Anti-Trafficking Laws and Other Ways to Combat Modern Slavery: Ambassador Luis CdeBaca Offers Insights

By Kovtun, Rita | MinnPost.com, November 25, 2013 | Go to article overview

Anti-Trafficking Laws and Other Ways to Combat Modern Slavery: Ambassador Luis CdeBaca Offers Insights


Kovtun, Rita, MinnPost.com


As the world celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the battle against human trafficking, a form of modern- day slavery, continues to wage on as an estimated 27 million trafficking victims worldwide are being held against their will. With initiatives such as the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Act going into effect in Minnesota in 2014 -- which Sen. Amy Klobuchar recently announced she plans to take to the national scale -- and the No Wrong Door model to help young victims of sex trafficking, for which lawmakers approved $2.8 million, things may be looking up.

Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, of the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, is the leader the government has entrusted to coordinate this effort on the national level. CdeBaca, who grew up in Iowa, has dedicated his career to fighting modern-day slavery. Even with major achievements - - he served as lead trial counsel in the largest slavery prosecution, United States v. Kil Soo Lee, in U.S. history; helped pass the 2000 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act [PDF], the first initiative to address trafficking in the country; and served as an integral part of developing the United States' victim-centered approach to combating trafficking -- CdeBaca realizes there is still much work left to do.

On a recent Minnesota trip to speak at a Women's Foundation of Minnesota conference, CdeBaca found time -- between visits with the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center and the Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force, and talks at the William Mitchell College of Law and the U of M's Humphrey School of Public Affairs -- to talk with MinnPost last week, sharing his insights about anti- trafficking legislation, the victim-centered approach and ways everyone can do their part to fight against human slavery. Here is a condensed version of the conversation.

MinnPost: To start off with a current event, what insight can you offer regarding Sen. Amy Klobuchar's announcement to take Minnesota's Safe Harbor law national?

Ambassador Luis CdeBaca: I haven't seen the final legislation yet, but my sense is that she's looking to have the Justice Department and others give technical assistance to states so they will adopt the Safe Harbor laws, and that she'll have some financial incentive for the states. There's program funding that they would cease to get if they didn't do these laws. I can't speak to that approach - it's not something that we at the State Department would be in the middle of - but I think the overarching approach, which is to try to take the Safe Harbor law and get it out there into the public consciousness and move it across the country, is definitely an idea that this time has come, and I'm glad to see that Sen. Klobuchar would do that. I think she has the experience from having been a prosecutor herself. She's very pragmatic, yet this is really kind of a wide-open type of thinking; rather than just kind of let it trickle out over time, why not juice it a little bit with some federal effort behind it.

What I think will end up happening, and this is the good thing, is there'll be 50 different solutions that hopefully will be specific to the needs of the particular states. A one-size-fits-all situation is good for the concept of Safe Harbor, but I do think every state has a different Child Protective Services system, for instance, so the interplay between the Safe Harbor law and Child Protective Services might have to look different in Florida or Mississippi than it does here in Minnesota. That's going to be the challenge.

MP: As part of the Safe Harbor legislation, the No Wrong Door model, introduced this past January, secured $2.8 million of the $13.5 million its advocates requested. How effective will No Wrong Door be in addressing the problem of trafficking in Minnesota?

LC: It goes to what I said about the interplay between systems. It looks at the fact that it shouldn't matter whether the kid presents as a drug-addicted or a runaway homeless youth, or sexual- abuse victim or any of those things. …

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