By KEVIN DERBY
Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch
Two South Florida Democrats on Capitol Hill are teaming up with U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to crack down on human trafficking operations by reforming the foreign temporary worker visa process.
U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch, the two Florida Democrats, are working with Cruz and Blumenthal on the “Visa Transparency Anti-Trafficking Act” which they introduced last week.
Frankel’s office laid out why she had introduced the proposal.
“Millions of foreign individuals are authorized to work in the United States every year on temporary, non-immigrant visas,” Frankel’s office noted. “Abusive employers are bringing foreign workers to the United States with the expectation of legitimate jobs, only to coerce them into unbearable conditions, including sex slavery and domestic servitude. Federal data on these temporary work visas is not uniformly reported and not available to the public, impeding law enforcement’s efforts to crack down on this form of human trafficking. The Visa Transparency Anti-Trafficking Act provides a straightforward solution to gaps in reporting, by requiring a standardized reporting system, expanding reports to include critical information, and providing governments, advocates, and the public with the data needed to develop trafficking prevention programs.”
The bill creates a standardized reporting system across all non-immigrant visas that authorize work which will be public and expand information included in the visa.
“Human trafficking is a stain on our society forcing too many workers into sex trade and abusive labor practices,” said Frankel. “Our bill will help end this modern-day slavery by increasing transparency and providing worker protection organizations and law enforcement the information to identify and stop it.”
“Inadequate data and lax enforcement help enable widespread human trafficking,” said Blumenthal. “By requiring the reporting of key data about non-immigrant visa categories that permit employment, our bipartisan measure will close major gaps in public government data. We will strengthen law enforcement’s ability to stop this horrific modern day slavery by doing everything possible to shine a light on predatory recruiters and complicit employers.”
“Human trafficking is a terrible and tragic industry, affecting every community across the country,” Cruz said. “It is an act of unmitigated evil that tears down the rights of its victims and forces them into modern-day slavery. Unfortunately, human trafficking is far more common in the United States than most people think. It’s a scourge on our country and the world, and it needs to be stopped. I’m proud to introduce this bill alongside Senator Blumenthal, to expose human trafficking abuses that occur in our nonimmigrant visa system by creating a better reporting system and sharing data so that abuse patterns can be identified and stopped. Transparency will empower law enforcement and vigilant communities to identify potential victims and rescue them from predatory employers. It is time for Congress to pass this bill, hold offenders accountable, and bring justice to their victims.”
“We must do more to close the gaps in our immigration system that allow human traffickers to operate their networks right under our noses. Our federal agencies already collect data on these nonimmigrant visa programs. Making the data public could assist policymakers and advocacy groups to develop ways to fill gaps and protect workers trafficked into our country under false pretenses,” said Deutch.
The bill has drawn additional support from both sides of the aisle including having U.S. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Ct., on board as cosponsors. Groups backing the proposal include the AFL-CIO, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), the American Federation of Teachers, the Economic Policy Institute, Freedom Network, Free the Slaves, Futures Without Violence, International Labor Recruitment Working Group (ILRWG), Justice in Motion, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the National Employment Law Project, National Guestworker Alliance, Polaris, Safe Horizon, Service Employee International Union (SEIU), the Southern Poverty Law Center, UniteHERE, Verité and Vital Voices.
Frankel‘s bill was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee last week.