Thank you, Madam Secretary, for this honor and for this opportunity. And thank you to my wife, Lorena Chambers, and my family for your support as I have tried to serve the cause of justice.
Madam Secretary, I am eager to assist with your effort to call the world’s attention to the horrors of modern-day slavery. It is a cruel manifestation of violence against women and other vulnerable communities. It violates our most deeply held principle as a Nation, the right to freedom. It is an issue that is hard to confront. But because of your leadership, the United States did not avert its gaze.
Because of your work, many here today participated in the first efforts at interagency coordination, those unfunded task forces, those NGO roundtables. We learned that protections and prevention efforts had to be fully incorporated. We learned how traffickers have an uncanny sense of how to use coercion to fill the demand for sex or cheap goods.
And so Congress gave us much-needed tools to bring this fight into the modern era. Over a decade later, those lessons have taken hold among the community of nations, and international partners are working in concert to abolish modern slavery.
Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has said that Emancipation was not a one-time event, but is instead a living promise, written in the blood of all who have served in bondage. It is a promise that we must deliver on every day. It is not easy, but we must deliver.
These cases are life-changing. Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor once told me that his legal career was forever marked by the men he met as a young Legal Aid lawyer; men who had been enslaved through the age-old “company store” scheme. Border Patrol Agent-in-Charge Mike Baron taught me how satisfying agents find “wearing the white hat,” to work cooperatively with immigration advocates.
Lest anyone wonder why this is an important issue for the United States, let me read to you from a letter written to a federal judge by a survivor:
We are all doing much better now, for we know that [the bosses] will be punished. We believe in justice to judge them for hurting other human beings and ruining other lives.
After all, I learned a lot about how the justice can be done in America. Now I tell myself that I am just going to work hard. I will be a good citizen in America. I know that would be [the] only way that I can somehow pay something back to America. For my gratitude to everyone who helped us, I owe that to America.
I sincerely give my extended gratefulness to the Government of the United States. They gave us love without expecting anything in return. They showed us their love. They cared about us. They truly helped us regain our dignities.
It is humbling to think that this brave woman feels that she
owes a duty to America – the country in which she was enslaved.
Actually, I think that we owe her a reciprocal duty – to be impatient. Every day that people toil in bondage must frustrate us.
For me, I am impatient because there are thousands of people like her who we don’t know about. I hope that everyone here is equally impatient.
We must not only be impatient, we must be united. If together we harness that passion, we can help people escape and recover. If together we attack the root causes of this crime, we can prevent the enslavement from happening in the first place.
Madam Secretary, you call our attention to the existence of modern slavery and the living promise of freedom. The Trafficking Office will make good on that commitment with effective reporting, sustainable programs, innovative partnerships, and interagency coordination.
Honored Guests, we will not be shy about reaching out to all of you to pitch in.
And Family, thank you all for your patience, and your support.
Thank you all.