International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights agency headquartered in Washington, DC, will hold its annual Advocacy Summit on June 9-10, 2014. This event allows IJM supporters from around the nation to gather together for advocacy training and day of lobbying on behalf of anti human trafficking legislation.
Many IJM supporters are asking the question, “What else can I do to help IJM’s work overseas to free slaves and protect the vulnerable?” IJM’s advocacy program began in 2007 with a grant from Humanity United. The idea was to engage “ordinary Americans” in the fight against modern-day slavery by voicing their concerns to their elected officials.
This advocacy program began with postcards – hundreds of them – sent from constituents to their elected officials to voice their concerns for the enslaved and urge Congress to take action.
Two years later, the first Advocacy Summit was held in Washington, DC. Approximately 80 people were present for this first advocacy day in 2009, where “ordinary” citizens were trained and then sent out to meet with Representatives, Senators, and their staff to “give a voice to the voiceless” – a popular phrase when advocating for the world’s most vulnerable.
At the forefront of IJM’s policy agenda this year is the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act, H.R. 2283 and its “companion bill” in the Senate, S. 1249.
This legislation seeks to upgrade the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) to the same level as other State Department regional bureaus that it regularly converses with on behalf of trafficking victims.
This legislation would effectively give the experts within J/TIP a “seat at the table” in foreign policy discussions surrounding Trafficking in Persons and give them the authority of a State Department Bureau.
This bill was introduced into the House last June by Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey and currently has 63 cosponsors. It was introduced in the Senate last June by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and has 21 cosponsors.
IJM’s Advocacy Summit has grown each year, and IJM hopes to host 250 advocates this June 9-10. The event is empowering for people who have long supported IJM with their time and money, as the act of lobbying can often feel like a more tangible action on behalf of the poor.
“Everybody who participates in meetings with legislative staff on behalf of the poorest, most powerless people on earth—modern-day slaves— comes away feeling that they’ve made a significant contribution. Because they have,” says Holly Burkhalter, IJM’s Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy.
– Madisson Barnett