Battle against human trafficking gets boost from new funding

The Kansas City StarDecember 18, 2009 

America's war on human trafficking got its biggest-ever one-year boost in federal funding following President Barack Obama's signing of an appropriations bill, one of several significant anti-trafficking developments this week.

The legislation contains a $12.5 million increase in funds to fight human trafficking in the United States. That money and other provisions of the law address problems identified in a five-part series this week in The Kansas City Star.

Included in the omnibus appropriation bill signed into law Wednesday is money to provide services to U.S.-born human trafficking victims — mainly underage girls forced into the sex trade. Previously, only foreign-born victims got federal anti-trafficking aid.

Jolene Smith, CEO and co-founder of Free the Slaves, called the additional funding a "watershed moment."

"The fact that we were able to get this increase in such a tough economic climate shows that the U.S. is moving in the right direction," Smith said.

She noted that The Kansas City Star's series helped focus needed attention on human trafficking, but she added that more money alone won't solve the problem.

"This is an incremental increase," she said. "It is not transformational."

Meanwhile, a California congresswoman said Thursday that she would use The Star's investigation of human trafficking at upcoming oversight hearings to help reform U.S. detention and deportation policies.

"We are concerned about deportation practices, so we may do some combination oversight hearings," said U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat whose House subcommittee oversees detention and deportation rules. "Your findings should get wider circulation."

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