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When I held the first hearing on human trafficking as Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights 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 and had no access to assistance to escape the slavery-like conditions in which they were trapped. Few seemed to be even aware that this modern form of slavery was taking place and even some of those who did failed to recognize it as a violation of fundamental human rights.
However, the situation has changed markedly over the past 6 years. Significant credit for improvements must be attributed to the enactment of the Bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, together with the two reauthorizations of that act in 2003 and 2005, all of which I sponsored. These three laws created a comprehensive framework for combating trafficking in persons abroad as well as the trafficking of American girls and young women within the United States. These three laws are superb examples of what we can accomplish when we work in a bipartisan way. So I again, I want to thank Tom Lantos for his extraordinary partnership in crafting these pieces of legislation as well as that of Chairman Hyde. This is the result of a great deal of collaboration and bipartisanship. As a result of these three laws, our Government has been a leader in addressing this serious human rights violation and encouraging other governments to do the same