US Lutherans back tough anti-child trafficking measures

By staff writers
November 13, 2007

Ten synod bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) were among those signing a 6 November letter with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) urging the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary to expedite the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007 (TVPRA), which contains provisions to help identify and protect child victims of trafficking.

The TVPRA bill, if signed into US law, would help to identify child trafficking victims, prevent children in federal custody from being released to traffickers, ensure that children in federal custody are placed in settings suitable for addressing their needs, and provide services to child trafficking survivors in federal custody.

As many as 5,000 children are being brought into the United States for purposes of sexual exploitation each year, according to the letter, which was signed by Ralston H. Deffenbaugh, LIRS president. LIRS, based in Baltimore, is a cooperative ministry of the ELCA, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It has provided services to trafficked youth since 2000, through the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) program.

"All Christians are called to act on behalf vulnerable people, especially children," said Andrew Genszler, ELCA director for advocacy. "In the ELCA's message on commercial sexual exploitation, our church calls for legal protection for victims of sex trafficking, which is what the TVPRA will provide."

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