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Letters of Marque to Fight Human Trafficking

February 10, 2020

Human trafficking, whether for slave labor or sex, is utterly abhorrent. And no matter how advanced or enlightened we claim to be, it may be worse now than at any time in the past. A few days ago the Wall Street Journal reported (1) that “President Trump on Friday signed an executive order aimed at combating human trafficking and online exploitation.”

It is estimated that between 18,000 and 20,000 victims are trafficked into the United States every year. Imagine an entire town near you being swept up and sold into slavery every year.

In 2011, “California passed a law to help with trafficking (2) in the manufacturing industry. The law required major manufacturing and retail firms to disclose what they were doing to stop human trafficking in their supply chains. By 2015, however, less than a fifth of businesses had complied.”

“The Mexican state of Tlaxcala has been identified as the biggest source of sex slaves to the US. In 2015, five out of 10 of Homeland Security's "most wanted" sex traffickers were from Tenancingo, in Tlaxcala. There were estimates that one in 10 people from Tenancingo was involved in trafficking.”

In 2018, the US Department of Justice funded 45 victim service providers with $31 million, almost doubling its budget from 2017, when it provided $16 million to 18 organizations.

These services were, for example, a government hotline. “If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.”

All of this is great on its face. It looks like they, in government, care deeply about the problem. And no doubt, they do. Heck, if you’re a human being, you should care deeply about this issue.

But although I don’t know this personally, I can make an educated guess, and feel good that my guess is pretty accurate. My guess is that we’re not getting near enough for our $31 million. And I’m guessing there is little oversight.

This is, after all, the federal government we’re talking about. They don’t do anything well, and surely not as well as local governments do. And neither can do what the private sector is capable of.

I’m sure the toll-free trafficking hotline has helped some people, but it’s funded and run by a government agency. So it’s inherently wasteful, slow to react, inefficient, and saturated with burdensome rules and regulations – no different from every other government entity.

Just imagine the DMV running the trafficking hotline and you’ll better understand what I mean.

The fact is, the federal government can’t deal with this problem, so we just end up with more laws and feel-good executive orders that bear little fruit as they waste more of our tax dollars.

And our military, as good as they are, can’t nor should they fight this “war” (the exception is the Coast Guard). Nor can any other of the countless government agencies and departments that could be charged with such a task.

So what’s the alternative?

The Constitution, of course. Yep, the founders thought of pretty much everything. In this case, it’s Article 1, Section 8, clauses 10 and 11.

Clause 11 states: “Congress shall have power to…declare War, grant letters of Marque and Reprisal…”

Clause 10 states: “…To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas…”

Now the Coast Guard can take care of a lot of the high Seas piracy stuff. They’ve been doing a pretty good job of that. But the rest should be left to the private sector.

A letter of Marque, back in the days of, say, the Pirates of the Caribbean, is a government contract of sorts, granted to a private entity to venture out, capture a pirate ship (for example), plunder it if they so choose, and the reprisal portion is a charge to bring the captured vessel to a “home” port, as it were.

They were initiated because, back then, our fledgling Republic was incapable of doing it themselves. And it’s in the Constitution because, unlike today, the founders understood the limitations of government.

And right now, there are private organizations that are quite skilled at exactly these types of tasks.

One of which is Operation Underground Railroad (3) founded in 2013.

O.U.R. is a privately funded not-for-profit that has “gathered the world's experts in extraction operations and in anti-child trafficking efforts to bring an end to child slavery. O.U.R.'s Ops Team consists of former CIA, past and current law enforcement, and highly skilled operatives that lead coordinated identification and extraction efforts. These operations are always in conjunction with law enforcement throughout the world.”

These people are dedicated and highly motivated operators who have but one goal – get the job done – liberate slaves and shut down trafficking operations where possible. Their dedication is such that operators have actually lost their lives pursuing the goal.

It’s time for the President and Congress to stop thinking so myopically and help fund those who are already getting the job done.

Congress should issue letters of Marque to these types of organizations if we really want to realize a reduction in the scourge of human trafficking. No law, rule, regulation or executive order will bring about the same result.


1. www.wsj.com/articles/trump-strengthens-efforts-against-human-trafficking-amid-criticism-from-victims-advocates-11580482657

2. www.businessinsider.com/human-trafficking-in-the-us-facts-statistics-2019-7#it-is-estimated-that-between-18000-and-20000-victims-are-trafficked-into-the-united-states-every-year-6

3. ourrescue.org/

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Copyright ©2020

Brent Smith, "The Common Constitutionalist," offers not just conservative commentary and analysis, but a blend of politics, history, arts, science, and humor. Whoever said conservatives aren’t funny? Yeah, I know…most people. Brent is a contributing writer for numerous online publications. When he is not burning the midnight oil writing his insightful commentaries, he is raising his two teenage sons to be patriots and Conservatives.
Visit Brent Smith's website at www.commonconstitutionalist.com