06.29.11

Leahy, Brown, Kerry Introduce Bill To Fight Human Trafficking

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, June 29, 2011) – Legislation introduced Wednesday by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) will reauthorize the historic Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which enhanced the government’s efforts to combat human trafficking in the United States and abroad.  The law is set to expire this year.

The bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) will extend the authorization of the current law until 2015, and improve cooperation among federal agencies providing victim services.  The legislation will also give law enforcement additional tools and resources to investigate human trafficking crimes, and further the victim-centered approach that has been crucial to combating human trafficking.   The Trafficking Victims Protection Act was first introduced in 2000 by the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and former Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan).

“Trafficking is an affront to human dignity that we cannot ignore.  The United States offers a beacon of hope to so many who face human rights abuses abroad.  We cannot sit back idly while this injustice continues -- not only elsewhere in the world, but also here at home,” said Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.  “Thanks to the tools provided by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, we have made progress in combating these reprehensible human rights abuses, but there is more work to be done. I look forward to working with Senator Brown and Senator Kerry to continue the bipartisan work started by Senators Wellstone and Brownback more than a decade ago.”

“As a father of two daughters and an advocate at the state and federal level for tougher laws to crack down on this horrific practice, I believe we must do everything we can to eliminate human or sex trafficking,” said Brown.  “This bill increases criminal penalties against trafficking and enhances services for victims, and does so in a fiscally responsible and bipartisan manner. Our legislation is a strong step toward ending the abhorrent practice of human trafficking.”

“Like many other countries, the United States confronts the crime of trafficking in people across its borders and internally.  As a result, I’m pleased to join this bipartisan group in sponsoring legislation aimed at strengthening enforcement at home and abroad.  We should all do everything in our power to stop this abuse of human rights,” said Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Since its enactment in 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act has helped law enforcement and victim service providers receive essential federal resources to help victims, prosecute traffickers and prevent future criminal activity.  The TVPRA will promote increased cooperation among federal agencies, between the U.S. and other countries, and between federal, state and local law enforcement.  The bill seeks to cut off human trafficking at its roots by supporting international efforts to address the sources of trafficking.  In lean budget times, the bill also promotes accountability to ensure that federal funds are used for their intended purposes, and focuses federal authorizations on the programs that have been most successful under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act was first signed into law by President Clinton in 2000, and received overwhelming support in Congress.  The landmark bill was reauthorized three times during the Bush administration, each time with unanimous support in Congress. 

The text of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act is available online.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On Introduction Of The “Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act Of 2011”
June 29, 2011

 

Today, I am proud to join with Senators Scott Brown, John Kerry, and others to introduce the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2011, which will reaffirm and expand our commitment to fighting human trafficking.  Since it was first enacted with strong bipartisan support more than a decade ago, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act has played a central role in our country’s efforts to combat human trafficking both abroad and at home.

Championed by the late Senator Wellstone and Senator Brownback, the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act drew upon the work and support of a broad coalition of advocacy organizations from across the political and social spectrum – groups dedicated to children’s rights, human rights, and women’s rights, as well as religious organizations including Evangelical, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish groups. It was signed by President Clinton and reauthorized twice under President Bush.  I am pleased that today we continue the tradition of bipartisan cooperation as we seek the fourth reauthorization of this critical law.   

Earlier this week, the State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which documents the continuing significant human trafficking crisis worldwide.  The report has received considerable attention, as The Washington Post editorialized yesterday, the United States has made significant strides on this issue, both through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and through important initiatives from this administration.  But much work remains to be done domestically and around the world.

Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery, involving victims who are forced, defrauded, or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Millions of children, women, and men throughout the world are trafficked every year, including here in the United States.  According to recent Government estimates, between 15,000 and 20,000 people are trafficked to the United States annually for the purpose of labor and sexual exploitation. Thousands more of our own children are bought and sold in the commercial sex industry every year.

It is no surprise that border states are at a particularly high risk for human trafficking.  I am proud that my home state of Vermont is taking significant steps to address the issue.  State legislators in Vermont recently passed a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that includes criminal penalties, prevention programs, and services for human trafficking victims.  I commend the Vermont legislature for taking on this important issue. 

Trafficking is an affront to human dignity that we cannot ignore.  The United States offers a beacon of hope to so many who face human rights abuses abroad, so we cannot sit back idly while this injustice continues not only elsewhere in the world, but also here at home.  Thanks to the tools provided by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, we have made progress in combating this major human rights abuse, but there is more work to be done.

This reauthorization reflects Congress’s ongoing commitment to abolishing human trafficking.  It strengthens the government’s ability to combat trafficking by expanding enforcement tools, and by encouraging further inter-agency cooperation to identify victims, investigate offenses, and provide victim services.

Strengthening our response to human trafficking in the United States will help this country serve as a model for the world as we work with other nations to confront this complicated problem. An important tool in that international effort is the annual Trafficking in Persons Report established in the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act. That Report has come to serve as an important diplomatic tool to encourage foreign governments to increase efforts against modern-day slavery. This legislation will require that the United States include itself in the report, a step already initiated by Secretary of State Clinton last year.

Fighting human trafficking was a priority of the Bush administration, and the Obama administration is continuing that commitment.  I applaud the hard work of Secretary of State Clinton, Attorney General Holder, Secretary of Labor Solis, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius to find new ways to work together to indentify and support victims of trafficking while bringing the full force of the United States down on those who seek to profit from the exploitation of others.  Nowhere on earth should it be acceptable to deceive, abuse, and force a person into a life of enslavement, least of all here in the United States.  We must do all we can to end this scourge.

I look forward to working with Senator Brown and Senator Kerry to continue the bipartisan work started by Senators Wellstone and Brownback more than a decade ago.  I hope that Senators from both parties will join us to quickly pass this critical reauthorization.

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