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Smith's Trafficking Bill Passes Committee, Ready for Final Passage

Location: Washington, DC

Smith's Trafficking Bill Passes Committee, Ready for Final Passage
December 8, 2005

Strengthens and expands human trafficking laws, combats domestic trafficking

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House Committee on the Judiciary - the fourth and final committee of jurisdiction - today passed Rep. Chris Smith's (R-NJ) Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (HR 972), legislation that strengthens the nation's current trafficking law (also authored by Smith) and authorizes new funds for investigation and prosecution of domestic trafficking within the United States.

Smith's bill - which will likely be brought to the floor of the House of Representatives for final passage before the end of the year - ensures that the United States will continue to lead the global battle against modern-day human slavery. According to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the bill will provide $361 million over the next two years to combat trafficking.

"Over the past few years, we have made great strides in combating human trafficking through stronger laws, increased awareness, and better law enforcement," said Smith, who wrote the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-386). "The survivors of this horror, mostly women and children, have seen the absolute worst of life and need our compassion and support."

Smith's bill reauthorizes appropriations for anti-trafficking programs in the United States and abroad and offers solutions to specific scenarios where additional initiatives are needed to combat trafficking problem, such as in peacekeeping missions.

For the first time, programs geared toward reducing the demand for commercial sex in the United States and preventing human trafficking of US citizens within our own borders are authorized, and new funding will be provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to combat both domestic and international trafficking.

Smith helped to craft an amendment which was added to the legislation by Rep. James Sensenbrenner in the markup today, creating a $25 million grant program for local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute human trafficking (and related offenses) and to investigate and prosecute criminals who purchase commercial sex acts. The bill, in its entirety, enables prosecution in the United States of trafficking offenses committed by federal employees and contractors and amends the United States Code to strengthen the use of money laundering, racketeering and civil and criminal forfeiture statutes against traffickers. In addition, the Department of Justice is directed to conduct a biennial analysis of trafficking and commercial sex acts statistics inside the United States.

"With a crime as abhorrent as human trafficking, it is essential that the United States takes the lead and that includes within our own borders," said Smith, whose original law was recently the focus of a Lifetime miniseries starring Mira Sorvino entitled "Human Trafficking."

Earlier this year - as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations - Smith held hearings about the 150 allegations of gross sexual misconduct and exploitation of refugees by UN peacekeepers and civilian personnel assigned to the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In recent years, the UN has struggled to deal with similar allegations in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"The UN owes it to the victims of peacekeeper misconduct to stand, act, and adopt a binding uniform code of conduct for all peacekeeping personnel," said Smith, who also noted that the UN needs to put in place a comprehensive plan for victim assistance. "Actions speak louder than words."

Smith's bill also addressed the American and foreign victims of human trafficking and includes provisions to help reintegrate them to a normal life. It authorizes a grants program for nongovernmental organization victim service providers, establishes programs for residential rehabilitation facilities and promotes access to information about federally funded services for victims.

"The victims of this terrible crime cannot be forgotten," said Smith, who has fought for human and victims rights since coming to Congress. "The 2005 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act strengthens and expands our efforts and allows law enforcement to continue to liberate the women and children who are forced and coerced into slavery, and should be passed as quickly as possible."

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