Advocating on Captial Hill for Victims of Trafficking




RICHMOND, VA (June 12, 2013) – Richmond resident, Sara Pomeroy returned home late Tuesday evening from Washington D.C. after meetings with the Virginia Congressional delegation. Sara was among 250 individuals from 40 states who took part in a day of advocacy organized by human rights agency International Justice Mission (IJM).  Participants met with more than 210 Congressional offices to build support for strong U.S. policies to combat trafficking and slavery at home and abroad.

 Pomeroy and fellow advocates from Virginia advocated for passage of the “Human Trafficking Prioritization Act,” which elevates the authority of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office—a U.S. government agency dedicated to combating human trafficking.  U.S. citizens’ interest in eradicating slavery has kept the issue high on the political agenda in Washington for the past decade.  In recent years, the existence of proven anti-slavery models has equipped advocates with data and success stories to encourage Members of Congress and Senators from across the political spectrum to support increased investment in anti-trafficking programs.

 Human Trafficking has been, for me, a 3.5 year long fight and this day was a huge victory in what will be a long, hard fight in years to come on a local and federal level. I was encouraged to have over 40 other Virginian’s join me at the Capitol and I expect there will be even more during Virginia General Session. I know that people in Richmond care about modern-day slavery, but we often feel overwhelmed by the problem. Knowing that it is possible to combat crime has given me the confidence to advocate for strong policies and funding with our elected leaders in government,” said Pomeroy.           

 All government agencies have faced budget cuts in the face of sequestration, making citizen support for US government programs to combat slavery more important than ever. “When it comes to fighting human trafficking, a relatively small amount of money goes an extremely long way,” said Holly Burkhalter, vice president of government relations at IJM.  “The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons office makes grants that save lives and build international capacity to end human trafficking. The office should be made a full-fledged State Department Bureau, in order to best represent the interests of the most vulnerable people in the world – slaves and trafficking victims.”

 Organizations like IJM are seeing significant improvements in public justice systems protecting the poor and preventing slavery, even over short periods of time.  In just four years of collaboration with local authorities in Cebu, the Philippines, IJM has seen the number of minors available in the commercial sex trade reduced by 79 percent. Private investment by for IJM’s anti-slavery work in India has enabled a dramatic expansion of the organization’s work there from 9 to 50 states in the country, resulting in the freeing of nearly 1,000 bonded labors in just ten months.

 “There is much work to be done, and this urgent, transformative work is worthy of U.S. government investment,” said Pomeroy. “I am hopeful that the success we had today on the hill will be a reflection of future success in Virginia General Assembly.

 IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals secure justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. In the past year alone, IJM has brought rescue to more than 2,400 victims of violence and injustice. For more information about International Justice Mission visit