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The Subcommittee will today hear testimony concerning the continuing problem of human trafficking. The U.S. Government, as we all know, now estimates that some 600,000 to 800,000 women, children and men are bought and sold across international borders each year and exploited through forced labor or commercial sex exploitation. Potentially millions more are trafficked internally within the borders of their countries. Eighty percent of the victims are women and girls. An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign citizens are trafficked into the U.S. each and every year.
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights in the late 1990s, I led an effort to end the scourge of trafficking, and it is probably better called slavery, by sponsoring the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), P.L. 106–386, which was signed into law in December 2000. In 2003, I sponsored a reauthorization of that act which also became law.
These two pieces of legislation created a comprehensive framework for combatting trafficking in persons abroad, as well as the trafficking of foreign nationals into the United States. As a result, our Government has been a leader in addressing this human rights violation and encouraging other governments to do the same. When I held the first hearing on trafficking, back in 1999, only a handful of countries had laws explicitly prohibiting the practice of human trafficking. Individuals who engaged in this exploitation did so without fear of legal repercussions. Victims of trafficking were treated as criminals and illegal immigrants—governments did not offer them assistance to escape the slavery-like conditions in which they were trapped, and few NGOs were equipped to offer survivors of trafficking the restorative care to heal physically, mentally and spiritually from the trauma they experienced. Little was being done to prevent others from being exploited in this same way.