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William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, as an original cosponsor, I rise in favor of the bill before us, H.R. 3887, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. This was introduced by the chairman of our committee, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lantos; and it remains one of the premier issues facing us today, Mr. Speaker.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It is a major source of revenue for international criminal syndicates, and it is a grave abuse against human dignity. Hundreds of thousands of people are trafficked across international borders every year. It is estimated that 80 percent of those are women, and half are children. Millions more are trafficked into sexual servitude and forced labor within their own countries.

In Iran, children are trafficked into sexual slavery and forced into involuntary servitude as beggars and day laborers. In Syria, women trafficked from South and Southeast Asia are forced to work as domestic servants, and women from Eastern Europe and Iraq are forced into prostitution. In China, up to 90 percent of North Korean refugee women fall prey to traffickers who sell them into sexual slavery. In our own hemisphere, Mr. Speaker, Cuba has been shamefully promoted as a destination for sex tourism that exploits large numbers of Cuban children.

The dehumanization and the brutality suffered by trafficking victims are nearly incomprehensible. I am proud that the Congress has helped turn this former non-issue into a priority for our United States Government and an issue, indeed, of international concern.

The enactment of the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act 7 years ago was a watershed event. I want to commend the author of that act and the gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. CHRIS SMITH, whose leadership on these issues has been central to the progress that we have made so far.

While there have been some signs of improvement, such as a larger number of countries that have enacted anti-trafficking legislation, other problems remain widespread. The number of countries, for example, listed in tier three, that is the most problematic category in the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report, has actually increased from 12 countries to 16 since last year. Some of the governments with the worst records, such as Burma, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Venezuela, continue to resist making even basic efforts to protect vulnerable children and women.

A number of problem countries like Russia and China sit on the tier two ``Watch List'' year after year after year without further consequences, even though that category was originally created as a warning that countries are about to slip into the tier three category.

The bill before us today, Mr. Speaker, will not only reauthorize key aspects of prior trafficking legislation but it will also enhance our international anti-trafficking efforts, our domestic law enforcement and victim assistance activities, and efforts to fight the use of child soldiers worldwide. It will improve our Nation's victim-centered approach to fight human trafficking by strengthening each of the so-called ``Three P's,'' prevention, protection, prosecution.

I want to commend the author of this bill again, Mr. Speaker, Chairman Lantos, and my fellow cosponsors for the perseverance and the compromise that they have invested in ensuring that this bill receive wide bipartisan support throughout consideration by the three committees of jurisdiction: Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, and Energy and Commerce. The revised text before us today also has been endorsed by an impressively broad array of organizations and experts from across the political spectrum.

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007 is a vital weapon in our fight against the heartbreaking scourge of human trafficking, and it deserves our full support.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


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