Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca Speaks at Law School about 'Modern-Day Slavery'
DECEMBER 4, 2013—On Nov. 20, the Law School hosted an appearance by Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large for and director of the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Appointed to the post by President Obama in 2009, Ambassador CdeBaca coordinates all federal government activities in the global fight against what both he and the president label "modern-day slavery."
Indeed, using the word slavery is a key part of CdeBaca's message. While he acknowledges that it is a difficult word for most Americans to use, he maintains that it is the word that most honestly describes the plight of the people—factory workers, farm laborers, prostitutes, and many others, as many as 27 million worldwide—who are held in forced or coerced servitude. Until ordinary citizens begin to see human trafficking for what it truly is, CdeBaca says, it will remain an underground crime, exceedingly difficult to discover, investigate, and prosecute.
"Ambassador CdeBaca is one of our nation's foremost experts and passionate leaders in the global fight against the scourge of human trafficking," said Professor Mark Kappelhoff, director of the Law School's Criminal Justice Clinic. "It was a tremendous honor to have him share his insights with the faculty, staff and students during his visit."
Luis CdeBaca's family settled in New Mexico in the 1500s. He grew up on a cattle ranch in Huxley, Iowa, attended Iowa State University, and received his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, where he was an editor of the law review. Prior to undertaking his work at the State Department, CdeBaca served as counsel to the House Committee on the Judiciary, where his portfolio for Chairman John Conyers Jr. included national security, intelligence, immigration, civil rights, and modern slavery issues. Before that he was one of the country's most-decorated federal prosecutors, heading up cases that involved money laundering, organized crime, alien smuggling, official misconduct, hate crimes, and human trafficking. After leading the largest slavery prosecution in U.S. history—the case of more than 300 Vietnamese and Chinese workers enslaved in a garment factory in American Samoa—he was honored with the U.S. attorney general's Distinguished Service Award, as well as the Justice Department's John Marshall Award, its highest litigation honor. He has also received the Paul & Sheila Wellstone Award from Freedom Network, the national trafficking victim service community.