The Obama Administration's decision to grant China a political waiver and India an upgrade in this year's annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report issued by the State Department were questioned by the lawmaker who wrote the first-ever U.S. law to combat trafficking in 2000--the same law which also created the annual report and its ranking system (Public Law 106-386).
A hearing held by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), author of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) as well as subsequent laws to make further strengthen and adapt TVPA, focused on what Smith believes were politicized rankings for India and China--despite the ongoing and expanding problem of human trafficking, particularly sex-trafficking of women and girls, in these countries. In the 2008 reauthorization of the TVPA, Congress decided that no country should be allowed to skirt sanctions on the Tier 2 Watch List for more than two years before being downgraded to Tier 3. This year, 2011, represents the first year that the limit was put to the test.
"It is with concern that I note the President has determined 12 countries need yet another year on the Tier 2 Watch List," said Smith, who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees human rights and co-chairs the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus. "Some of these countries--China and Russia--have been on the Watch List for 7 and 8 years, respectively. I would like to know exactly why the Administration is convinced these countries need yet another year to get their acts together. Those who work on the front lines of human trafficking know all too well that a law is useless unless faithfully implemented." Click here to read Smith's statement.
The hearing the committee heard testimony from top State Department officials (click on their name to read their testimony): Asst. Secretary of State Robert Blake, head of Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs; Principal Deputy Asst. Secretary of State Joseph Yun, East Asian & Pacific Affairs; Leading U.S. official tasked with combating trafficking, Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large and head of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Smith fears in the case of China, the Obama Administration has politicized human rights with the granting of a political waiver and a refusal to downgrade China from the Tier 2 Watch List. China has become a magnet for trafficking as a result of its brutal one child per couple population control policy and the resulting severe shortage of girls. Experts indicate that the region is missing about 100 million women.
Smith also expressed concern about the Administration's decision to upgrade India from the Tier 2 Watch List to a Tier 2 country.
"India was upgraded to a Tier 2 country in this report despite the fact that it has one of the largest populations of enslaved laborers in the world, and has only prosecuted and convicted a small handful of labor traffickers," he said.
Smith is the author of the landmark legislation the Trafficking Victims and Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), which mandated the annual reports, as well as increased penalties for traffickers and provided assistance for victims. Smith wrote two subsequent anti-trafficking laws (PL 108-193 and PL 109-164) increasing resources for crime prevention and expanding treatment assistance for victims. Smith has legislation to reauthorize TVPA which the Foreign Affairs Committee passed earlier this month.
"The TIP Report has been an incredibly effective diplomatic tool," Smith said. "The Report has been a catalyst for improvement --often dramatic improvements--in the efforts of governments to address human trafficking within their borders and regions. With a combination of encouragement, persuasion and sustained pressure via sanctions imposed by the United States, countries around the world have created or amended over 120 laws to combat human trafficking, and, in the past three years alone, an estimated 113,000 victims have been identified and assisted worldwide." Click here to read the 2011 TIP report.
Smith said that according to the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking--created by the TPVA--more than 12 million people worldwide are trafficking victims. Other estimates put the number of victims as high as 27 million. Today human trafficking is the third most lucrative criminal activity in the world. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), human traffickers make profits in excess of $31 billion a year.