News From Washington - April 2011 shield arrow-simple-alt-top arrow-simple-alt-left arrow-simple-alt-right arrow-simple-alt-bottom facebook instagram linkedin medium pinterest rss search-alt twitter video-play arrow-long-right arrow-long-left arrow-long-top arrow-long-bottom arrow-simple-right arrow-simple-left arrow-simple-bottom readio arrow-simple-top speaker-down plus minus cloud hb pin camera globe cart rotate star edit arrow-top arrow-right arrow-left arrow-bottom check search close square speaker-up speaker-mute return play pause love

News From Washington - April 2011

April 2011

As the "Battle of the Budget" wore on in Congress earlier this month, we at International Justice Mission had a particular reason to be anxious about the impasse. One hundred and twenty-six friends of IJM from around the U.S. were planning to join us in Washington on Monday, April 11 to meet with their elected Senators, Members of Congress, and their legislative aides. IJM staff had worked for months to secure 130 meetings at which these passionate local advocates would convey their support for the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ("the TIP Office"). But if a budget wasn't passed by midnight on Friday, April 9, the government would close, Congressional offices would be closed to the public, and we would miss the opportunity to share this critical message in person.

At approximately two hours past the deadline, Congress reached agreement on a temporary budget that would fund the government for the coming week. Nobody in Congress was feeling particularly celebratory after a week of pitched battle, but you can bet I was! House and Senate doors would be open Monday morning, and our message would be heard!

Thus did a huge group of anti-slavery activists, including pastors, students, businesspeople, teachers, stay-at-home mothers and IJM staff descend on Congress. We came from more than 30 different states, but we each had a personal reason to be concerned about modern-day slavery. We wanted our elected representatives to know that, even in the current budget crisis, the United States should not weaken or reduce its tools for confronting the $32 billion global crime of human trafficking.

Judging from the reports that came back from Advocacy Day participants, legislators and their aides received IJM advocates warmly and listened closely to their appeals on behalf of the TIP Office and its vital work to combat slavery. This small office, whose $22 million budget for overseas grants is vastly eclipsed by the size of the problem, is nonetheless one of the best bargains in Washington. The TIP Office funds programs to rescue slaves, bring health and healing to victims, and assist governments in preventing the crime by apprehending and prosecuting pimps, brothel owners and traffickers.

Knowing, in this time of major cutbacks in U.S. spending, that the TIP Office's small budget might be vulnerable to cuts, we did some comparisons between TIP's budget and other things that U.S. taxpayers fund.

Consider this:

  • The U.S. Government's monthly budget for military bands is twice the TIP Office's yearly budget. ($42.5 million/month on military bands versus $21.4 million/year in TIP Office programs.)
  • More money is spent in a single month fighting the "War on Drugs" than all domestic and international anti-trafficking programming in the last decade. ($15.3 billion in 2010 vs. $815 million).
  • Congress responds to what Americans make a priority. Friends of IJM told their elected leaders loud and clear that ending slavery in our lifetimes matters to them personally. We hope Congress is listening.

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