Mr. Speaker, I am very happy that H.R. 3244, the Smith-Gejdenson-Brownback-Wellstone Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, is now poised to be passed and, hopefully, will be passed by the Senate and sent to the President for signature.
Interestingly and importantly, it has been endorsed by people like Chuck Colson and Gloria Steinem, by the Family Research Council and Equality Now, by the Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism, as well as the National Association of Evangelicals. In crafting this legislation, we also had the very able assistance of impartial experts, such as Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission, which goes out and rescues trafficked women and children one by one, and Dr. Laura Lederer of the Protection Project, whose painstaking research has been indispensable to ensuring that we have the facts about this worldwide criminal enterprise and its victims. I also especially want to thank my Staff Director and Chief Counsel Grover Joseph Rees, who has been indefatigable in his expertise on a myriad of these issues. As former general counsel of the INS, he has been indispensable in writing and crafting this legislation. I also want to thank David Abramowitz with the Democratic staff, who has also done yeoman’s work. This is truly bipartisan legislation. I also want to express my gratitude to Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute who has supported this effort from day one.
H.R. 3244 has attracted such broad support not only because it is pro-woman, pro-child, pro-human rights, pro-family values, and anti-crime, but also because it addresses a problem that cries out for a solution. Division A of this conference report, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, focuses on the most severe forms of trafficking in human beings: on the buying and selling of children into the international sex industry, on sex trafficking of women and children alike by force, fraud, or coercion, and on trafficking into slavery and involuntary servitude. Each year as many as two million innocent victims, of whom the overwhelming majority are women and children, are brought by force and/or fraud into the international commercial sex industry.
Efforts by the United States government, international organizations, and others to stop this brutal practice have thus far proved unsuccessful. Part of the problem is that current laws and law enforcement strategies, in the United States as in other nations, often punish victims more severely than they punish the perpetrators. When a sex-for-hire establishment is raided, the women (and sometimes children) in the brothel are typically deported if they are not citizens of the country in which the establishment is located, without reference to whether their participation was voluntary or involuntary, and without reference to whether they will face retribution or other serious harm upon return. This not only inflicts further cruelty on the victims, it also leaves nobody to testify against the real criminals, and frightens other victims from coming forward.
This legislation seeks the elimination of slavery, and particularly sex slavery, by a comprehensive, balanced approach of prevention, prosecution and enforcement, and victim protection. The central principle behind the Trafficking Victims Protection Act is that criminals who knowingly operate enterprises that profit from sex acts involving persons who have been brought across international boundaries for such purposes by force or fraud, or who force human beings into slavery, should receive punishment commensurate with the penalties for kidnapping and forcible rape. This would be not only a just punishment, but also a powerful deterrent. And the logical corollary of this principle is that we need to treat victims of these terrible crimes as victims, who desperately need our help and protection. The bill implements these principles by toughening up enforcement and by providing protection and assistance for victims.
Mr. Speaker, I am also very proud that Division B is the Violence Against Women Act of 2000, of which I was also a co-sponsor along with Henry Hyde, Bill McCollum, Connie Morella and other colleagues from both parties. This Act includes provisions to reauthorize federal programs that combat violence against women, to strengthen law enforcement to reduce violence against women, to strengthen services to victims of violence, to limit the effects of violence on children, to strengthen education and training to combat violence against women, to enact new procedures for the protection of battered immigrant women, and to extend the Violent Crime Reduction Trust Fund. Mr. Speaker, we cannot wait one more day to begin saving the millions of women and children who are forced every day to submit to the most atrocious offenses against their persons and against their dignity as human beings. I urge unanimous support for the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.