H.R. 514, Human Trafficking Prioritization Act

H.R. 514

Human Trafficking Prioritization Act

Date
January 26, 2015 (114th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Monday, January 26, 2015, the House will consider H.R. 514, the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act of 2014, under a suspension of the rules.  H.R. 514 was introduced on January 22, 2015 by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Bill Summary

H.R. 514 is substantively identical to H.R. 2283, the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act of 2014, which passed on July 23, 2014 by voice vote.[1]

H.R. 514 amends current law to prioritize the fight against human trafficking within the Department of State (DOS), consistent with congressional intent expressed in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), without expanding the size of the federal government.  H.R. 514 expresses the sense of Congress that the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking at DOS will be more effective in carrying out its duties[2] if the Office status is changed to that of a Bureau within DOS hierarchy.  H.R. 514 then amends the TVPA to change the statutory references establishing an Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to references establishing a Bureau to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

H.R. 514 requires the Secretary of State to report to Congress within 90 days of the bill’s enactment on 1) how each of the current Assistant Secretary of State positions are currently allocated and whether they were legislatively mandated or authorized; and 2) whether the Secretary intends to designate one of the Assistant Secretary of State positions as the Assistant Secretary of State to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and the reasons for that decision.

H.R. 514 further amends the TVPA to prevent a country from remaining on the Tier 2 Watch List for more than 1 consecutive year if the country has previously remained for four years on the Tier 2 Watch List and was automatically downgraded to Tier 3.

H.R. 514 provides that no additional funds are authorized from DOS’s “Diplomatic and Consular Programs” to carry out this bill.

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[1] Congressional Record – July 23, 2014, at H6733.
[2] As mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

Background

In the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), Congress authorized the creation of a DOS Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (“the Office”) in order to directly assist the Secretary of State in coordinating a U.S. response to domestic and international trafficking.[3]  The Office “monitors trafficking worldwide and produces the online and printed versions of the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which is Congress’ primary resource for human trafficking reporting, analysis, and recommendations on the [U.S.] and 186 countries around the world.”[4]

The annual report contains a tier ranking system that ranks countries based on their efforts to eliminate trafficking.[5]  Countries listed in Tier 1 rank highest in their efforts, while countries in Tier 3 require the most improvement.[6]  There is evidence that countries have dramatically improved their human trafficking record based on the tier ranking in the annual report.[7]  Yet, the report has at times been influenced by other DOS officials for political reasons.[8]  According to congressional testimony by Ambassador John Miller, former Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, “Upgrading the status of the Office to a Bureau will not create additional bureaucracy—it will simply give [the Office] and the Ambassador-at-large who heads it equal standing with regional and functional bureaus at [DOS].”[9]  It is critical that Congress and the Secretary of State receive accurate information on U.S. and international efforts to combat human trafficking.  In addition, the diplomatic value of the annual Trafficking in Persons report depends on its accuracy and its uniform analysis of all countries.  H.R. 514 re-designates the Office as a Bureau within DOS to ensure strong and effective anti-trafficking policies that are not impacted by politics and other U.S. interests.

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[3] H.R. 2283, Sec. 2(2).
[4] Id. at Sec. 2(3).
[5] U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons: About Us.
[6] Id.
[7] H.R. 2283, Sec. 2(5).
[8] Id. at Sec. 2(6).
[9] Id. at Sec. 2(7).

Cost

A CBO cost estimate is not available at this time.  However, a CBO cost estimate for legislation passed in the 113th Congress found that enacting this legislation would result in insignificant discretionary costs and not affect direct spending or revenues.[10]

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[10] http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/hr2283.pdf

Additional Information

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