Wilberforce Act Worth Consideration

By Doug Carlson
Dec 3, 2008

President-elect Obama is filling up his cabinet, President Bush is now considered a lame duck, and incoming members of Congress already know which offices they’ll soon occupy. But this Congress is still expected to return to work next week, and it ought to give consideration to that which is achievable and matters most.

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act (H.R. 3887) is one such bill that merits attention. The act’s beneficiaries deserve freedom—the untold millions of men, women, boys, and girls around the world, thousands of them here in the United States, who are trafficked and trapped in an industry of forced labor or sex servitude. Its malefactors deserve punishment under the force of the law—the pimps and traffickers who enslave their victims and beat them to a pulp for any hint of insubordination. This modern-day slavery demands a response.

As we have recently reported, the Wilberforce Act breezed through the House one year ago with only two dissenters, and has since been bottled up in the Senate Judiciary Committee. But we have made progress on it. The Senate is now talking to the House Judiciary Committee on language that they would prefer. The bill is very close to being passed. Language differences Senate negotiators are holding out for will make it more difficult to end the modern day slave trade occurring right here in our own nation. The House-passed bill, H.R. 3887, has the right approach to the problem. Countless lives could be liberated under this bill.

The Wilberforce Act takes particular aim at the savage sex slavery that has reached our shores and crossed our borders. Many victims are lured by the promise of a job as a waitress or maid, only to realize too late that they’ve bought into a lie. Their lives are shattered and their hopes snatched away. Routine beatings and threats of harm to their families to keep them submissive are standard fare in this so-called “business,” as their purveyors seek to satisfy their lust and greed. The Wilberforce Act has the real potential to choke this vice and rescue thousands of women and girls from the slavery in our own backyard.

One means is allowing the Justice Department to prosecute pimps and traffickers in the states. Currently, federal law enforcement can only get involved if a pimp is prostituting an underage girl or he brings a woman across state lines for sexual purposes. It has become increasingly clear that states simply do not have the resources to address the trafficking industry.

The Wilberforce Act would be a gift of justice and of mercy this Christmas season. Those who are entrapped in this horrifying industry can ill afford for Congress to wait another year. Congress should end its squabbling and act.

If you agree, please contact your congressman and senators immediately to insist that Congress agree upon the William Wilberforce Act (H.R. 3887) before adjourning for the year.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission works to fight against sex trafficking in America and around the world. If your church would like to purchase materials on this important issue, bulletin inserts are available at our online bookstore.

Further Learning

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