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IJM's Gary Haugen Testifies on Slavery Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Today, IJM President and CEO Gary Haugen testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing entitled "Ending Modern Slavery: What is the Best Way Forward?"

Haugen's testimony outlined the importance of ending impunity for perpetrators in the fight against modern day slavery. He fielded questions from Foreign Relations Chairman Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and other distinguished members of the committee who share an interest in putting an end to the horrors of human trafficking and forced labor.

Other witnesses at the hearing included Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau, Humanity United VP of Policy and Government Relations David Abramowitz, Challening Heights Founder James Kofi Annan and trafficking survivor Shandra Woworuntu.

You can read Gary Haugen's full testimony here. To catch up on highlights from the hearing, check out our live blog below:

9:36 AM - Hearing begins. Senator Corker (Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee) in his opening remarks: Modern forms of slavery thrive where the rule of law is weakest...Women and girls are especially vulnerable ... children account for 26% of victims.

Senator Menendez says in his opening remarks that human one of the greatest moral challenges of our time. NGOs and civil society have been doing what they can, and businesses and government should do more to help.

9:41 AM - IJM President and CEO Gary Haugen will begin his testimony.

9:43 AM - Gary's testimony begins.

1. Slavery is as brutal as ever. Violence is still at the core of slavery.

2. Slavery is more vast than ever.

3. Slavery is more stoppable than ever.

9:45 AM - Slavery exists on a vast scale for only one reason: impunity.

When impunity ends, the vast majorit of slavery goes away. Slavery is a crime of opportunity, which means it's highly responsive to risk.

At IJM, we've proven that it is possible to stop slavery.

9:50 AM - I believe it's possible like never before for the United States to lead ... and when you do that ... then slavery will be swept into the dustbin of history where it belongs.

9:52 AM - Shawna Bader-Blau (Solidarity Center) testifies.

Focusing on forced labor: we need protective space for migrants. We need to end impunity for traffickers. "Lawmakers can make forced labor and modern slavery an issue on the table and negotiate improvements in law and practices."

9:58 AM - Senator Corker: "I believe with U.S. leadership ... this [slavery] is an issue that we can lead and solve and we can bring others to the table."

10:00 AM - Gary Haugen responds to Senator Corker's question on how to build a model in a different community to combat slavery.

"You need to understand the perpetrators: what will make them unable to do this? You restore hope to the system and law enforcement can actually do its job."

10:04 AM - We can now go into communities and do prevalence studies. We can know whether there is an increase in justice system enforcement and a decrease in the prevalence of slavery. This is the huge development that now gives us a moment in history to actually get rid of slavery.

10:09 AM - Senator Menendez asks about winning government collaboration and cooperation, and raises the huge challenge of protecting people from trafficking in conflict zones.

Gary Haugen mentions the importance of building political will and involving the public and private sectors to apply pressure and encourage cooperation.

10:17 AM - Shawna Bader-Blau of Solidarity Center: The United States can do so much more to address the recruitment fee problem [for migrant workers]. We must address debt bondage and supply chains to really address slavery.

10:22 AM - Senator Risch asks about how to create change in corrupt police departments.

Gary Haugen and Shawna Bader-Blau respond: When corrupt officers start going to jail, and the rewards go to the police who are actually enforcing the law and doing their jobs, transformation happens and the department sees a shift toward a police unit that is truly functional.

10:25 AM - Senator Cardin: "Whenever I have a foreign diplomat in my office, I always have a copy of the TIP (Trafficking in Persons) Report. How can we improve the TIP Report?"

"The TIP Report needs enhanced stature and suport from the U.S. government, to say this is not a document we're ashamed of ... strengthening the political stature of the TIP Report is what is going to make the difference for us." - Gary Haugen

"The TIP Report makes a real difference on the ground in the lives of real people ... the TIP Report could be more effective ... in the report, they have all of these fantastic suggestions, but they have very little resources to cary them out." - Shawna Bader-Blau

10:33 AM - Senator Isakson: Are traffickers taking advantage of people under Sharia law?

Shawna Bader-Blau: Trafficking takes place all over the world, the problem is really that when people employ domestic workers, they view them as people they can just lock away ... not seen or covered by labor laws. What is common is that the majority of domestic laborers around the world are women, and I would say that there is a gender issue.

Gary Haugen: I would add that all of these countries have forbidden slavery by law. And if we can enforce these laws, that will have a great impact for all victims of trafficking.

10:43 AM - Senator Garnder brings the discussion to examine trafficking within the U.S. Gary Haugen and Shawna Bader-Blau agree that it is imperative for the U.S. to lead by example and address the issue domestically, too.

Gary Haugen - The problem is the enforcement mechanism. What we have to realize is that you are more likely to be struck by lightning than to go to jail for your crimes in the countries with the most slaves. This issue requires sustained attention, because it preys upon those who have the least political influence.

Shawna Bader-Blau - There is a significant need to better monitor goods that are imported, that are made by forced labor.

Gary Haugen - We need data and analytics, and we'll need a coordinated international effort, and this is possible now.

Watch the full hearing here.

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