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TVPRA’s New Demands

Every few years, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act needs a re-visit. As with many pieces of legislation which authorize appropriations (or allow Congress to include things to fund with the Federal budget), budget lines are allowed for a few years, and then expire — requiring Congress to re-authorize that funding every few years. While never required, it also allows Congress to go in and tinker, or expand, if they want to.

While the budget lines for everything from service provision to victims of trafficking to training for law enforcement expired in 2017, four different Congress members introduced different versions of the legislation and then spent two years in gridlock refusing to budge. After two years of languishing (and of many service providers dependent on this funding wondering if it was just going to dry up) a lame duck Congress decided that instead of figuring out a comprehensive, omnibus anti-trafficking bill or just extend the funding to 2021, they would ram through all four of the attempts to re-authorize the Act.

The four bills cover a range of things, good (I KNOW!) to horrible (Have you heard about the HERO Act?), including some specific provisions which show us exactly how “End Demand” often shows up on the federal level — and in the only form of trickle down that works, ends up influencing what happens on the ground. Below are three places where this shows up in the four bills which were passed.

  1. Through Trainings: S. 1311, Sec. 5 Victim protection training for the Department of Homeland Security., introduced by Sen. Cornyn (R-TX, still in office)

One of the most common ways or encouraging stings on the sex trade is through training law enforcement that the same vice policing that they’re already doing is actually anti-trafficking work — and that there are more resources and partners available. This section of the bill says that in the next six months, the Secretary of DHS will give a training directive to relevant DHS employees that include instructions on “ the investigation of individuals who patronize or solicit human trafficking victims as being engaged in severe trafficking in persons and how such individuals should be investigated for their roles in severe trafficking in persons,” among other things. This means you’re likely to see DHS, which was originally developed to fight terrorism, either leading or getting involved in more john stings.

2. Reporting Requirements. HR. 2200, Sec. 121. Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) Demand Reduction Strategies in the United States.

Another mechanism to push these strategies are to ask for them as part of reporting requirements, especially for grant funded programs. Sec. 121 required Department of Justice-funded, Federal Anti-Trafficking Task Forces to report on “strategies and tactics” to address demand. Like any other grant application, the metrics often determine the activities, which encourages Task Forces to engage in demand-related activities. And while this is broad enough to cover demand for other areas of industry, Task forces are led by law enforcement partners — mostly police departments — and not ethical consumer campaigns.

3. Strategic Planning. S. 1311, Sec. 9 (Cornyn, R-TX) Improving the national strategy to combat human trafficking.

Lastly, one other way the Federal government can push Demand instead of anti-trafficking efforts is through their strategic planning process. The Attorney’s General, the chief cop in the US, is already required to develop and report on a strategic plan to fight trafficking. This section says that the AG strategy now has to include something about reduced demand. And once again, you shouldn’t ask cops to reduce corporate demand for non-transparent supply chains. Expect the new strategy to talk about stings, not the shrimping industry.

End Demand plays out in local venues but federal law enforcement is getting more and more involved. During the Super Bowl in Atlanta this year, they overstepped local police to do a range of john stings under the guise of “anti-trafficking.” If nothing else, this points some of the ways that End Demand is showing up more and more on the federal level, and why we should be reaching out to our Reps to let them know the damage this causes. Find your Rep here and write them an email to let them know the harms of these policies.

Helpful Background Docs on End Demand’s Impact:

Global Network of Sex Worker Projects, The Impact of ‘End Demand’ Policies on Sex Workers

Freedom Network USA’s End Demand Fact Sheet

Open Society Foundation, The False Promise of End Demand Laws

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