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The Story from San Antonio: Our Latest Human Trafficking Tragedy

It’s cruel irony that this week’s deadly human trafficking story comes shortly before the World Day Against Trafficking.

The news of immigrants dying of heat exhaustion and extreme dehydration while trapped in the back of a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas reminded me of some of the worst stories I heard while serving on President Obama’s Advisory Council for Faith-based and Neighborhood Initiatives.

Serving on the Council opened my eyes to the scope of human trafficking. There are nearly 21 million victims worldwide, and they are abused for all sorts of purposes, namely forced labor and prostitution.

United Way’s Center on Human Trafficking and Slavery, founded in the wake of my experience on the Council, is committed to ending this form of modern day slavery. As I said earlier this year, there are important steps we can – and must – take.

One is for everyone to advocate on behalf of tougher anti-trafficking efforts by governments in all corners of the world. Trafficking, as seen once again this week, isn’t happening “somewhere else.” It’s happening all around us. We all have a responsibility.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act. The measure provides critical continued support for U.S. anti-trafficking efforts, but we must do more. Funding for anti-trafficking programs remains dangerously low.

This September, United Way will convene our 2nd Annual Business Leadership Forum, where we will engage with business leaders to fight back against human trafficking. Increasingly, businesses are stepping forward to rid their supply chains of labor exploitation and fight sex trafficking. More than 100 business leaders are expected at the forum to share best practices.

In San Antonio, the victims reportedly took turns breathing through a hole in the truck in an attempt to survive. Human trafficking is cruel. It’s terrible. And it has no place in our society.

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