United States: Congress Passes Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008 10:49 AM

On 10 December 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate both passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA). It was presented to President George Bush on 12 December for signature. Once signed, the bill will become law.

The bill, introduced by California Congressperson Howard Berman, reauthorizes funding for the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and significantly amends existing law. 

The bill touches on many areas of international concern, including provisions aimed at eliminating the use of products created by slave labor (Sections 102-104), ending the use of child soldiers worldwide (Title IV), as well as a policy statement that no provision of the TVPA and related laws should be interpreted to consider prostitution as "a valid form of employment" (Section 228).

The TVPRA made significant amendments to the standards and scope of the annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) produced by the U.S. Department of State. Specifically, the TIP will now cover all countries' compliance with minimum standards to combat human trafficking (Section 106).  It will also create a separate minimum standard for countries' “serious and sustained efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex ..." (Section 106(2)(D)).  Additionally, countries can now remain on the Tier 2 watchlist for only two years, as opposed to indefinitely (Section 107). 

The TVPRA also amends provisions concerning domestic trafficking, including imposition of a minimum 10-20 year sentence for “brothel landlords” who use minor victims of human trafficking, harsher sentences for people convicted of “alien harboring” in furtherance of prostitution, etc. (Section 222). The bill creates new crimes, as well, including obstructing the investigation of human trafficking, conspiring to traffic (Section 222), and for receiving financial benefit from any trafficking crime, not only sex trafficking (Section 222). Significantly, now any funds seized by the government will not go to the federal treasury, but to trafficking victims (Section 221). Finally, the act authorizes and appropriates new programs for U.S. citizen trafficking victims (Section 213(a)(1)).

For full text of the bill, H.R. 7311, click here.

Compiled from: H.R. 7311, 110th Cong. (2008) (enacted); Strauss, Karen, Brenda Zurita and Michael Horowitz, The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008: 50 Key Provisions (16 December 2008).