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The Power of One-Plus-Many Produced Historic Anti-Trafficking Legislation

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

On December 10, 2008, Congress passed historic anti-trafficking legislation. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) passed both the House and the Senate within several hours. That timely victory was more than two years in the making and represents the triumph of one man’s passion and a broad coalition’s power.

It is safe to say that the legislation would not exist without the whole-hearted passion and the incredible commitment, dedication, skill and determination of Michael Horowitz, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, who has for over a decade presided over a loose, broad-based coalition of left-right activists who unite in opposition to human slavery and exploitation but differ on almost every other issue. Keeping that group of diverse leaders united and focused is in itself a monumental accomplishment, but satisfying the different expectations required a level of expertise that is rare indeed.

It is also safe to say that the legislative victory would have been impossible without the grassroots involvement of organizations like Concerned Women for America and the Southern Baptist Convention — two conservative groups that have been intimately and extensively involved in the nitty-gritty lobbying and negotiating that were essential to passage of the legislation. It is rare for conservative groups to get headlines for their involvement in what is commonly referred to as “social justice” issues, yet CWA, the Southern Baptists, and the Salvation Army, along with many other evangelical organizations, are usually found in the trenches when such battles are being waged, whether domestically or internationally. Certainly, in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation and labor slavery, conservative leaders are essential to success.

Further, this legislation is an outstanding achievement of the Bush Administration, who first called the crime of human trafficking “modern-day slavery.” From the outset, President George W. Bush was an outspoken champion of those who are sexually exploited and used as a commercial commodity. He spoke at the United Nations and on national broadcasts about the necessity for protecting those women and girls who are entrapped by the criminal networks who traffic in human beings. No doubt, President Bush’s support of anti-trafficking efforts will be a major legacy of the Bush Administration.

Ironically, Bush, a Southern evangelical, depended upon a Jewish strategist to seal the deal on his trafficking and other social justice initiatives. Michael Horowitz is totally unrelenting in pushing for causes that involve human exploitation — whether it happens in North Korea, in brothels and dives around the world, in hovels of the worst poverty-stricken ghettoes of international disgrace, in diplomat’s homes in D.C. suburbs, or in truck stops and back alleys of American cities. Michael keeps pushing — even when he is ruffling feathers or attacking those who slack off in the endeavor. He is single-minded in defense of the vulnerable and perceptive in seizing the opportunity for political advantage. His skill in brokering legislative victories is unparalleled.

The specifics of the TVPRA were hammered out by Michael and a wide variety of experts — including both of the Directors of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office (TIP), Ambassadors John Miller and Mark Lagon — in hours-long sessions over months and months of discussions and negotiations. The inevitable compromises and changes in language necessary for acceptance were the result of Michael phoning and meeting with various involved parties dozens and dozens of times over the past two to three years. Three senior House staff members received many of those phone calls — David Abramowitz, Bobby Vassar and Lou Debaca — and provided leadership and expertise in the negotiating process. The impetus and passion for the bill’s passage came from Michael’s demanding phone calls and e-mails that pushed and shoved, praised and cajoled. The wide disparities between various interested parties and the divergent members of the coalition were brought together by Michael’s vision for unity in a cause bigger than any of our individual organizational missions.

The TVPRA represents democracy at its best — American people coming together to help protect the most vulnerable among us and to ensure the triumph of the righteous over those who would engage in evil purposes against those who are desperate and at the mercy of people to whom much has been given.

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