H.R. 1897: Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013

H.R. 1897

Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013

Date
July 31, 2013 (113th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, July 31, 2013, the House will consider H.R. 1897, the Vietnam Human Rights Act,under a suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on May 8, 2013 by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, which ordered the bill reported by unanimous consent.

Bill Summary

H.R. 1897 prohibits non-humanitarian assistance to the government of Vietnam in excess of FY2012 amounts unless the President certifies to Congress that the government of Vietnam has met certain improvements regarding political and religious freedom, minority rights, access to refugee programs, political prisoners and human trafficking.   It also authorizes the President to waive such requirements in non-humanitarian assistance will be used to promote the purposes set out in the act relating to rights and freedoms in Vietnam.  The bill would require the Secretary of State to report to Congress annually regarding U.S. policy with respect to Vietnam.

Furthermore, the bill expresses the sense of Congress that:

  • The U.S. should take measures to overcome the jamming of Radio Free Asia by the Vietnamese government and that the Broadcasting Board of Governors should not cut funding or staffing for broadcast hours in Vietnamese
  • The U.S.-Vietnam educational and cultural exchange programs should promote freedom and democracy in Vietnam
  • The Secretary of State should oppose Vietnam’s candidacy for membership on the U.N. Human Rights Council.
  • Vietnam should be designated as a country of particular concern for religious freedom
  • Vietnam does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to meet these standards.

Background

H.R. 1897 was developed as a result of an April 10, 2013 Congressional hearing that focused on the victims of human trafficking, religious persecution, and political repression at the hands of the government of Vietnam.  The bill has the support of a number of important members of the Vietnamese-American community.  According to the State Department’s 2013 “Trafficking in Persons Report”, Vietnam is considered a Tier 2 country, which means that although they do not fully comply with the standards set out by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), they are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.  Supporters of the bill argue that Vietnam should be ranked as a Tier 3 country, due their failure to take significant action to prevent trafficking.

Cost

Based upon information provided by the State Department, the CBO estimates that implementing the reporting requirements in H.R. 1897 would have discretionary costs of less than $500,000 per year, totaling about $1 million over the 2013-2018 period assuming the availability of appropriated funds.[1]

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.