[Congressional Record: September 14, 2000 (House)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
APPOINTMENT OF CONFEREES ON H.R. 3244, TRAFFICKING VICTIMS PROTECTION ACT OF 2000
Mr. GOODLING. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to take from the Speaker's table the bill (H.R. 3244) to combat trafficking of persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery, and slavery-like conditions, in the United States and countries around the world through prevention, through prosecution and enforcement against traffickers, and through protection and assistance to victims of trafficking, with a Senate amendment thereto, disagree to the Senate amendment, and agree to the conference asked by the Senate.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Walden of Oregon). Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Pennsylvania?
There was no objection.
Motion to Instruct Offered by Mr. Watt of North Carolina
Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I offer a motion to instruct conferees.
The Clerk read as follows:
Mr. WATT of North Carolina moves that the managers on the
part of the House at the conference on the disagreeing votes
of the two Houses on the Senate amendment to the bill H.R.
3244 be instructed to recede to the Senate on provisions
contained in section 7 of the Senate amendment (relating to
obtaining visas for victims of trafficking without numerical
limitation) in order to ensure that any victim of trafficking
in the United States who has been forced, coerced, or
defrauded into sexual slavery, involuntary servitude, or
other relevant conditions and who has escaped such bondage
may obtain a visa and remain in the United States and to
encourage such victims to assist United States law
enforcement authorities to break up trafficking rings and end
the terrible practice of trafficking in human beings.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Watt) and the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Canady) each will be recognized for 30 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Watt).
Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I am offering this motion to instruct conferees at the request of the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers), who may show up here at any moment and participate in this discussion, but in the interim I am trying to carry his water for him.
Of all the human rights violations currently occurring in our world, the trafficking of human beings, predominately women and children, has to be one of the most horrific practices of our time. At its core, the international trade in women and children is about abduction, coercion, violence and exploitation in the most reprehensible ways. H.R. 3244 is a modest effort to eradicate forcible and/or fraudulent trafficking of persons into prostitution or involuntary servitude.
Among other things, the bill increases penalties and provides some protection for victims who would otherwise be deportable if identified by law enforcement, by creating a new ``T'' visa category for eligible victims. Unfortunately, the bill reported out of the Committee on the Judiciary and approved by the House is much more restrictive than the bill originally introduced by the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) and the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Gejdenson). Instead, a much narrower bill was substituted by the Committee on the Judiciary markup to satisfy unrealistic concerns that the bill would somehow enable persons to fraudulently obtain a lawful status by claiming that they were a victim of sex trafficking or involuntary servitude.
Most significantly, the bill unnecessarily caps at 5,000 per year the number of victims who can receive a nonimmigrant visa and caps at 5,000 per year the number of victims who can become permanent residents. Because estimates of the number of trafficking victims entering the United States are greater than 5,000 per year, I see no reason not to provide protection to the 5,001 and the 5,025 victim who have been the subject of such terrible acts. As a result, my motion to instruct instructs the conferees to recede to the Senate provision which contains no such cap.
We have no arbitrary limit on the number of refugees who can enter this country. We have no arbitrary limit on the number of asylees who can enter this country and, in my judgment, it is beneath our dignity as a nation to use an arbitrary cap to shut our doors to victims of slavery and sex trafficking.
The Members should know that this motion is supported by the Catholic Conference, the National Organization for Women, Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Immigration Law Center. I urge the Members to support this common sense and compassionate motion to instruct.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. CANADY of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the motion to instruct, and I would like to briefly address the motion. I need to point out to the Members that the bill that passed the House was a carefully crafted compromise that took into account all the input that we had received in the committee process on this legislation. It is my understanding that of all the estimates that have been made concerning the number of potential beneficiaries under this legislation, who would be eligible to obtain visas, none of those estimates have exceeded the 5,000 cap.
The original estimates were substantially below the 5,000 cap that is included in the bill, so I believe that it is unlikely, extremely unlikely, that this cap would have any practical impact. The cap is there, however, to make certain that this bill does not result in admissions that are beyond what was anticipated when the legislation was considered.
The chairman of the subcommittee of jurisdiction, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Smith), is on his way to further discuss the motion to instruct and to express his opposition so I would just make that general observation that I have made. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as she may consume to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Lofgren).
Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I strongly object to the 5,000 per year cap on trafficking of victim visas imposed by the majority. The majority
has not been able to cite a single bit of evidence in the hearing or in the markup to support a cap of 5,000. We understand from the prior speaker that there is opinion that this may be sufficient, and if that is the case there is certainly no harm in not having an arbitrary cap. If it is less than 5,000, then there will be no issue but if, if, one year there is more than 5,000 we would find this cap to be morally wrong.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that we can never predict how many people will be the victim of trafficking and how serious their plight will be; how many of them will seek refuge in our wonderful country, a bastion of freedom. Congress has granted similar discretion to increase refugee caps and there are no caps for asylum candidates. So it is my view that we have room in this vast, wonderful, prosperous country for victims of sex trafficking and slavery, and I do not want to be an American who says to the 5,001victim, they are out of luck.
In fact, the evidence is that the cap of 5,000, in fact, may be too low. There was recently an exhaustive report by the Central Intelligence Agency titled, the International Trafficking in Women to the United States, a Contemporary Manifestation of Slavery. That is the name of the report. It outlines women who are brought to the United States to work as prostitutes who are abused as laborers or servants, and even if this report overestimates the number of trafficking victims by a large factor, the limit of 5,000 would still be too low and it would deny thousands of victims of trafficking any right to remain in this country.
So I think we ought to put this into context. We have already in this country women who have been brought here and really held in virtual slavery, sometimes as victims of sexual oppression. When those women break free, we want to make sure that they have found refuge in this country of freedom. We do not want to then turn them away back to their abusers.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to lift up their hearts, remember that America stands for freedom, to understand that we have room for the 5,001 victim of slavery who is held here and seeks freedom and to support the motion to instruct conferees.
Mr. CANADY of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Smith), the Chair of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, and I ask unanimous consent that he be permitted to control the remainder of the time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Florida?
There was no objection.
Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank my colleague and friend, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Canady), for yielding me his time and for speaking in opposition to this motion. I, too, oppose this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I oppose this motion to strike the cap on the number of visas and green cards given to trafficking victims. The bipartisan authors of this bill gave us this number of 5,000 when estimating the size of the victim group. In fact, at one point, the estimated size of victims was 1,500, so 5,000 is a very, very generous level.
We ought to stand by their estimate and respect the desires of the bipartisan authors of this bill. Also, Mr. Speaker, imposing a cap obviously safeguards against fraud. Rather than having an unlimited number of visas available that might be taken advantage of by individuals wanting to get into the system, we need to have that cap to avoid people being tempted to take advantage of the system and abuse the privilege.
This bill is a merging of both Republican and Democratic trafficking bills. The authors of this bill estimated the number of trafficking victims in the United States to be no more than 5,000. Both Democrats and Republicans agreed on this cap at the Committee on the Judiciary because it was the number given to us by the authors of the bill. Now some want to eliminate the cap altogether.
Whenever a new form of immigration relief is created, many aliens apply for that relief. Too often, those applications do not contain bona fide claims of relief. We need tools to prevent this form of relief from being abused and jeopardizing relief for valid and legitimate claimants. One of those tools is a cap.
When a group of people needs protections or relief from deportation, it is important to know the size of that group to understand the size of the problem. If the group size is known or estimated, no harm is done in creating a cap that correlates to that group's size. The size of trafficking victims has been estimated. The authors of the bill have told us the group size is 5,000 people so no harm comes from imposing a cap of 5,000 and, in fact, much good comes from having a cap to stop the fraud and abuse.
This cap will prevent large numbers of aliens from falsely claiming to be trafficking victims. It safeguards against fraud, which everyone should be concerned about.
Finally, the caps in this bill are on the victims only. They are not on the victims' family members. So spouses, sons and daughters, children of the victim and even parents of the victim, if the victim is under 21, may all receive a visa and a green card free from this cap.
The same is true for the green cards themselves. The green card cap of 5,000 is again just for the victims only. It is not on the victims' family members, so obviously many more than 5,000 individuals will be admitted and be able to avail themselves of this new category. There is no reason to remove this cap, and I strongly urge my colleagues to oppose it.
The bipartisan authors of the bill, I want to repeat again, gave us the number of 5,000 because they thought that was more than adequate to satisfy the needs of all legitimate victims, and we should stand by that number. Having a cap in place prevents fraud, and I urge all of those who are concerned about fraud, as we seen so often in our immigration system, to oppose this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. My colleague from Texas (Mr. Smith) would have us believe that this is about fraud. It is not. Regardless of how many people come in having been imported into our country as slaves or as sex objects, there still has to be an application to stay, and that application has to be evaluated, so the fraud is taken out in that context.
