No opinion is too small and no campaign is too big when it comes to direct interaction and a common line of vision between local, state and federal governments.
Such is the importance of Thursday’s visit to the White House by State Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland who represents the 22nd Legislative District and who chairs the Judiciary Committee for the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Watson is among a 25-member delegation invited to Washington, D.C., by the Office of the Vice President to jointly discuss a growing crime, one whose evil tentacles have wrapped their way around the globe and now infiltrate not only the United States of America, but Tennessee specifically.
We speak of human trafficking.
It also goes by another name, one that is less soft and which speaks more boldly to its depth of inhumanity; that is, modern slavery.
The despicable practice, which already has led to harsh legislation by Tennessee lawmakers — as recently as the 107th General Assembly — has been targeted by President Barack Obama and has led to Thursday’s gathering at the White House.
At the Clinton Global Initiative in September, the president declared human trafficking as a vile crime whose contemptibility should raise the ire of the entire civilized world — not just a few isolated individuals, not just Americans and not just the Western Hemisphere. Everyone.
The president’s own words say it best:
“It ought to concern every person because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business because it distorts our markets. It ought to concern every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage ... of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.”
Those who doubt this epidemic of wrongdoing in our state should remember this: Tennessee is a grand junction of numerous interstates and it is home to many regional airports. All are targeted by the perpetrators of human trafficking who believe these to be their easiest gateways, and the most convenient, in orchestrating these heinous crimes.
Through its own statistics, Tennessee has learned this quickly. A 2011 report on trafficking in our state by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation found that 85 percent of our counties have investigated at least one human sex trafficking case in the two years prior to the study.
Of Tennessee’s 95 counties, 72 percent reported at least one case of human sex trafficking of minors; 16 counties reported 50 cases, and eight reported more than 100 cases of human sex trafficking involving minors.
Since the alarming TBI report, state legislators have enacted tough new laws and TBI is better training its officers and agents on this type of crime. These will be part of Watson’s report made at Thursday’s White House discussion.
The veteran lawmaker, whose reputation in Nashville is one of being anti-crime and pro-law enforcement, believes Tennessee is making progress in its fight against human trafficking; however, it stands to learn from other states at the Washington conference.
Watson is traveling to the White House to listen, to share and to help develop strategies on behalf of his 22nd Legislative District constituency, all Tennesseans and every law enforcement professional who has confronted this crime of inhumanity.
We urge the Cleveland legislator’s candid remarks.
We encourage his openness in sharing what Tennessee is doing and his open-mindedness in hearing how our shortfalls can be bridged.