Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao rolled out several programs aimed at combatting human trafficking by enlisting the help of the nation’s transportation sector. In announcing the call to action on Jan. 28 in Washington, D.C., Chao was joined by members of Congress and of state governments and leaders of the transportation industry.
“The U.S. Department of Transportation is committed to working with our public and private partners to fight human trafficking on America’s transportation system,” stated Chao in a news release.
Among the initiatives announced is “a renewed focus” on the “Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking” pledge to train transportation workers and raise public awareness on the issue of human trafficking across all modes of transportation.
DOT said Chao is challenging the transportation industry to commit to “100 Pledges in 100 Days.” The department anticipates over 1 million employees across all modes of transportation will be trained because of this initiative.
As DOT described it, human trafficking is “modern-day slavery, affecting millions of adults and children in the United States and worldwide. Victims are of every age, race, gender, background, citizenship, and immigration status. Some are trafficked within their own communities on various forms of transportation, while others are transported to new locations.”
To help amplify the government’s counter-trafficking efforts, Chao has established an annual $50,000 award to incentivize individuals and entities, including non-governmental organizations, transportation industry associations, research institutions, and state and local government organizations, “to think creatively in developing innovative solutions to combat human trafficking in the transportation industry.” DOT will review applications and determine the individual or entity that will most effectively use these funds to combat human trafficking.
Secretary Chao also announced $5.4 million in grant selections through the Federal Transit Administration’s Human Trafficking Awareness and Public Safety Initiative. Twenty-four organizations will each receive funding for projects to help prevent human trafficking and other crimes on public transportation. A list of the selected projects is available online.
To support the department’s counter-trafficking efforts, the DOT Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking completed a report back in July that recommends actions the department can take to help combat human trafficking as well as best practices for states and local transportation stakeholders.