Just hours after GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney took the stage at the Clinton Global Initiative Tuesday, proposing a foreign aid plan for the Middle East and developing nations, U.S. President Barack Obama stood on the same New York City stage with new initiatives to tackle human trafficking in America and the world.
Obama issued an executive order Tuesday, tightening the rules on federal contractors and subcontractors so they are not using questionable or fraudulent forms of recruiting, destroying employee identification documents or denying access to those documents.
Obama's CGI address came after a speech at the U.N. where he tackled foreign policy in the Middle East and the importance of free speech in the region.
“American tax dollars should never ever be used to support the trafficking of human beings,” Obama told the CGI crowd. Approximately 20 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking.
Calling human trafficking “modern slavery,” Obama said the U.S. must be the leader in the global movement against such a crime. However, in asking other nations to stand against trafficking in humans, the U.S. is also looking at itself and will undertake new steps toward eliminating such acts within its borders.
Obama said those steps include strengthening training for prosecutors and others involved in human trafficking cases. The administration is also looking to develop better programs for victim rehabilitation. There will also be a push to use technology to fight trafficking criminals who use the Internet as a means of exploitation.
Further, efforts to simplify visa procedures so that trafficking victims can stick around to help prosecute their traffickers is also planned, Obama said, as are renewed sanctions for countries considered the worst abusers.
“Nations must speak with one voice -- that our people and our children are not for sale,” Obama said. He aded that nations, businesses and the faith community must work together to solve the trafficking problem.
Though the CGI venue was more of a gathering of corporate, public policy and nonprofit associations than a political event, the issue of human trafficking is one that women and religious groups can identify with.