The House Foreign Affairs Committee has reauthorized the nation's first anti-trafficking law in what US Representative Chris Smith called “another step forward in our commitment to end this appalling form of modern-day slavery.”
Smith is the lead Republican cosponsor of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007, which was introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA).
The bill reauthorizes funds for U.S. anti-trafficking programs and increases assistance to victims of trafficking in other countries. It also tightens penalties against governments that fail to meet minimum anti-trafficking standards, while enhancing protections for child victims of trafficking.
Representative Smith extolled the benefits of the legislation. “Since enactment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the traffickers here and abroad are increasingly likely to face prosecution and conviction. According to the Department of Justice, domestic prosecutions for trafficking have increased by more than 300% under this legislation. Worldwide, nearly 6,000 traffickers were prosecuted last year, and more than 3,000 were convicted,” he said.
Smith also decried a "creeping complacency" in the State Department, which he accused of laxity in ranking countries that egregiously permit human trafficking. The worst offenders must face sanctions.
The bill also expands visa programs for victims, their families, and witnesses to aid in trafficking investigations. It strengthens penalties against traffickers, while creating new penalties punishing individuals who go abroad for so-called "sex tourism." The legislation authorizes government agency support for child victims of human trafficking. The bill also prohibits U.S. military assistance to governments whose official armed forces or their auxiliaries recruit or use child soldiers.