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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. BASS of California. Mr. Chairman, this bipartisan amendment is simple. It prohibits the Defense Department from being used to engage in or facilitate human trafficking. Thousands of private contracting defense firms, including some of the industry's biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, have been linked to trafficking-related incidents. Thousands of nationals from impoverished countries are lured by the promise of good jobs, but sometimes end up victims of scams that leave them virtual slaves, with no way to return home or seek legal recourse.

Despite this, allegations against Federal contractors engaged in illegal labor practices ranging from contract-worker smuggling to human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to surface in the media.

A recent New Yorker article illustrates the urgent need for this amendment. The article tells the story of two women from Fiji who thought they were going to lucrative jobs in Dubai, but ended up, quoting the article, unwitting recruits for the Pentagon's invisible army of more than 70,000 cooks, cleaners, construction workers, beauticians, et cetera, from the world's poorest countries who service U.S. military contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These two women were asked to deliver resumes, hand over passports, submit to medical tests, and they had to pay $500 to a recruiting firm. They were lured to Iraq under false pretenses and then told they would be making $700 a month. That was after they believed they were going to be making $3,800 a month, 10 times the normal salary in their home country.

What they didn't realize was that they were contracted to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. They were also victims of sexual harassment and assault.

After complaining, they were sent off base for making trouble and held for a month while their passports and ID badges were confiscated by the subcontracting company. The company that hired them was initially reprimanded but still operates in Fiji and still has a contract with the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, allegations against Federal contractors engaged in commercial sex and labor exploitation continue.


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