Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act
I rise today to speak in support of the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
The scourge of trafficking in women and children was a priority for me as First Lady and continues to be a priority for me as a U.S. Senator. Since the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, I have been working to raise awareness of the heinous practice of buying and selling women and children like commodities. I have seen the devastation that it causes, and the lives it ruins. I have met with the families from Eastern and Central Europe, who, with tears in their eyes, pleaded with me to help them find lost ones who had been stolen from them, and I have met with the victims, including a twelve-year old girl in Thailand who was dying of AIDS after being sold twice by her family. This barbaric practice has caused far too many too exist in a perpetual state of fear and vulnerability, and we must do everything in our power to bring the scourge of trafficking out of the shadows and to the attention of the world.
I am proud to say that the United States has, for the past decade, been the leader in trying to persuade the rest of the world to eradicate this abhorrent practice. As the Clinton Administration increased the anti-trafficking activities of our government through programs at the State Department and the Department of Justice, Congress was developing legislation to eradicate trafficking. We worked with the late Senator Wellstone, his Republican co-sponsor, Senator Brownback, and Congressman Chris Smith and former Congressman Sam Gejdenson in the House, to introduce the first comprehensive anti-trafficking bill in Congress. This culminated in the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. I believed then, and I believe now, that this is one of the Clinton Administration's greatest achievements and one of the most important parts of Senator Wellstone's legacy. That law has meant the difference between freedom and enslavement for unknown numbers of potential trafficking victims, and this reauthorization provides us with the opportunity to strengthen its ability to help those who have been trafficked, and I would like to thank Senator Brownback and Representative Smith, my colleagues on the Helsinki Commission, for their continued commitment to this Act since its initial passage.
I am proud to see that this reauthorization enhances the 3 P's strategy— prevention of trafficking, prosecution of those that engage in these acts, and protection of the vulnerable individuals who have been trafficked— that we developed in the Clinton Administration. It gives the Justice Department the authority to pursue extraterritorial prosecutions of federal employees or those accompanying them if they engage in trafficking activities. It encourages the prevention of trafficking by requiring organizations or contractors engaged in U.S.-supported peacekeeping efforts to have anti-trafficking policies in place. And it will protect those who have been trafficked overseas by increasing funding for programs like residential treatment facilities.
But there is still so much work to be done. Although reliable statistics are difficult to find, we know that 800,000 individuals— the vast majority of whom are women and children— are trafficked from one country to another every year, with 15,000 being trafficked to the United States. The FBI estimates that trafficking generates $9.5 billion annually for organized crime syndicates around the world.
I am deeply concerned about the growing domestic commercial sex trade, and I believe that we need to increase funding and target efforts to end all forms of exploitation. Any expansion of our focus must not dilute our commitment to eradicating human trafficking in all its forms in the United States, nor detract from the progress we have made in increasing prosecutions and working with law enforcement agencies. We must ensure that our government has all the resources it needs to make inroads against these awful acts on our own soil.
In the fight against trafficking in persons, patience simply is not an option. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to end this barbaric practice in both the United States and around the world, because this is not about politics, but about what we all share: universal freedom and universal human rights.
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