Washington, DC – Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today introduced a bill to step up U.S. diplomatic efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking worldwide.
Lantos co-authored the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 3887) with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI). Nine other House members are original co-sponsors of the bill, which is named for the parliamentarian whose work led to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in the early 19th Century.
“This legislation addresses the fundamental right of every human being to live in freedom and safety,” Lantos said. “More and more countries are failing to make any effort at all to combat human trafficking. Many of them are at the same time seeking to improve their relations with the United States. We should be sure they understand that doing so will require demonstrating a shared interest in wiping out slavery and trafficking in our times.”
The legislation requires a comprehensive analysis of trafficking data to yield new information about where victims are going and how to free them. It also provides help for countries to inspect locations where forced labor occurs, to register vulnerable populations and to provide more protection to foreign workers. It ensures that U.S. assistance programs are both transparent and effective, and it urges the Administration to work with other countries to reach agreements between labor exporters and labor importers so that vulnerable workers have more, rather than less protection. Within the United States, H.R. 3887 offers additional protections for victims, takes steps to prevent the trafficking of children, and ensures that foreign labor recruiters do not engage in modern-day slavery.
“The United States has taken the lead in protecting victims of trafficking, who are primarily young women and children,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ). “This bill will mark the third reauthorization of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and will help the US expand our leadership role in the global effort to end this horrific form of modern-day slavery.”
"I am committed to making the Thirteenth Amendment’s guarantee of freedom a living promise for the modern era," Conyers said. "Cases of modern slavery can happen anywhere – some have even been uncovered in my hometown of Detroit. This bill creates strong criminal tools and compassionate victim protection programs, both here and overseas. I am proud to be able to work with Chairman Lantos and such a passionate anti-slavery activist as Chris Smith to attack this practice head-on."
According to the International Labor Organization, traffickers move between 700,000 and 2 million women and children across international boundaries every year, mainly for the purpose of serving the sex trade. In addition, an almost equal number of men, women and children are trafficked each year for the purpose of forced labor in slave-like working conditions. In the United States, forced laborers have turned up most often in agriculture, domestic service, sweatshops and in restaurants and hotels. To raise awareness of these staggering numbers, the European Union has designated today, October 18, as “Anti-Trafficking Day.”
At a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on human trafficking this morning, members heard testimony from a young Tanzanian woman who had been forced to work without pay for four years for a diplomat from her country working at the embassy in Washington.
“We were all moved by the experiences of the courageous young woman who told us today of how she was forced to work in atrocious conditions for zero pay,” Lantos said. “Her tragic story should inspire all of us to do everything in our power to put an end to the disgrace of human trafficking around the globe – and starting in our own back yard.”