With just a few days effectively left in this session of Congress, as a grassroots organizer I feel like I'm in the middle of a political thriller, the movie preview for which would include that dramatic narration, "They had five days left to save thousands of lives."
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed the Child Protection Compact Act (CPCA) and will soon move the bill to the floor for a vote.
The CPCA would authorize $30 million over three-years to the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person's (TIP) for the purpose of eradicating child trafficking in target countries that have the will to tackle the crime but lack the resources. The TIP Office -- the nerve center of U.S. anti-trafficking efforts around the globe -- would direct the funds to shore up public justice systems so that local governments could effectively investigate crimes against children and prosecute perpetrators in numbers sufficient to deter and eventually eliminate the crime.
We know this model works. Independent data collectors found that from 2006 to 2010, as International Justice Mission (IJM) worked in partnership with local law enforcement, the number of underage girls on offer for sex in Metro Cebu, in the Philippines, plummeted by 79 percent.
Since the CPCA was introduced into the House by Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and in the Senate by Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), and Sam Brownback (R-KS), more than 1,000 Americans have met with their elected officials to advocate for the passage of the bill, and IJM's Government Relations department has delivered to Congress more than 65,000 postcards in support of the legislation that were collected at churches, schools, farmer's markets -- you name it. These efforts have translated into more than 100 co-sponsors in the House and nearly 20 in the Senate.
It's taken two years to get here. And now, there are only a few waning days left.
Imagine four days in the halls of Congress as House members are busily preparing to leave Washington, D.C. to return home to their districts to campaign for re-election.
Now imagine, if you can, four days as a 10-year-old boy enslaved in a brick kiln in India. Or four days as a parent of a 12-year-old girl in Thailand who has been tricked into leaving her village to work in a brothel.
There is very little time left in Washington, D.C., for the Senate to pass the CPCA. There is precious little time, then, to turn that bill to the House for passage, unless the House takes up the Senate version of the bill. There is little doubt that both bodies -- if given the chance -- would pass this bill into law.
In a political thriller, lives hang in the balance, and someone -- played by Denzel Washington or Julia Roberts -- leaps into action and, after a dramatic car chase or gun fight in a dark parking garage, takes the bad guys down and saves the lives of innocents, just in the nick of time. There is no doubt that the lives of innocents hangs in the balance right now -- as you read these words, millions of children live in bondage. The CPCA would provide funding, training, and rescue that could save some of them from having to spend any more time enslaved.
It will take a few political heroes to get this done, but they don't have to chase a car, fire a gun, or leap any tall buildings. In fact, they have to do a whole lot less than any one of the millions of slaves around the world today. All they have to do is pass the CPCA -- in the nick of time.
Eileen Campbell is the Director of Justice Campaigns at International Justice Mission.