House Turns Tables on Human TraffickersPress Release
Washington, D.C. – Today the House of Representatives passed the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 2200). Introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the bill reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a landmark bill that created many of the tools the U.S. uses today to combat human trafficking. The bill also includes a provision authored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) that allows the State Department to use cash rewards to help bring human traffickers to justice.
On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery.
Traffickers around the world abuse and exploit millions – especially women and girls – for commercial gain. According to credible estimates, more than 20 million people are currently victimized by sex trafficking and forced labor. It’s a coercive, multi-billion dollar industry that destroys families and communities, strengthens criminal networks, and tramples human dignity.
This plague is global, and is not limited to the developing world. At the regular meetings of the Human Trafficking Congressional Advisory Committee I set up in Southern California nearly four years ago, I have met with brave survivors who endured forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation in my home state.
I think of Angela Guanzon locked into her abusive workplace, sleeping on the hallway floor. I think of Carissa Phelps being sold on the streets of Fresno at the age of 12 by a violent pimp. Meeting them showed me and many others that the horror of trafficking lies not in statistics, but in stolen lives.
In the words of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, enslavement is such an affront to the human conscience that ‘to expose it is to kill it. Slavery is one of those monsters of darkness to whom the light of truth is death.’ Exposing the harsh reality of human trafficking to international daylight is a central tenet of the legislation we are reauthorizing today.
In the late 1990s – under the leadership of Congressman Chris Smith, the author of today’s bill – the Foreign Affairs Committee initiated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which became law in 2000. That law created the annual Trafficking in Persons Report and country Tier Rankings that put the issue on the radar screens of world governments for the first time – and every year thereafter. It created the possibility of sanctions against the worst offenders. It also established law enforcement and other domestic initiatives to combat trafficking within the United States, which have been refined in the multiple reauthorizations that have followed.
The law has produced notable successes. More than 120 countries have enacted anti-trafficking laws, and many are improving their prosecution and conviction of traffickers. Countless lives have been improved and even saved as a result. In the TIP Report released two weeks ago, 27 countries were upgraded to a higher tier. That’s progress.
But sustained pressure and scrutiny are needed. Enacting a law is not the same thing as enforcing it, and unfortunately 21 countries slipped to a lower tier in this year’s report.
I am proud to be an original cosponsor of H.R. 2200, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, which continues and updates our fight against human trafficking. It extends until 2021 the current authorizations for our international and domestic programs, which expire at the end of September. It also contains multiple reforms and refinements to U.S. programs, and strengthens the annual TIP Report and Tier Rankings.
I am pleased that this bill also incorporates the text of H.R. 1625, the TARGET Act, which I introduced earlier this year, and the House passed in March. This important provision turns the tables on international traffickers by authorizing the State Department to offer and publicize bounties for their arrest and conviction.
I again want to thank the gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Smith, and the gentlelady from California, Karen Bass, for introducing this strong, bipartisan bill. I also want to thank the other seven committees of referral for the input and assistance they provided on the portions of the bill within their jurisdictions.
H.R. 2200 is a critical contribution to the cause of human freedom and dignity, and deserves our unanimous support.”