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Rubio: How to Fight Human Trafficking

Each day, innocent people are being trafficked in Florida, across the U.S. and around the world. It’s hard to imagine slavery like this still exists today, but it does. Fortunately, greater public awareness and improved law-enforcement efforts have helped combat the problem, save countless victims, and bring human traffickers to justice. But there is much more work to be done, at home and abroad.

Today, the U.S. State Department released its 2014 Trafficking In Persons Report, which highlights the prevalence of the problem globally and rates foreign governments’ efforts to combat it. This important report breaks down in detail the nature of a problem that is estimated to affect almost 21 million people worldwide who are now in forced labor, of whom 4.5 million are being sexually exploited.

This year, Venezuela, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Gambia were singled out by our State Department for their particularly atrocious records on human trafficking. Many more were chided for not doing enough to combat this problem within their borders, while others were commended for taking important actions to protect their citizens.

Documenting and highlighting all of this is essential, but the truly important work begins now that the report has been released. We must use every tool at our disposal to apply pressure on problem countries to change. We must shame those who deserve it, and praise and support those who are fighting the problem. We should condition our foreign assistance in part on the effectiveness of other countries’ efforts to protect victims and punish traffickers.

Over time, we have also learned that human trafficking exists among foreign diplomats based in the U.S. We must put pressure on diplomats and their governments to crack down on this particular problem by seeking waivers of diplomatic immunity for offending officials and suspending A-3/G-5 guest-worker visa programs for countries who use these visas to commit trafficking crimes. This matters because we must make clear that the U.S. will stand up for the human rights of every man, woman and child on earth — especially when such barbaric acts are being committed on our soil, and even if it makes foreign governments squirm.

Of course, with the growing crisis at our southwest border involving unaccompanied minors traveling to the U.S. in violation of our immigration laws, we need to reaffirm our commitment to enforcing laws that are not only designed to protect our rights as a sovereign nation but also discourage dangerous efforts like these. Human traffickers and drug cartels prey on people just like the children massing at our southern border. Our government must work with foreign governments in Central America to make sure people are discouraged from making endangering their lives and putting them at risk of being trafficked.

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