- (Photo: IJM.org via The Christian Post)
International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights agency, has praised President Barack Obama's signing of an executive order that promises that the United States will do everything it can to combat modern-day slavery and end the exploitation of human beings.
"The president today announced a series of steps that the administration will take in response to that call to action," said Holly Burkhalter, vice president of government relations at IJM, during a media phone conference on Tuesday attended by The Christian Post.
"First, the president understands that human trafficking is not a problem that exists only outside our border. It occurs right here at home, in our own communities, and with that reality in mind, the administration is introducing initiatives to combat trafficking in all forms and in all levels. The administration is trying to make sure that victims and survivors can access the help that they need," Burkhalter continued.
Obama's remarks in New York on Tuesday at the Clinton Global Initiative highlighted the plight of the estimated 20 million or so human trafficking victims around the world.
"It's a debasement of our common humanity," Obama began. "I'm talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name -- modern slavery."
He promised in his executive order that laws will be tightened to prevent using any tax payer money to directly or indirectly enable human trafficking, and pledged that the legal system will be strengthened and the problem will become more publicized
"Our message today to them is, to the millions around the world, is we see you, we hear you," the president continued. "Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time."
IJM also noted that the White House has released a detailed fact-sheet on human trafficking around the world, which includes a comprehensive for future action that will be taken to tackle the wide-ranging problem. The organization delivered a petition to the White House in June signed by 73,000 Americans calling for the president to firmly address the issue, and Obama's executive order has been praised as a step in the right direction.
Portia Wu, Senior Policy Advisor for Mobility and Opportunity in the Domestic Policy Council, explained during the press briefing that the United States is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world, which means the U.S. has an obligation to lead by example.
"American tax dollars should never be used to support the trafficking of human beings. The federal order raises the bar and ensures that federal contract will never involve forced labor. Human trafficking can be difficult to detect, so this executive order will help agencies and businesses to discover and eliminate it," Wu said.
On the issue of human trafficking that goes on in illegal immigrant circles, Felicia Escobar, White House Senior Policy Adviser, was quick to highlight that efforts will be made to stop all exploitation of others, regardless of their circumstance.
"We are absolutely aware that trafficking victims and trafficking comes in many different shapes and forms and should not be tolerated in any form or capacity," Escobar said. "We as an administration have worked over the past several years to extend our outreach to communities, including the immigrant community about trafficking issues, and certainly it is something we will continue to focus on as we focus on the issue of trafficking."
While lauding Obama's executive order, however, the IJM cautioned in a press release that there is still a lot of work to be done to fully address the issue of modern slavery within the U.S. While a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives has passed legislation similar to the Obama's executive order, the bill still needs to pass the Senate. Therefore, the IJM cautioned, the issue needs to remain in the public eye to ensure that all possible steps are taken to fight human slavery and trafficking.