Catholic Rep. Chris Smith keeps human trafficking fight in forefront

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Human trafficking "cries out for a Herculean response," said Rep. Chris Smith  (R-N.J.), who has authored legislation on the matter since the '90s. "It falls to each of us - and like-minded people everywhere - to wage an unceasing campaign to eradicate human trafficking from the face of the earth."

"We are our brothers' and sisters' keeper," the Catholic congressman said. "We are all equal in the eyes of God."

One of Smith's latest efforts includes calling upon the Obama administration to honestly rank countries' human trafficking situations, regardless of other political factors.

Smith alleges that Cuba and Malaysia were removed from the "bad actors" human trafficking list this year for reasons related to trade. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which Smith authored and was signed into law in 2000, requires that the U.S. Department of State release an annual country-by-country trafficking report. This year, Cuba and Malaysia were upgraded from Tier 3 countries, which do not comply with TVPA's minimum standards, to Tier 2 "Watch List" countries.

In a July 27 press release, Smith wrote the following:

"It seems quite clear that Malaysia's role in the (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and Cuba's unchecked march to normalized relations have captured the Obama administration's ability to properly assess the worst of the worst when it comes to fighting to protect trafficking victims and punish the thugs who mastermind this modern day slavery."

According to the TVPA, human trafficking includes the following forms of exploitation: sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor or debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced child labor and the use of child soldiers.

Also on July 27, Smith and Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015, which would require public companies with more than $100 million in global gross receipts to report their anti-human trafficking efforts to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

"Some companies may participate knowingly in human trafficking to pad the bottom line; others are willfully ignorant of where and how their inexpensive products are made; and still others simply do not know," Smith said.

Smith, who keeps a large poster of the Virgin of Guadalupe over his desk, believes the answer to ending human trafficking worldwide lies in the three Ps: prevention, prosecution and protection. He credits faith-based organizations, such as Catholic Charities, for working to prevent human trafficking in the United States and abroad, while also providing protection to victims in shelters and related programming.

"Victims benefit from the love offered by people who radiate Christ," he said.

He added that even the average Catholic not working in law enforcement, government or social services can help end human trafficking. He recommends praying for victims and becoming "more aware of telltale signs."

"If something looks funny, talk to law enforcement. It's better to be wrong and apologize," he said. "It's worth the embarrassment."

Find out more
To learn more about Rep. Chris Smith's efforts against human trafficking, go to chrissmith.house.gov.

Stoddard can be reached at cstoddard@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015