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Leahy Calls On Senate To Support Efforts To Combat Human Trafficking

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Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, lead author of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) currently pending on the floor, called on the Senate today to support his amendment to combat human trafficking.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) provides law enforcement the tools they need to investigate human trafficking crimes domestically and supports efforts to address the issue of trafficking abroad. Leahy was the lead author of this important reauthorization last year, which was cosponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Leahy called on Senators to pass the amendment today.

"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," Leahy said. "The result is that last year this legislation had 57 cosponsors -- including 15 Republicans."

Leahy said that TVPRA "is a parallel effort to our reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act," and noted that every Democratic member supported its passage last year. His amendment would extend TVPRA through 2017, and has the support of advocates, victims and law enforcement groups.

"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," Leahy said. "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."

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Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On Amendment 21 to S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act
February 11, 2013

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 Relations Committee. We have updated it with modifications cleared with the State Department and the new Foreign Relations 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.


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