CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 2285, Preventing Trafficking in Cultural Property Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 2285 was introduced on May 13, 2015, by Rep. William Keating (D-MA) and was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, in addition to the Committees on Homeland Security and the Judiciary. The Committee on Homeland Security ordered the bill reported as amended by voice vote on November 4, 2015.
H.R. 2285 strengthens the enforcement efforts of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to interdict, detain, seize, and investigate cultural property that was illegally imported into the United States. Additionally, it requires CBP and ICE to disrupt and dismantle smuggling and trafficking networks that are engaged in the illegal trade of cultural property. Under the bill, the heads of CBP and ICE must provide sufficient training to all CBP and ICE personnel involved in such enforcement activities and must also designate principal coordinators to direct, manage, and coordinate functions related to the illegal importation of cultural property.
The legislation also would also authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enter into memoranda of understanding with the Smithsonian Institution to allow for the temporary use of the institution’s staff for cultural property protection activities.
Terrorists and terrorist organizations have used and continue to use proceeds from antiquity and cultural property smuggling to fund their activities and bolster their financial networks. Currently, groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) steal and subsequently sell these cultural items on the black market as a means to illegally fund their nefarious undertakings.
The United States Government is responsible for identifying and seizing these types of smuggled objects in the U.S. as well as prosecuting those who take part in such terrorist financing activities. However, it is estimated that the dollar value of smuggled antiquities arriving in the U.S. from countries like Iraq and Syria have recently increased by as much as 600 percent. This growth in illegal activity stems from a lack of trained officials, resources, and coordination between government agencies tasked with overseeing and stopping the illegal important of cultural property.
“We know that groups like ISIL are looting and selling cultural properties – in particular from areas such as Iraq and Syria – to fund their terrorist activities,” according to the bill’s sponsor. This legislation would enhance the identification and interdiction of these items at U.S. ports of entry through several improvements, including: mandated cultural property trainings, improved detection methods, and focused coordination between agencies to dismantle these trafficking networks.
Information from DHS indicates that many of the legislation’s requirements have already been met; therefore, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 2285 would cost less than $500,000 annually. This spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.
For questions or further information please contact John Wilson with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-1811.