The Trafficking Victims Protections Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) is a crucial bill that will renew the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which established the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, authorized the annual Trafficking in Persons report, and established a global minimum standard for confronting trafficking and slavery.
The original legislation was also designed to combat trafficking in the U.S. by establishing it as a federal crime and providing assistance programs for survivors, including visa protection for victims trafficked across international borders.
The new bill builds upon that act and improves it in important ways. Here is a short summary of reforms and innovations found in the TVPRA (S. 1301):
- Requires the State Department geographic bureaus to cooperate with the TIP Office to develop anti-trafficking goals and objectives for each country.
- Designates the appointment of anti-trafficking officers for U.S. Embassies abroad to expand diplomacy to confront trafficking and slavery.
- Authorizes a program to assist foreign governments in addressing human trafficking during emergency situations, such as the Haiti earthquake.
- Authorizes Child Protection Compacts, providing technical and financial assistance to designated focus countries to eradicate exploitation, violence, and abuse of children. (This provision includes the major elements of S.3184, the Child Protection Compact Act—advocated for by many IJM supporters—which had broad bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate during the 111th Congress.)
- Authorizes a study by the investigative arm of Congress, the General Accounting Office (GAO), into foreign labor recruiters.
- Authorizes U.S. embassies and consulates abroad to provide information on trafficking to deter illegal labor recruitment practices.
- Criminalizes the seizure of passports or other immigration documents from foreign workers in the U.S. (a common tactic of traffickers)
- Allows trafficking victims in the U.S. to seek civil remedies for personal injuries.
- Requires the Attorney General to report to Congress on various elements of U.S. anti-trafficking policy, including activities to identify victims of severe forms of both sex and labor trafficking.
- Establishes a grant program to states to combat sex trafficking and increase legal and social services to victims. (This provision includes elements of S.596, the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act, which also had broad bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate during the 111th Congress.)
- Provides model state criminal law to protect minor victims of sex trafficking, including protecting victims from being prosecuted for the crime of prostitution.
Learn more about the TVPRA with these resources:
- See if your Senators have demonstrated a commitment to slavery abolition by co-sponsoring the TVPRA: Click here to view supporters on the bill, or learn more about your Senators' overall anti-slavery support by viewing the Justice Campaigns Senate Congressional Scorecard.
- Bill Summary: Dive deep by exploring the full text of the bill: Click here
The best way to ensure the Senate passes this bill and gets it to President Obama for his signature is to generate maximum political support for the bill across the political spectrum. You can help! Contact your Senators today online or, even better, schedule a meeting with your Senator's local district office to ask them in person to co-sponsor the TVPRA and to urge that it be brought to the floor for a vote by the full Senate at the earliest possible opportunity.
The TVPRA in the House of Representatives
The TVPRA was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Howard Berman (D-CA) on August 30, 2011, and quickly gained a strong bi-partisan showing of support.
In response to concerns raised by a Health and Human Services' (HHS) decision not to award an anti-trafficking grant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Congressman Smith introduced a new version of the bill in December 2011. This new version of the TVPRA includes a "conscience clause," which prevents the federal government from denying a grant to an organization based on its moral or religious objections to providing particular services, such as abortion. The concept of a "conscience clause" is not new—it already applies to U.S. foreign aid—but is a new addition to domestic anti-trafficking grants. IJM has no objection to the inclusion of the conscience clause in the bill. Congressman Smith made another change that is more problematic to service providers, which was to remove the victim assistance program out of HHS altogether and place it within Department of Justice. This more far-reaching amendment has made Smith's version of the bill more controversial among Democrats, who are not currently supporting the new bill.
The TVPRA in the Senate
The TVPRA was introduced in the U.S. Senate on June 29, 2011, by Senators Leahy (D-VT), Brown (R-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Boxer (D-CA), Cardin (D-MD), and Wyden (D-OR), and now enjoys the support of more than 1/3 of the Senate.
On October 13th, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the TVPRA by a vote of 12-6, and now the bill is ready to be voted on by the full Senate.
The Senate bill includes a number of innovative provisions that strengthen global and domestic anti-trafficking programs and services, including:
- Authorizing the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Office to negotiate child protection compacts with designated focus countries to increase resources and political will to eradicate child trafficking (the essential provisions of the Child Protection Compact Act).
- Providing resources to allow the TIP Office to respond quickly to requests for technical assistance from foreign countries.
- Instructing the State Department regional bureaus to designate anti-trafficking specialists in our Embassies abroad to collect information on trafficking and communicate U.S. concerns to foreign government officials.
Senate staff have indicated that a conscience clause is likely to be added to the Senate bill when and if it comes before the full Senate for a vote; it is unlikely to gain majority support without such a clause.