Rep. Chris Smith
Rep. Chris Smith
WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., recently joined President Trump and other officials at the White House to mark the 20th year since the enactment of Smith’s landmark Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.

Smith, the long-time representative from New Jersey’s 4th Congressional District and member of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, said, “Human trafficking is a barbaric human rights abuse that thrives on greed, secrecy, a perverted sense of entitlement to exploit the vulnerable and an unimaginable disregard for the victims.”

Smith was recognized Jan. 31 during the White House Human Trafficking Summit.

“An estimated 25 million people around the world today are being held captive, manipulated, or abused by human traffickers,” President Trump said.

President Trump took the occasion to sign an Executive Order – Combating Human Trafficking And Online Child Exploitation In The United States – which declares that “it shall be the policy of the executive branch to prioritize its resources to vigorously prosecute offenders, to assist victims, and to provide prevention education to combat human trafficking and online sexual exploitation of children.”

Said Smith, “Twenty years ago, the U.S. Congress approved and the president signed the first-ever historic legislation that I authored – the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 – a comprehensive whole-of-government initiative to combat sex and labor trafficking in the United States and around the world.

“When I first introduced it, the legislation was met with a wall of skepticism and even opposition – dismissed by many as a solution in search of a problem. For most people at that time, the term trafficking applied almost exclusively to drugs and weapons, not human beings,” said the senior foreign policy lawmaker.

U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Callista Gingrich, was a main speaker along with Smith at the White House event, calling human trafficking a stain on all humanity that robs millions of people of dignity, and she told summit attendees that faith-based organizations have a key role to play because governments cannot act alone.

“Together, law enforcement agencies and faith-based organization help facilitate victim recovery, reintegration and criminal prosecution,” Gingrich said. “Here in the United States the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have a strong relationship with faith-based service organizations to provide safehouses for victims.”

“Human trafficking is a global crisis and requires a global solution across all sectors of society. Partnerships with faith-based organizations are critical in turning the tide,” she said. “Faith-based organizations serve as lifelines for some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, including victims of human trafficking. They have an unrivaled ability to build trust with survivors and to provide care and rehabilitation. Like the United States, the Holy See understands and appreciates the powerful role of faith-based organizations in eradicating modern day slavery.”

Gingrich said the Catholic Church works through its global network of 1.3 billion people, extending anti-trafficking grants to religious orders in 36 countries, and anti-trafficking courses to more than 2,000 sisters in 92 countries.