Human trafficking: America's new slavery? - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Human trafficking: America's new slavery?

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SINGER, LA (KPLC) -

When Singer resident Rusty Havens heard slavery was still an issue in the world, he said he was ready to pack his bags and ship out overseas to help fight the issue. 

"I was ready. I was going to go to Africa or Europe, or wherever, to do something," he said.

But he was shocked to hear that the issue was prevalent on his home turf, the United States of America.

"That just broke my heart," Havens said. "I knew I had to do something."

After researching and learning about this "slavery" in the U.S., Havens learned that the term had taken on a slightly different meaning. He said it had a different look than the chains and shackles that people recall learning about in school. This slavery was in the form of human trafficking.

"There are 300,000 people going through human trafficking in this country alone," Havens said. "Furthermore, last year, the national human trafficking hotline received 161 cases from Louisiana alone."

While 161 cases may seem like a small number in relation to the state and country population, Havens said 161 is 161 too many.

Havens works as a grassroots organizer for the International Justice Mission, gaining backing throughout the state to support legislation that helps fund organizations like IJM. One of those pieces of legislation, one co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is the TVPRA, or Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Approved in 2000, TVPRA created the first comprehensive U.S. law to address human trafficking. There are many different provisions of the act including criminalizing the seizure of passports, establishing grant programs for states to combat trafficking and authorizing rapid response capacities at the Trafficking in Persons office in Washington, D.C. 

With TVPRA expiring in December, Havens is working in overdrive, making people aware of the need for legislation like it. He is hopeful that the act will be reauthorized next year.

"If TVPR goes away, that will be a huge setback for this fight," Havens said.

On 7News at 6, find out why Havens is so passionate about this fight. He'll share with us the things you can do each day to help end this modern-day slavery.

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