U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees, voted Tuesday to combat modern slavery and strengthen the fight against human trafficking. The legislation, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, was filed as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which the Senate also voted to reauthorize on Tuesday. The final legislation now awaits consideration in the House, which last year refused to take up the Senate's bill to reauthorize VAWA.
"Slavery is an abomination and must be eradicated from this earth," Senator Coons said. "The United States has been a global leader in the fight against slavery and human trafficking, and this legislation will help us continue to be. It is truly shocking, but human trafficking is still a problem that needs to be confronted. Globally, as many as four million people are trafficked each year for sex exploitation, forced labor, or as child soldiers, making trafficking perhaps the biggest global human rights issue in our time. Trafficking generates an estimated $9.6 billion each year for criminal organizations and absolutely must be stopped. Vigilance against human trafficking is essential to our continual pursuit of justice."
The amendment passed by a 93-5 vote Tuesday morning.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act was first passed in 2000 and was reauthorized in 2003 and 2008, but expired at the end of 2011. The bill was approved by the Judiciary Committee in October would extend its provisions until 2015, and:
Amends the RICO Act to include labor contract fraud under its scope to help prosecute forced labor trafficking;
Criminalizes the knowing destruction, concealment, removal, confiscation, or possession of a person's immigration documents;
Increases the statute of limitations to 10 years for those bringing civil actions for injuries caused by forced-labor or sexual criminal actions against minors;
Improves the immigration system created to assist victims of trafficking and their immediate family members, known as "T visas" and "U visas";
Increases accountability of participating programs;
Strengthens and regionalizes global anti-trafficking efforts;
Establishes a fund to assist other countries with urgent needs related to trafficking; and
Improves access to information about human trafficking laws and protections for victims through immigration authorities and the Department of Health and Human Services.
In November, Senator Coons helped found the bipartisan Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking and build support for the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.