Annick Febrey, IJM's Legislative Affairs Manager, and I had the honor of meeting with Samantha Power, Special Assistant to President Obama on Human Rights and Multilateral Affairs and her deputy, Rob Berschinski, on Wednesday, February 22. We proudly presented a letter with more than 29,000 signatures, asking the President to take the lead in ending modern-day slavery at home and abroad. We were joined by Julie Fernandez, Director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST).
We had a serious and substantive conversation. Ms. Power is familiar with the work of IJM, having visited IJM field offices in Kenya and the Philippines as a journalist before beginning her work at the White House. Annick and I pressed on the importance of the President acknowledging and scaling up models of “what works” in combating slavery.
We also discussed IJM’s Project Lantern model in the Philippines. That Gates-funded program supported IJM’s collaborative work with law enforcement and social welfare agencies in Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines. After four years of IJM’s collaborative casework, the availability of minor girls for sex plummeted by 79 percent.
We were very encouraged by the interest expressed by the President’s senior staff in things that the Administration can do to contribute to slavery eradication at home and abroad. While tight federal budgets make the likelihood of major new funding for anti-trafficking programs unlikely, the President has unrivaled convening authority. We are hopeful that with the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation approaching, the President will provide new leadership to address this age-old crime against children, women and men.
Thank you to those of you who signed the letter and made it possible for us to demonstrate how much Americans care about ending slavery once and for all. IJM is continuing to collect signatures on the letter to the President, and we plan to deliver these new signatures to the White House in a few weeks. With your help, we hope to blow our original goal of 27,000 signatures out of the water. Please sign the letter and help us spread the word so we can deliver a message to the President that is loud and clear: Americans want to see an end to modern-day slavery in our lifetime!
Holly Burkhalter is the Vice President of Government Relations at International Justice Mission. IJM's Justice Campaigns mobilizes people around the country in support of U.S. policies that will lead to the abolition of human trafficking and modern-day slavery.