A bill to step up the fight against a scourge that brings unfathomable misery and suffering to millions of innocent victims around the world--especially young women, children and exploited workers--was approved by a House Committee today.
H.R. 2830, The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2011, is authored by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04). The legislation, which combats sex trafficking and labor trafficking, accurately referred to as modern day slavery whose victims are often children, cleared a major hurdle this afternoon in a voice vote of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
"Although we have learned many important lessons over the past decade and have made great strides in combating this human rights abuse, women, children and men around the world continue to be victimized," said Smith, who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees human rights and co-chairs the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus. "It is critical that we continue United States leadership in efforts to end human trafficking both domestically and abroad." Click here to read Smith's opening remarks.
Smith is the author of the original landmark legislation, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), which mandated annual reports on trafficking around the world, increased penalties for traffickers and provided assistance for victims. Smith wrote two subsequent anti-trafficking laws (PL 108-193 and PL 109-164) increasing resources for crime prevention and expanding treatment assistance for victims. One of the most significant tools in the TVPA is the mandate requiring the U.S. State Department to conduct annual benchmark assessments of all countries around the world--including the United States, and their individual efforts to fight trafficking.
"These benchmarks allow us to see improvements, lack of improvements or deteriorations," Smith said. "It is a great tool to fight traffickers and help victims." Click here to read the 2011 TIP report.
Smith told the Committee the new bill would build on the previously approved legislation with a number of important measures for preventing and prosecuting human trafficking and protecting trafficking survivors. HR 2830 includes provisions that would:
* give the Secretary of State the authority to limit the validity of the passports of registered sex offenders to one year, or such period as the Secretary would deem appropriate;
* authorize assistance to be used to protect vulnerable populations at risk of severe forms of human trafficking in post-conflict situations and humanitarian emergencies, and increase monitoring of forced or child labor in the United States; and,
* expand the information to be included in the Attorney General's annual report to Congress to include any contracts terminated by a federal agency as a result of human trafficking by a contractor, and whether any employees have been disciplined, terminated or prosecuted for violating the zero-tolerance policy.