NEW YORK — President Barack Obama called human trafficking nothing more than "modern slavery," outlining new steps Tuesday to combat the exploitation of workers and children in the United States and abroad.
Obama said in an address to the Clinton Global Initiative that he was not using the term "slavery" lightly, noting that it evoked a painful past for America. But he said the United States and international community need to step up efforts to help more than 20 million victims of human trafficking around the globe, calling it an "injustice" and an "outrage."
Human trafficking, Obama said, "must be called by its true name: modern slavery."
The president said the trafficking of people contributes to "the debasement of our common humanity," "tears at our social fabric," endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. He listed victims ranging from workers who toil for little pay, are abused and barred from leaving their jobs, young boys who are turned into child soldiers and forced to kill, and impoverished girls who are sold into the sex trade.
"It is barbaric and it is evil and it has no place in a civilized world," Obama said, pointing out that many of the children caught in the web of trafficking are the same age as his own daughters.
Obama used the speech to rally a renewed global commitment to ending the exploitation of workers and children. He said teams were dismantling networks of human traffickers and putting the culprits behind bars.
The White House issued new executive orders strengthening prohibitions against human trafficking in government contracting, making it apply to all federal contractors and subcontractors. The new rules also require compliance for large overseas contracts and subcontracts. The administration also said it was providing more training on human trafficking to federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials, immigration judges and others.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sponsored legislation to crack down on human trafficking in government contracting, praised the executive order. But he said in a prepared statement that Congress should put into law the efforts to end such practices.