Special Reports

Ideas from the experts: Jolene Smith of Free the Slaves

The Kansas City Star asked top human trafficking experts across the country to identify ways to improve America’s anti-slavery efforts at home. Their responses were edited for length. Among them was Jolene Smith CEO and co-founder of an anti-trafficking nonprofit called Free the Slaves:

“Nearly a year ago, the American people took a strong stand against slavery. During a time of great national worry — the financial crisis and rising unemployment — last December Congress passed and President Bush signed the toughest anti-trafficking law to ever exist in the United States.

“But the job is not done yet. Government officials can do very little unless funds are appropriated to implement the law. Appropriations bills are currently being considered by Congress. Once again, the American people need to take a strong stand against slavery by choosing to fund the programs included in the law. And once again, Congress is working on a number of competing priorities also vital to the interests of Americans.

“Now is the time for each of us to tell our congresspersons that combating slavery is a true priority. Slavery bundles together all the worst things about humanity: assault, kidnapping, torture, often rape. Now is our opportunity to demonstrate one of the best things about humanity: our ability to tell our democratically elected leaders to stand up for the freedom of people we will never meet.

“Or maybe we will. Cases of slavery have been found in our largest cities and our most rural areas. None of us wants slavery to happen anywhere, least of all in our own backyards. Tell Congress to fully fund the anti-trafficking law.”

Related stories from Kansas City Star