By Alison Liu

July 1, 2011

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) introduced the TVPRA (Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act) to the Senate. The bill would update the original TVPA of 2000, which created the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) within the State Department to focus on human trafficking. In 2009, GTIP received $26.5 million, a drop in the bucket compared to overall expenditures. Yet, International Justice Mission states that GTIP is “one of the smallest but most effective of all U.S. foreign assistance programs.”  In addition, the TVPA created an annual Trafficking in Persons report (the TIP report) on international trafficking. The relatively small GTIP office is a very important player in the fight against human trafficking around the world.

Regarding GTIP, S. 1301 would…

  • Authorize the Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) Office to negotiate child protection compacts with designated focus countries
  • Provide resources to allow the GTIP Office to respond quickly to requests for technical assistance from foreign countries.
  • Instruct the State Department regional bureaus to designate anti-trafficking specialists in our embassies abroad

Advocates continue to hope that the bill will eventually include sanctions on foreign diplomats and a closer look at the presidential waiver. The former, sanctions on foreign diplomats, is missing from all previous TVPA laws. Diplomats still have immunity under the Vienna Convention of 1961 which shields them from prosecution in a foreign country. Unfortunately, this means that diplomats who abuse the roughly 3,500 domestic workers who work for them in the U.S. each year are held unaccountable.

Advocates also hope that the bill will take a closer look at the presidential waiver. In 2009, President Obama waived 17 out of 19 countries that were to be sanctioned for not addressing human trafficking within their borders. The only 2 countries fully sanctioned were Cuba and North Korea. If the leaders of foreign countries do not fear U.S. retaliation, which other government has the leverage to make human trafficking a priority? It remains to be seen whether Senators will include diplomatic immunity and the presidential waiver in the markup process.

This is part one of a series of blog posts that BTCC interns and staff will write about the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2011 this summer. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the series!

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