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Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, as the end of this Congress quickly approaches, I urge the Senate--Republicans, Democrats, and Independents--to come together and pass our bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

More than a century after the Emancipation Proclamation and despite the fact that slavery is now illegal everywhere in the world, modern-day slavery, or human trafficking, 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 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act is a bipartisan bill that was carefully crafted with the input of victims and service providers to reflect 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 our current bill, which was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee more than a year ago, now has 54 cosponsors--including 14 Republicans.

This bipartisan legislation seeks to stop human trafficking at its roots by supporting international and domestic efforts to fight against the causes and punish the perpetrators of trafficking. It also provides critical resources to help support victims as they rebuild their lives. We have included new 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.

Earlier this week, several Senators spoke on the floor of the Senate in commemoration of Human Rights Day. I was pleased to see that Senator Rubio, with whom I have worked on this issue, mentioned the need to pass our anti-trafficking bill by the end of the year. We agree that it is imperative for the Senate to act now so that we can take steps toward ending human trafficking and providing the survivors with the support they desperately need in order to get back on their feet.

I have checked with my caucus to see if we can move this bill today. I can report that every Democratic Senator has agreed to pass this legislation now by unanimous consent. I hope my friends on the other side of the aisle will join us to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act without further delay.

This is the type of bipartisan bill about an urgent human rights issue that should pass by unanimous consent. I hope we can work together TODAY to make that happen.

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. No one should further delay action while these injustices continue. I am calling on Congress to do the right thing and enact the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act before the end of this year. Millions of people around the world are counting on us and they cannot wait.

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