President Donald Trump celebrated the 20th year since the enactment of Rep. Christopher Smith’s landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act at the White House Human Trafficking Summit on Friday.
Human trafficking was not viewed as a major issue in 2000, when Smith got Congress to approve his bill and secured the backing of President Bill Clinton. At the time, just 37 House members co-sponsored Smith’s bill.
“Human trafficking is a barbaric human rights abuse that thrives on greed, secrecy, a perverted sense of entitlement to exploit the vulnerable and an unimaginable disregard for the victims,” Smith said. “When I first introduced it, the legislation was met with a wall of skepticism and even opposition—dismissed by many as a solution in search of a problem. For most people at that time, the term trafficking applied almost exclusively to drugs and weapons, not human beings.”
Smith told the New Jersey Globe that the private sector is now taking a leading role in helping to combat human trafficking, noting that hospitals, airlines and hotels have become valued partners.
He singled out Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJBarnabas Health for training health care professionals to recognize trafficking victims.
According to Smith, 90% of victims go to a hospital at some point.
“Most countries of the world now have significant laws that look just like ours,” Smith said, noting that many nations have reacted to the fear of sanctions and “naming and shaming” as the impetus to taking human trafficking seriously.
Trump on Friday became the first president to attending a meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force that was established in Smith’s 2000 law.
“An estimated 25 million people around the world today are being held captive, manipulated, or abused by human traffickers,” Trump said in a statement on Friday.
He issued an Executive Order combat human trafficking and online child exploitation, one of several subsequent actions that began with Smith’s bill.
Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Bill Barr, White House advisor Ivanka Trump, Ambassador-at-Large and head of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons John Richmond, who managed the Summit, and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.
Ivanka Trump praised Smith’s 20-year effort.
“This landmark piece of legislation changes the landscape of the conversation around human trafficking and elevated the U.S. government’s capabilities to combat this evil,” she said.
In 2019, Trump signed the 5th trafficking law sponsored by Smith, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act.