Each summer, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons hosts an event on human trafficking for interns working in the Washington, D.C. area. This year, the theme was "A Call to Action: Unconventional Approaches to Combat Modern Slavery." The event highlighted different ways students can incorporate the fight to combat modern slavery into their future careers. The goal was to convey to the students that no matter what their background, their academic experience, or their professional goals, they too can contribute to the fight against human trafficking.
The event began with remarks from Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Luis CdeBaca. Ambassador CdeBaca created the intern event five years ago, in an effort to engage Washington’s future leaders in the issue of human trafficking. This year, the Ambassador’s address focused on the idea of transition from intern to colleague. He explained that it was important for there to be a dialogue in Washington between established professionals and interns, as the students sitting in the audience would be the next generation of leaders in Washington. Ambassador CdeBaca closed his address with a call to action, explaining to the audience that the victims of trafficking are out there, hopeful, fighting for their freedom and their right to rebuild their lives. It is now up to us to help and support them in their struggle for human dignity.
The roundtable included two distinguished speakers: Ambassador Susan Esserman, partner at international law firm Steptoe & Johnson and former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative under the Clinton Administration, and Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) David Rogers from the FBI. Ambassador Esserman explained that several years ago on a business trip she was approached about representing trafficking victims in India. She returned to the United States with a new awareness of human trafficking and, upon further investigation, was horrified to find that not only was trafficking a huge issue in the United States, but it occurred not far from her home in Bethesda, Maryland. Ambassador Esserman has since donated a great deal of her time to doing pro bono work on behalf of victims of trafficking. During the roundtable she encouraged future law students in the audience to attend law schools that have anti-trafficking curricula and initiatives, current law students to apply their skills and knowledge to the cause, and all students to find a way to incorporate fighting trafficking into their career, even if it is not their main focus.
Rogers spoke passionately about his work in fighting trafficking with the FBI. He explained the victim-centered approach, focusing on rescuing and restoring victims first and foremost, and his efforts to educate his fellow law enforcement agents, and others involved in anti-trafficking, on the importance of this approach. He explained that fighting trafficking is not about arresting the most people; it is about restoring human dignity to the victims of modern slavery. He also commented that law enforcement was one small part of the crusade against human trafficking; numerous professionals, from advocates, to social workers, to medical professionals, are needed to halt this crime and rescue victims, and he urged students to find their calling and find their own personal way of contributing.