— By BRIAN SMITH
Weatherford High School graduate Amanda Baker had her chance to be a Washington lobbyist for a day recently, working with lawmakers on the subject of human trafficking.
Baker, a 2005 WHS graduate, has been interested in human trafficking prevention since her undergrad days at the University of Texas at Austin.
During her time as a full-time social worker/crisis specialist for Catholic Charities, she has become even more involved with International Justice Mission in helping to spread the word about the illegal practice, which claims more than 27 million people enslaved worldwide. To put that in perspective, that is more than the number enslaved during the Civil War.
June 11 was the day Baker had the opportunity to meet with elected officials and make sure human trafficking was on their radar. She admits being nervous at first, but a day-long training session prior to meeting with elected officials soothed her fears.
She met with representatives from five different congressional offices throughout the day-long session, including representatives from both U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Sen Ted Cruz’s offices. At first, she thought she would be the lone lobbyist going into offices, but she was partnered up with others as well, which eased her apprehension.
Baker worked with other lobbyists from Texas and focused on two points: support of a bill in both the Senate and the House that would turn the trafficking office into a bureau. Baker said the simple change in words would give the office “more of a seat at the table” when it came to discussions about the matter.
The second involved funding for anti-trafficking models and organizations. Baker and her fellow lobbyists showed a number of processes that have worked in stopping trafficking and also delivered thousands of postcards from concerned Texas constituents about trafficking.
Baker said that while nothing was voted on or discussed, she felt good about her day and how things went overall.
“Cornyn’s office has been at the forefront of this,” Baker said. “We realized (U.S.) Sen. (Ted) Cruz was still new in Washington, so we wanted to ensure this was on his radar.”
One of the highlights of the day was getting to meet with officials with U.S. Rep. Roger Williams’ office. She said after growing up in the area and seeing his dealership, it was kind of a thrill to go to his office, even though she didn’t get to meet with him personally.
For more information on human trafficking, visit www.ijm.org.
IJM also has a website for advocacy and grassroots work at http://freedomcommons.ijm.org.