***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
August 24, 2020
BALTIMORE – Today, leaders from World Relief, International Justice Mission, World Vision U.S., Bethany Christian Services, the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and various other evangelical institutions sent a letter to Ivanka Trump, one of the administration’s most outspoken advocates for victims of human trafficking, urging the White House to protect vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who have been put at risk by the administration’s suspension of key provisions of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).
The TVPRA ensures that unaccompanied minors apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border be afforded due process, protecting them from harm – including threats like trafficking, persecution or other kinds of exploitation – and entrusting them to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, which manages a network of care providers, including many faith-based non-profit organizations. However, the protections afforded through the TVPRA have been halted since March due to health concerns related to the potential spread of COVID-19, leading to ongoing expulsion of unaccompanied minors who pose no safety nor health risks, sometimes after unregulated stays in hotels.
“We must not allow COVID-19 to serve as a pretext for abandoning our national commitment to standing for vulnerable children and against the scourge of human trafficking. Our faith compels us to speak up for these children,” the letter concludes.
“For a generation now, fighting human trafficking has been a core concern for evangelical Christians, drawing on the legacy of Christian abolitionists like William Wilberforce, for whom the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act was named,” commented Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief. “Evangelicals rightly advocated for provisions of this legislation that are designed to protect vulnerable, unaccompanied children, and cheered when President Bush signed the act into law in 2008. Our biblical convictions will not allow us to stay silent now as this law is flouted under the pretext of COVID-19. As a nation, we can and we must both protect public health and protect children from the threats of trafficking, violence and exploitation.”
Chris Palusky, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, said, “Motivated and guided by our faith, we at Bethany Christian Services are committed to protecting children and speaking out when their safety is threatened. We provide temporary foster homes and support for those the TVPRA was designed to protect – children and youth who have been victims of violence, trafficked or have watched family members be murdered before their eyes. To summarily return these children back into the arms of those who wish to harm them under the guise of protecting Americans from COVID-19 is a violation of our own laws and a stain on the conscience of our nation. Let us protect vulnerable children; we’re ready to serve.”
“IJM knows firsthand, from our frontlines work around the world, that children are uniquely vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. The TVPRA ensures that these precious unaccompanied children are protected from trafficking and exploitation through safe and secure placements directed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),” said Philip Langford, IJM U.S. president. “We urge the Administration to uphold the protections and care that our country has promised to deliver for these children as mandated in the TVPRA.”
“COVID-19 has exacerbated our national human trafficking crisis in various ways,” commented Shayne Moore, anti-trafficking fellow at Wheaton College’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute. “The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has reported a 200% increase at their call center. But in terms of trafficking risks to unaccompanied children, COVID-19 is the pretext, not the actual cause, of the disaster that has been unfolding for months. Our government, working with carefully trained partners, has the capacity to provide care for traumatized children while respecting public health protocols, but is instead expelling them back to situations of danger. It is essential that we protect the most vulnerable during this unprecedented time by fully complying with the TVPRA.”
About World Relief:
World Relief is a global Christian humanitarian organization that seeks to overcome violence, poverty and injustice. Through love in action, we bring hope, healing and restoration to millions of the world’s most vulnerable women, men and children through vital and sustainable programs in disaster response, health and child development, economic development and peacebuilding, as well as refugee and immigration services in the U.S. For 75 years, we’ve partnered with churches and communities, currently across more than 20 countries, to provide relief from suffering and help people rebuild their lives.
Learn more at worldrelief.org.