Nov. 14, 2023, WASHINGTON, DC – International Justice Mission’s Regional President for Latin America, Pablo Villeda, testified today before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security. Villeda shared his personal experience as a Guatemalan native and how IJM’s success in combatting sex trafficking of children in the Dominican Republic can be replicated in other countries.
Villeda’s testimony also illuminated the reality of physical and sexual violence faced by millions of women and children in their homes and communities across Latin America.
“I grew up [in Guatemala] in safety, free from fear of crime, but that was not the experience of millions of others. I witnessed this when I worked as a law clerk in the Guatemalan court system – those living in poverty did not have real access to justice,” said Villeda. “In my work at IJM, I have personally met many survivors of violence who expect little protection from their justice systems.”
In his written testimony, Villeda described IJM’s work in the Dominican Republic, which helped reduce the prevalence of children involved in sex trafficking by 78%, and Guatemala, where arrests, accusations, and convictions have more than quadrupled in recent years.
“When a justice system protects the most vulnerable, people are able to live peacefully within their own communities without needing to seek help and opportunities elsewhere,” said Villeda. “Our experience is evidence of this.”
Villeda urged Congress to take specific actions:
- Sustain and deepen U.S. partnerships with and investment in local governments in Latin America to help strengthen public justice systems.
- Encourage increased U.S. diplomatic efforts with the government of Honduras to address violence against women and children, in partnership with civil society organizations.
- Reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to maintain U.S. influence in combatting trafficking worldwide.
“IJM’s recent programmatic results in the Dominican Republic are yet another proof point that strengthened public justice systems can measurably reduce trafficking and violence in Latin American communities. Targeted U.S. foreign assistance from the State Department made that success possible,” said Nate King, IJM’s Director of Congressional Affairs. “We urge Congress to reauthorize the TVPA this year to ensure sustained U.S. leadership in combatting human trafficking globally.”
Other witnesses included Hon. John Richmond, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons; Dr. Jarrod Sadulski, Associate Professor at American Military University; and Terry Fitzpatrick, Director for the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST).
About International Justice Mission
International Justice Mission partners with local authorities in 31 program offices in 16 countries to combat slavery, violence against women and children and police abuse of power. IJM’s mission is to protect people in poverty from violence by rescuing victims, bringing criminals to justice, restoring survivors to safety and strength, and helping local law enforcement build a safe future that lasts. Learn more about IJM’s public policy and advocacy work.