Presidential Elections and Human Trafficking: Positions and Actions

With the presidential elections heating up and the primaries taking center stage in the media, it is important to know where contenders stand on the issue of human trafficking. While trafficking has yet to be mentioned in the democratic and republican debates, many of the candidates have taken a stance, some more explicit than others, to fight human trafficking. We use this blog post as a platform to lay out the candidates’ various positions.

Democratic Candidates

Bernie Sanders: Bernie Sanders has long supported actions to eradicate human trafficking. In 2000, he proposed an amendment supporting funding to anti-human trafficking efforts, which was later signed into law. On the campaign trail, Sanders has proclaimed that he will “try to stop human trafficking,” and has recently released a campaign video entitled, “Tenemos Familias,” which highlights the struggle of workers in Immokalee, FL and his participation in their fight for just labor practices.

Hillary Clinton: Similar to Sanders, Clinton has long been an anti-trafficking advocate. In her role as Secretary of State, Clinton shed light on trafficking on the domestic front byincorporating the U.S. for the first time in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.  She furthermore launched humanrights.gov, which works to hold governments accountable regarding various human rights abuses, including trafficking in persons. Clinton has written several op-eds on human trafficking that have had international acclaim.

Republican Candidates

Donald Trump: While Trump has not overtly addressed the issue of sex trafficking, he is the closest candidate to having benefitted from the industry. His grandfather’s wealth was the product of a series of restaurant-brothels along the west coast. While his grandfather’s actions may not define his position on sex trafficking, Trump’s history of misogyny and objectificationmay illustrate his position.

Ted Cruz: Similar to Trump, Cruz has not addressed the issue of trafficking. In 2013, he voted against amendments to the Violence against Women Act (1994), which expanded on the law to provide protections to gay and Native American Women, two populations with greater risk of being trafficked. This, along with his notorious anti-woman stance, may point to his position on trafficking.

John Kasich: Unlike the other two republican candidates, Kasich has made efforts to combat trafficking. In 2014 as Ohio Governor, Kasich signed into law a bill making it a felony to buy sex from any individual under 16 years of age or with a developmental disability. Known as the End Demand Act, the law aims to treat underage individuals as victims of trafficking rather than labeling them as criminals.

At the beginning of this year, United Way launched the Presidential Campaign, urging all presidential candidates to address the issue of trafficking on the trail and in their budgets. The Campaign calls for putting an equivalent amount of money towards combatting trafficking in comparison to the amount that traffickers profit from trafficking. According to Mara Kelly, executive director of the United Way Center on Human Trafficking and Slavery, “If traffickers are making $150 billion a year in profits, how much are we going to spend to make it a fair fight?” Although trafficking has not been overtly addressed in debates, it is clear that some candidates are more prepared to tackle the issue.

Regardless of who you vote for, make sure your presidential candidate has anti-trafficking efforts on the forefront of their platform.

Firas Nasr is the Director of Communications at Human Trafficking Search.

Video Credit: Bernie Sanders Campaign