initiatives," Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told The Kansas City Star.

Napolitano disclosed the administration's plans at the conclusion of The Star's six-month investigation exposing numerous failures in America's anti-trafficking battle.

Although details of the plan were not released, advocates and other experts said they're cautiously optimistic that this is the best chance in years to address many of the problems revealed in the newspaper's five-part series. They're also hopeful that the administration, which has reached out to them and asked what changes are needed, will correct structural flaws in the broken system.

"It is time to go back to the drawing board and promote a more seamless, coordinated plan," said Florrie Burke, a nationally known advocate for trafficking victims.

Other experts said it's also time for congressional oversight hearings on the flagging decade-long struggle, and time to centralize an anti-trafficking effort that is thinly spread across a vast bureaucracy plagued by inter-agency wrangling and a lack of coordination.

Others contend what's also needed is a top-to-bottom overhaul of ineffective immigration policies that infuriate those on both sides of the politically charged debate.

"The series that ran this week in The Star is a horrible reminder of the price of codes without compassion or common sense," said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat. "In our quest to make our borders unbreakable and our laws unforgiving we have driven some of the most poor and desperate seeking the promise of America into unthinkable situations."

Kansas state Rep. Mike Slattery, a Mission Democrat, said reading the series convinced him that changes across the system are desperately needed.

To read the complete article, visit www.kansascity.com.

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