The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008

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The following is the statement presented by Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D. before The Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking’s briefing on the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), on January 15, 2009.

Introduction — The people you see before you this morning and dozens more have lived and breathed this bill for almost 2 years. We have been involved in the crafting, revising, negotiating and compromises that were essential to the passage of the bill. I think we could all agree that this bill is a miraculous piece of legislation. HR 7311 passed by unanimous consent — a feat all of us up to the last minute, in our darkest moments, feared would never happen. But we continued to hope and pray and work right up to the time of the vote.

Need — I’m sure many of you think that I am being too dramatic and that it couldn’t possibly have been that difficult — after all, this bill protects the most vulnerable among us from exploitation, horrible assaults, and a future that nobody should have to endure. And, the bill seeks to prosecute those who engage in criminal acts rather than their victims. So who could possible have a problem with those goals?

There were numerous “sticking points” that could have easily killed this bill along the way, but the biggest stumbling block was the necessity for bipartisan cooperation and the necessity for political leadership. Beyond that daunting challenge, somebody had to stand in front of the tanks to say, “You will have to knock me down before you block this bill.” That person was Michael Horowitz and he was backed up by a broad left-right coalition of leaders – including those sitting here today as well as our colleagues who were just as pivotal, but got lucky and didn’t have to fight the Inauguration traffic this morning.

Overview and Examples — Now, my colleagues, Michael and Karen who are lawyers, will probably cringe as I tell you about the bill in a layperson’s language. And, my colleague, Brenda Zurita, the true expert who knows this bill backwards and forwards, will probably wish that I had covered this or that aspect more thoroughly.

I am going to give you a broad, generalized layperson’s overview of 10 things that average Americans will be able to appreciate about this new legislation.

Because of this bill, it will be much harder for clever pimps to be set free because of a minor technicality. Prosecutors don’t have to PROVE that a trafficker knew that a victim was a minor. All the prosecution has to prove is that the trafficker had a “reasonable opportunity to observe” a victim who is a minor. Also, those people who help the traffickers can be accessories to the crime if they showed “reckless disregard” for a victim’s circumstances — including whether they were illegal aliens — when they came into contact with the victim who was forced into commercial sex acts. Now those countries that heretofore have safely remained categorized on the “Tier 2 Watch List” can only remain there 2 years before falling into Tier 3 — the worst countries in terms of protecting citizens from traffickers. The President can make exceptions, of course, but nations will no longer be able to slide by doing a minimum to protect the vulnerable. And, all countries will be evaluated, not just those that had 100 or more documented victims in the past. All countries will be evaluated on their “serious and sustained” efforts, too, — not on their last minute showy public relations events that sometimes previously saved them just in the nick of time. The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office will be responsible for coordinating and unifying all anti-trafficking efforts. TIP will have complete responsibility for policy, funding and programming decisions related to its grantees. Further, the TIP office must be consulted regarding all anti-trafficking efforts and all anti-trafficking programs in the State Department and USAID must also coordinate with the TIP office. Finally, the Senior Policy Operating Group (called SPOG and chaired by the TIP Office Director) must review all trafficking grants. Several language changes now make it easier to prosecute trafficking criminals. Instead of a trafficker “knowing” a victim’s circumstances — including drug addiction, the trafficker can be held accountable for “reckless disregard” of those factors. Also, the act expands coverage to include those who help the traffickers as well as those who financially benefit from the trafficker’s activities — whether federal slavery, forced labor or sex trafficking. It is far easier now for the victim to receive restitution through the trafficker’s forfeited assets or the civil damages that are awarded. The Department of Justice must create a new “model law” that incorporates the new provisions and includes reference to the D.C. Criminal Code section that all acts of pimping and pandering are per se crimes – regardless of proof of force, fraud or coercion, or knowledge of the victim’s minor age. The Department of Justice must report to Congress within 90 days specifying the date when they will complete a study of the illegal commercial sex industry. It will also have to report on its enforcement of Mann Act crimes from 2001-2009 and report on what we call, “look back crimes” – those criminals who are arrested for crimes against victims who are now over 18 years of age, but were minors when the criminal started exploiting them in commercial sex acts. The Health and Human Services Department and the Department of Justice must submit a report to Congress on the extent of any “service gap” between domestic and foreign national survivors of trafficking. And, the Act authorizes funding for a new program to provide services to U.S. citizen survivors of human trafficking. The Act requires the Department of Labor to provide a list of goods it has reason to believe have been made with forced labor or child labor. I am particularly pleased to report on the last provision that I will mention. This provision came from Concerned Women for America and is the brain child of Brenda Zurita, the research fellow of The Beverly LaHaye Institute. Our coalition refers to it as the Zurita Amendment. Arrests will no longer be lumped together; they must be broken down to show how many prostitutes, johns, and pimps/traffickers were arrested. This mean that the arrests will be categorized in the Uniform Crime Reports and a new term “Human Trafficking” will appear in the serious crimes category. This new provision will give us hard data about the extent of the domestic human trafficking problem.

Necessary Action — Obviously, our coalition is proud of the advances that this bill makes in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation of women. There are still things that need to be done, and we must remain diligent so that the progress made over the past decade will not be reversed because this vitally important issue was pushed off the front burner or because those with other priorities want to shift the focus away from the prosecution of criminals, the protection of victims, and the prevention of the crime before it harms our fellow human beings.

Finally, I never speak on the subject of sex trafficking without emphasizing that it is the demand for prostitutes that drives the whole sex trafficking industry. When authorities arrest a prostituted girl or woman, the traffickers just go get another vulnerable woman. If we are ever going to end this horrible crime, we must focus on ending demand. That means arresting the johns and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law. It also means rescuing and restoring the victims so that there will no longer be a problem of commercial sexual exploitation or forcing labor slavery on vulnerable people.

In conclusion, we intend to continue to push forward and we are counting on you backing us up or standing along side us in the effort. Together, we can end human trafficking and restore the dignity and productivity of its victims.

On behalf of Concerned Women for America, I want to thank you for your interest and your involvement.