U.S. Determined To Fight Trafficking, Bush Says, Signing New Law

By Jeffrey Thomas
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - Signing legislation January 10 that strengthens U.S. efforts to fight human trafficking at home and abroad, President Bush reiterated American determination “to fight and end this modern form of slavery.”

“We are called by conscience and compassion to bring this cruel practice to an end,” said Bush during a ceremony in Washington to sign legislation renewing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the first comprehensive U.S. law aimed at deterring trafficking, punishing traffickers and protecting and rehabilitating the victims.

The new law expands funding for anti-trafficking programs in the United States and abroad and seeks to combat specific problems such as trafficking by international peacekeepers or by U.S. federal employees and contractors working overseas.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) strengthens current U.S. anti-trafficking laws and authorizes new funds to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to combat both domestic and international trafficking. 

Internationally, the new law requires U.S. assistance programs for post-conflict and humanitarian emergencies to include anti-trafficking measures, and it includes provisions for monitoring and combating forced labor and child labor in foreign countries.

Trafficking in human beings involves the forced labor of men, women and children in the commercial sex industry as prostitutes, as well as forced labor in factories, fields, restaurants and homes.

“Human traffickers operate with greed and without conscience, treating their victims as nothing more than goods and commodities for sale to the highest bidder,” Bush said, adding that thousands of teenagers and young girls are brought into the United States every year where they are “forced to submit to unspeakable evil.”

“We cannot put the criminals out of business until we also confront the problem of demand,” the president said.  “Those who pay for the chance to sexually abuse children and teenage girls must be held to account. So we'll investigate and prosecute the customers, the unscrupulous adults who prey on the young and the innocent.”

The TVPRA strengthens the use of money laundering, racketeering and civil and criminal forfeiture statutes against traffickers, and it establishes the crime of sex trafficking under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It also directs the Department of Justice to conduct a biennial analysis of trafficking and commercial sex acts statistics inside the United States.

In his remarks, Bush spoke of the “duty to reach out to victims of trafficking, some of whom were smuggled into this country as children.”

“The legislation I signed today will help us provide important new services to these victims, including appointing a guardian for young victims and providing access to residential treatment facilities to help victims get a chance at a better life,” he said.

The TVPRA authorizes several pilot projects as well as grants to nongovernmental organizations to provide counseling and help to reintegrate victims of trafficking into society. These include pilot treatment facilities for both domestic and foreign victims of trafficking.

Under U.S. law, victims of trafficking are not deported.  They have the right to stay in the United States, either through "continued presence," which allows victims to stay pending an outcome of a trial, or through a "T" visa, which allows them to stay for up to three years and to thereafter apply for legal permanent status.

Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey who authored the original anti-trafficking law as well as the reauthorization, said in a January 9 statement that “human trafficking is not a criminal activity exclusive to foreign countries – it happens within our own borders, within our own communities.”

“The 2005 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act strengthens and expands our efforts and allows law enforcement to continue to liberate the women and children who are forced and coerced into slavery,” he said.

According to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the TVPRA will provide $361 million over the next two years to combat trafficking.

Trafficking provides organized crime with annual profits in the range of $8 billion to $10 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which estimates 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, while millions more are trafficked internally within the borders of countries, including somewhere between 14,500 and 17,500 in the United States.

Worldwide, more than 3,000 traffickers were convicted last year – an increase from the previous year, according to the State Department’s 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report.

“We will continue to call on other nations to take action against trafficking within their own borders,” Bush pledged.

See fact sheet on the TVPRA on the Web site of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.  The Web site also includes a fact sheet on Rescuing Victims of Modern-Day Slavery.

A transcript of the president’s remarks at the signing ceremony is available on the White House Web site. A statement by Representative Smith about the TVPRA is available on his Web site.

For additional information on U.S. anti-trafficking efforts both domestically and worldwide, see Human Trafficking.