Senators Robert Casey, Jr., Al Franken, and Rob Portman became co-sponsors of the TVPRA yesterday. Their participation now means that fully 27 US Senators are co-sponsoring the Federal Government's best weapon and support in the fight against slavery. That means that more than 1/4 of the US Senate is now sponsoring the bill -- that's almost triple the number where this began at the end of September when Congress allowed the 2008 TVPRA to lapse. So keep those phone calls and e-mails going!
With so many Senators participating, however, I decided it was time to take a look at who was helping and a look at who is absent. Interestingly, both senators from the great states of Massachusets, California, Minnesota, Florida, Ohio, and New York have become co-sponsors of the Federal Government's best weapon and best support in the fight to end human slavery. The Library of Congress, unfortunately, does not break the sponsors' names down by political party, but maybe blog readers can comment on whether the effort has crossed party lines in the Senate as it has in the House. Certainly, each of those states mentioned has been touched by slavery cases which made national headlines, so their senators' support in this fight is understandable.
But that got me to thinking: who is missing that should not be missing? In other words, what senators are ignoring those high profile cases which have occurred in the cities and towns of their constituents. Naturally, given that I live in Iowa, I am very disappointed that neither Senator Harkin nor Senator Grassley has chosen to support the law. I suppose our esteemed senators are simply unaware of the US vs. Bowie case, which originated in Cedar Rapids and was one of the earliest successful prosecutions in the United States with respect to modern day slavery. Then I got to thinking a bit more (always dangerous). Both Senator Harkin and Senator Grassley must never have heard of what happened here in the QCA with the Eagles' warehouse, must not be familiar with the Williamsburg Sex Ring, must have overlooked the Leonard Ray Russell case in Denison, and must have not noticed the husband and wife in Decorah who held girls captive for sex, the sex slaves in Council Bluffs, and even those that had been enslaved in Postville. Of course, with so many successful prosecution in so many different parts of the state, one can begin to wonder what exactly the two are doing to help eliminate human slavery if these cases have gone unnoticed by them or their staffers. With so many successful prosecutions under either the Iowa law against Human Trafficking or the TVPRA (depending upon the case), one would think that both would find the time to join us in the fight. But, maybe they think these cases eliminated slavery in its entirety in Iowa.
Of course, the Iowa delegation is not the only one acting in a confusing manner. Neither Senator from South Carolina has chosen to join this fight. I mention the oddity of that fact simply because of the case of Miguel Flores and infamous "Red Camp" located near Manning. Though the case was finally prosecuted in October 1996, authorities had been aware of some of the atrocities since at least 1993. For almost 4 years, the case languished as prosecutor after prosecutor was assigned to the case. Though, once the facts became known by the mid 90's, these camps were located in SC, GA, and FL and housed between 400-500 slaves, the government was painfully slow to act. Witness interviews were scheduled at times convenient only for the prosecutors who, get this, were surprised the slaves could not always get free to come in when the appointments were scheduled. When the defendants in the case finally pled guilty in the spring of 1997 to various charges, the case was acknowledged nationally as the largest contemporary case of Agricultural slavery in the three decades leading up. Maybe the senators from SC think that the successful prosecution eliminated all human trafficking from SC and so they do not need to be bothered.
Also conspicuous by their absence are the senators from New Jersey. Although there have been other cases, the Hondoran sex ring that was busted in late summer of 2006 comes to mind. This ring was infamous in the number of minor girls that were brought to Hudson County and for the conditions in which the slaves were expected to work and to live. Luckily for the sisters who were trafficking the Hondoran girls, they found a prosecutor that allowed them to plead guilty to charges of harboring and smuggling illegal aliens, forced labor, and conspiracy. Had they been prosecuted under the TVPRA, the penalties would have been far more severe. Bad timing for the criminals, I suppose. Had they been busted in the past 18 days, the prosecutors couldn't even threaten some of the TVPRA penalties because Congress has allowed the law to lapse!
Other states' senators are completely missing from the list of co-sponsors of the TVPRA. Maybe Alaska's senators have forgotten about the Chugiak man who brought Russian women and girls into the country and forced them to dance nude at a local strip club. But where are Texas' senators? West Virginia's? Virginia's? Oklahoma's? The list could go on. As of today, October 18, only 19 states have senators committed to fighting slavery. Have yours joined the fight? Or do they choose to let slavery thrive in your communities?