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Public Statements

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President,

I hope all Senators will join in adopting the trafficking victims protection amendment that is before us today. This is crucial to reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. We can make real progress in helping victims of human trafficking by adopting the amendment today and then proceeding to pass both the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act without delay.

One hundred and fifty years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and long since ratification of the 13th amendment to our Constitution, slavery is illegal. What we are fighting now is human trafficking, which can amount to modern day slavery. This still occurs throughout the world--including in the United States of America. The Polaris Project estimates that there are more than 27 million victims of human trafficking worldwide today. To put that in perspective, that is more people than the population of Texas.

The amendment before the Senate today is drawn from our Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, a bipartisan bill that was written with the input of victims and service providers to make critical improvements to existing law. I have worked hard to try to address concerns expressed by Republican Senators and to ensure bipartisan support for this legislation, which Congress has reauthorized three times before. The result is that last year this legislation had 57 cosponsors, including 15 Republicans.

It is a parallel effort to our reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. I was preparing to move it separately but other Senators offered trafficking-related amendments to the VAWA bill. That is what led to this amendment being offered at this time. This is now our opportunity to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and take a giant stride forward to help trafficking victims.

Our effort is to stop human trafficking at its roots by supporting both domestic and international efforts to fight against trafficking and to punish its perpetrators. We provide critical resources to help support victims as they rebuild their lives.

This amendment includes new measures to ensure better partnership and coordination among Federal agencies, between law enforcement and victim service providers, and with foreign countries to better address every facet of this complicated problem.

It also strengthens criminal anti trafficking statutes to ensure that law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to effectively combat all forms of trafficking. It includes measures to encourage victims to cooperate with law enforcement, which leads to more prosecutions, and to identify victims and alert law enforcement.

We have included accountability measures to ensure that Federal funds are used for their intended purposes, and we have streamlined programs to focus scarce resources on the approaches that have been the most successful.

Last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported the measure and it was cleared for passage by every Democratic Senator. We worked closely with Chairman Kerry, now Secretary of State Kerry, and the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. We have updated it with modifications cleared with the State Department and the new Foreign Affairs chairman, Senator Menendez, to the first title. I want to acknowledge Senator Rubio's efforts last year trying to help us clear this bill for Senate passage. Regrettably, this important legislation, like so many others, was held up last year by the objection of one anonymous Republican Senator. This is now our opportunity to pass it. Let us join together today to take this important step to help trafficking victims and prevent human trafficking.

The United States remains a beacon of hope for so many who face human rights abuses. We know that young women and girls, often just 11, 12, or 13 years old, are being bought and sold. We know that workers are being held and forced into labor against their will.

I urge all Senators to join in passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. People in this country and millions around the world are counting on us.

Mr. President, I ask that the time be equally divided, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that at 5:30 p.m., the Senate proceed to a vote in relation to the Coburn amendment No. 13; further, that upon disposition of the amendment, the Senate proceed to a period of morning business, with Senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each; that following leader remarks on Tuesday, February 12, the Senate resume consideration of S. 47; that the time until 11 a.m. be equally divided between the two leaders or their designees prior to votes in relation to the amendments included under the previous order and that those votes occur in the order listed; that all after the first vote be 10-minute votes; and finally, that all other provisions of the previous order remain in effect.

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