Human Trafficking Awareness Dayby Representative Edward R. Royce
Posted on 2014-01-09
ROYCE. Mr. Speaker, this Saturday on January 11, people
throughout our country here, people throughout the world will be
observing Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The start of this new year I
think is a fitting time to focus on the shameful fact that human
slavery is not a relic of ancient history, that in fact it is with us
today. It is a brutal reality. A reality faced by more than 20 million
victims around the world, many of them trafficked for labor, but
increasingly for underaged girls. For young women, this is a case where
they are exploited in this trafficking as well.
Even in my work as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I have learned that human trafficking is no longer just a problem ``over there.'' It is a problem in our communities here. It is a problem in developing economies, but also it is a problem in the United States and in Europe. It is a scourge even in the communities that we serve here and that we represent.
In my own community in the last two years, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force assisted 250 victims. Ninety-three percent were women, most of them underage, 80 of them from foreign countries. At our November field hearing in Fullerton, the Orange County district attorney testified that, shockingly--we are speaking now about trafficking, sexual trafficking--``shockingly the average age of a child being trafficked in this country is 12'' years of age. ``A little girl who has not even reached her teens.'' We also heard from one brave survivor, Angela Guanzon, who was trafficked from the Philippines into forced labor in Long Beach, California.
I have heard many other stories from the members of the Human Trafficking Congressional Advisory Committee that I established last year in my Los Angeles district office. The forum for communicating on trafficking between law enforcement, advocates, service organizations, and survivors has contributed profoundly to my own knowledge, my own understanding of this issue. I encourage my colleagues to get to know those on the front lines of the fight against human trafficking. Get to know them in their districts and know of their work. You are going to be informed, challenged, and inspired by what you learn.
This January designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month is a perfect time to shine a spotlight on the dark issue of trafficking, but awareness is only a first step. More needs to be done.
To that end, I would urge my colleagues to join me in cosponsoring H.R. 3344, the Fraudulent Overseas Recruitment and Trafficking Elimination Act, to combat one critical form of recurring abuse: namely, that is unscrupulous recruiters. By targeting the recruiters we can do a lot--these recruiters who bait foreigners to travel to the United States with promises of good jobs, but trap them in sexual exploitation or forced labor once they arrive.
For example, in my home county, the Salvation Army's Network of Emergency Trafficking Services reports that a full one-third of their clients--33 percent of their clients--were recruited in a foreign country by a labor recruiter. They got here and found it was a very different job than the one they enlisted for. This represents not only an assault on the dignity of the victim but also a subversion of United States labor laws and our nonimmigrant visa system.
In response, this legislation requires that prospective foreign workers be given accurate information about the terms of employment and be given anti-trafficking protections by U.S. laws. It prohibits recruitment fees or hidden charges used as coercive leverage against workers. In other words, once you get here to the United States, you can't find out afterwards, because they didn't disclose to you, that there are fees that you owe. Those fees are no longer allowed. Up front the employer pays those fees.
It requires foreign labor recruiters to register and remain in good standing with the Department of Labor, and it provides new incentives and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that recruiters and employers follow these disclosure and registration requirements.
[[Page H76]] Members may contact the Foreign Affairs Committee to join this important anti-traffic initiative. I encourage you all to sign on to my legislation.
As people of goodwill around the world observe Human Trafficking Awareness Day this weekend, let us move beyond mere awareness, let us abolish this injustice, and protect and restore the dignity of those who have survived such exploitation.