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House Approves Measure to Combat Human Trafficking

On December 4, the House approved, 405-2, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 3887). The House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved the measure on October 23 (see The Source, 10/26/07).

H.R. 3887 would reauthorize human trafficking programs within the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, State, and Labor. Specifically, the bill would provide $83 million in FY2008 and $355 million over the period of FY2008-2012 for Justice Department programs to combat trafficking in persons. Of that amount, the bill would authorize $72 million for FY2008-2011 for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, $60 million for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate severe forms of trafficking in persons, and $33 million for state, local, and tribal governments, and nonprofit organizations to assist victims of human trafficking.

The legislation would provide $38 million in FY2008 for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and $173 million over the period of FY2008-2012 for trafficking related programs. Of that amount, $33 million would be authorized in FY2008-2011 for grants to state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations for programs to assist victims of human trafficking, and $5 million annually for residential treatment facilities for minors who are victims of trafficking.

For FY2008-2011, the measure would authorize $31 million to the State Department and $31 million per year for the president to carry out programs to prevent trafficking in persons, protect victims of trafficking, conduct research on domestic and international human trafficking, prevent refugees and internally displaced persons from being exploited by traffickers, and help foreign states eliminate trafficking in persons.

The bill would authorize $60 million for FY2008-2011 for the Department of Labor to provide benefits and services to victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons in the United States, and $4 million for FY2008-2011 to fund the Bureau of International Labor’s activities to combat forced labor and child labor.

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) said, “Trafficking is the world’s fastest growing international organized crime, and one of the most profitable, yielding up to $17 billion each year. Every year traffickers move between 700,000 and two million women and children across international borders for the purpose of serving in the sex trade or in forced labor. Congress has worked for nearly a decade to ramp up our country’s efforts to prevent trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute perpetrators. With approval of the bill before the House today, we can redouble these efforts and dramatically increase the ability the United States has to work to end the scourge of modern-day slavery…The bipartisan bill before the House will not end trafficking overnight but it will dramatically increase America’s ability to stop trafficking here at home, and to work with other countries to battle this rapidly growing international crime.”

Rep. Thelma Drake (R-VA) said, “[T]he abolition of slavery was never fully achieved in our country, or anywhere else in the world…Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It manifests itself in many forms: forced and bonded labor, sex slavery, and even militant activity, as has been seen with child soldiers. I am outraged that such an offense against humanity and against the ideals of our country is allowed to flourish on our soil and abroad…[T]rafficking is a shared global problem, which will require a global response. Congress has rightly taken the lead in putting this issue on the international agenda. Human trafficking is an issue that transcends political ideology and every faith. We have a moral imperative to put an end to this modern-day slavery. For this reason, I support H.R. 3887, because I believe it will put us on the right path to finally abolishing slavery in our country and around the world…[O]nly through increasing public awareness to this global problem and demanding action will we bring an end to slavery.”

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