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House Committee Approves Reauthorization of Anti-Trafficking Measure, Resolution on Sexual Violence

Anti-Trafficking Legislation

On October 23, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed, by voice vote, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act (H.R. 3887), a bill to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (P.L. 106-386) through FY2011. The current authorization (P.L. 109-164) expired on September 30, 2007; the program is expected to be reauthorized in the near future.

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act (H.R.3887) would authorize approximately $146 million for FY2008 through 2011 to provide a wide-ranging set of new initiatives to prevent trafficking abroad, protect victims in the United States, and prosecute perpetrators around the globe.

The bill would require, within one year of its enactment, the attorney general and the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees identifying the existence or extent of any service gap between foreign and United States victims of severe forms of trafficking and victims of sex trafficking. The study is expected to include findings, best practices, and recommendations based on an assessment of the following:

  • factors relating to the legal ability of foreign and United States victims of trafficking to access government-funded social services, including the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L.104-193) and the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-208);
  • other impediments to the access of foreign and United States victims of trafficking to government-funded social services, including those targeted to victims of severe forms of sex trafficking; and
  • the effect of trafficking service-provider infrastructure development, continuity of care, and availability of caseworkers on the eventual restoration and rehabilitation of foreign and United States victims of trafficking.H.R. 3887 would create a “zero tolerance” policy for diplomats who abuse their workers. Consular officers would have to deny visas to a diplomatic mission or international institution with a history of human trafficking unless they could prove that there was a “mechanism in place to ensure that such trafficking, exploitation, or abuse does not occur again with respect to any alien employed by such mission or institution.”

    H.R. 3887 would require a comprehensive analysis of trafficking data to help better understand where victims are going and how to free them.

    Within two years of enactment, the measure would require the “establishment of an integrated database combining applicable data collected by each federal department and agency represented on the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking.” Additionally, the database “to the maximum extent possible, [should include] applicable data from relevant international organizations, for the purpose of undertaking a meta-analysis of patterns of trafficking in persons, slavery, and slave-like conditions.”

    Among other provisions, H.R. 3887 would address the issue of child soldiers and prohibit military assistance to foreign governments that recruit or use child soldiers.

    During debate on the bill, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) asked to work with Chair Tom Lantos (D-CA), the bill’s sponsor, on an amendment before the bill reached the House floor that would strengthen provisions to protect trafficking victims so that they would feel safe speaking to law enforcement.

    Resolution Against Sexual Violence in Darfur

    Also on October 23, as part of a separate en bloc vote, the committee approved a resolution (H. Res. 726) calling on the president of the United States and the international community to take immediate steps to respond to, and prevent acts of, rape and sexual violence against women and girls in Darfur, Sudan; eastern Chad; and the Central African Republic. These steps would include providing specialized grants to non-governmental organizations, treatment for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and financial assistance to women-led peace initiatives.

    As part of the en bloc vote, the panel approved, a substitute amendment to add language to the preamble citing an October 14, 2005, report by the secretary general of the United Nations, which stated, “Many girls have given birth as a result of rape. Although local communities are trying to accept the offspring, the children face a great deal of stigmatization.”

    During consideration of the resolution, Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) noted that prior to the mark-up, the committee also agreed to remove from the preamble all language that suggested the resolution supported abortions.

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