Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke on the House floor to express his support for Human Traffic Awareness Day and encouraged his colleagues to continue to fight against this form of modern-day slavery.

Today’s floor speech follows the Chairman’s recent introduction of H.R. 3344, the Fraudulent Overseas Recruitment and Trafficking Elimination (FORTE) Act of 2013.  The legislation combats the growing problem of international human trafficking by requiring overseas labor recruiters to provide detailed employment information to overseas workers, to avoid the bait-and-switch into slave labor or sexual slavery once they enter the U.S., and creating additional penalties and enforcement mechanisms.

Video of Chairman Royce on the House floor is available HERE.

Text of Chairman Royce’s remarks on the House floor, as prepared for delivery, follows:

“Mister Speaker, this Saturday, January 11th, people throughout our country and around the world will be observing Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  The start of this new year is a fitting time to focus on the shameful fact that human slavery is not a relic of ancient history.   Today it is the brutal reality faced by more than 20 million victims around the world, primarily women and girls.

Even in my work as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I have learned that human trafficking is not just a problem “over there” in faraway countries with developing economies.  It is a scourge even in the communities that we serve and represent.

In my own community in the last two years, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force has assisted more than 250 victims.  Ninety-three percent were women, and more than 80 of those women were from foreign countries.  At our November field hearing in Fullerton, the Orange County District Attorney testified that “Shockingly, the average age of a child being trafficked in this country is 12 — a little girl who has not even reached her teens.”  We also heard from one brave survivor, Angela Guanzon, who was trafficked from the Philippines into forced labor in Long Beach, California.

I have heard many other stories from the members of the Human Trafficking Congressional Advisory Committee that I established last year in my Los Angeles County district office.  This forum for communication between law enforcement, advocates, service organizations, and survivors has contributed profoundly to my own understanding of this issue.  I encourage my colleagues to get to know those on the front lines of the fight against human trafficking in their own districts.  You will be informed, challenged, and inspired by what you learn.

This January – designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month – is a perfect time to shine a spotlight on this dark issue.  But awareness is only a first step, and needs to lead to action. 

I urge my colleagues to join me in cosponsoring H.R. 3344, the Fraudulent Overseas Recruitment and Trafficking Elimination (FORTE) Act, to combat one critical form of recurring abuse: Namely, unscrupulous recruiters who bait foreigners to travel to the U.S. with promises of good jobs, but trap them in sexual exploitation or forced labor once they arrive.  For example, in my home county, the Salvation Army’s Network of Emergency Trafficking Services reports that a full third of their clients – 33 percent– were recruited in a foreign country by a labor recruiter.  This represents not only an assault on the dignity of the victim, but also a subversion of United States labor laws and our nonimmigrant visa system.  In response, this bipartisan bill: 

  • Requires that prospective foreign workers be given accurate information about the terms of employment, and anti-trafficking protections under U.S. law;
  • Prohibits recruitment fees or hidden charges used as coercive leverage over workers;
  • Requires foreign labor recruiters to register and remain in good standing with the Department of Labor;
  • And it provides new incentives and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that recruiters and employers follow these disclosure and registration requirements.

Members may contact the Foreign Affairs Committee to join this important anti-trafficking initiative. 

As people of goodwill around the world observe Human Trafficking Awareness Day this weekend, let us move beyond mere awareness to abolish this injustice, and to protect and restore the dignity of those who have survived such exploitation.”

NOTE:  Last year, Chairman Royce held a number of hearings on human trafficking, including a field hearing to examine international human trafficking and to assess efforts to combat trafficking at the international, Federal, State and local levels.  He also launched a Human Trafficking Congressional Advisory Committee (HTCAC) to address human trafficking concerns, as well as offer policy recommendations; the HTCAC is comprised of victims’ rights groups, local and federal law enforcement agencies, and community advocates.