It may be that if the gentleman is worried about fraud, it would be 4,000 in the first 5,000 who have engaged in some fraudulent activity. That is not the issue here. The issue is would we send a woman or child who has been sexually abused and put into slavery in this country back into another country where that kind of activity was going on, so whether the victim is the 499th or the 4,099th, or the 515th or the 5,015th should not be the issue. The issue is what should our policy be, and we should open our arms to these people.
Mr. Speaker, I keep hearing these estimates and the statement that there was some bipartisan agreement. Let me be clear that there was no bipartisan agreement about this number. The bill came out of the committee, but there was substantial disagreement. There was an effort to revise the number in the committee, and I am looking at a report here from the Central Intelligence Agency briefing in April of 1999 that estimated that the number of women and children who are trafficked annually into the United States primarily by small crime rings and loosely connected criminal networks is between 45,000 and 50,000.
Now, the estimate, the guess, about how many of those people will come forward and present themselves is no more than conjecture. One-tenth of them might come forward, in which case we would have a number between 4,500 and 5,000; but if 20 percent of them came forward, you would have a number at 10,000, and would it be in our own conscience as a Nation to deprive that extra 5,000 or that extra 100 by some arbitrary cap that really is just an arbitrary figure?
Our policy is to welcome people in, who have been abused, into other countries, and that should continue to be our policy.
Mr. Speaker, I yield as much time as he may consume to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers).
(Mr. CONYERS asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Watt) for yielding me the time.
This is a human rights issue of great moment to me. One of the worst practices that has come to the Congress' attention is this trafficking of women and children and the coercion and exploitation and violence that accompanies it.
We are disappointed that the bill introduced formally by our colleagues the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Smith) and the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Gejdenson) has been narrowed in the Committee on the Judiciary, and we have put caps at 5,000 per year on the number of victims.
As the gentleman from North Carolina has pointed out, this is arbitrary and beneath our dignity as a Nation. I am happy to say that many of the immigration and human rights organizations support us, and so I urge that this motion to instruct be given very careful attention by our colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I think the cap is arbitrary and does frankly a good disservice to our international image as a country concerned with human rights.
Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. Mr. Speaker, I just want to say to my friend from North Carolina (Mr. Watt), because I know him well enough to know that he would never intentionally mislead anyone, but I would like to clarify a figure that he used, 45,000, and emphasize that is a worldwide figure of possible victims. That is not the number expected, I understand, to come to the United States.
I would repeat the point that the authors of the bill who represented Republicans and Democrats are very comfortable with this cap of 5,000. It does guard against fraud. In fact, going back to the cap, we think it is more than generous, and I urge my colleagues to oppose this motion, one, because we need to prevent fraud; and, two, because the bipartisan authors of the bill are happy with that cap.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. Mr. Speaker, I want to comment on the point that my colleague from Texas (Mr. Smith) has raised. I am reading a report from the Center for the Study of Intelligence, and I am reading verbatim from that report. It says, and I quote: ``An estimated 45,000 to 50,000 women and children are trafficked annually to the United States.'' Now, that might be worldwide being trafficked into the United States, but that is what this bill is about.
How many of them are we going to allow? How many are going to come forward and seek to stay here once they have been trafficked in? If the figure is wrong, it is because the report is wrong; it is not because I have misstated the record. I am stating it in good conscience. I cannot verify it. I was reading from a report. Maybe the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Lofgren) will have some clarification.
Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. WATT of North Carolina. I yield to the gentlewoman from California.
Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to ask the gentleman his judgment. It is my understanding from law enforcement that the ability to actually prosecute these traffickers and to put an end and decrease the number of people who are brought in and abused is really very much dependent on the ability of these women to escape and to understand that they will be given refuge; and if you cannot escape and be given refuge, then you really cannot cooperate with the police, and we will never be successful in eliminating and prosecuting and ending this trafficking in human beings as sex slaves. Mr. Speaker, I would ask the gentleman from North Carolina if that is his understanding as well.
Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Reclaiming my time, I think the gentlewoman from California makes an exceptionally good point that in addition to the human rights argument, there are actually public safety and criminal law administrative reasons that we should not have this cap, because we want to have in place an incentive for these women and children to be able to come forward and break out of this sex ring and slave ring and come forward. The primary incentive they have is to seek to be able to stay in the United States, and if they cannot do that, then we provide no protection to them as a Nation.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee).
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Watt) for yielding the 3 minutes to me. Let me thank the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) for this motion to instruct and the leadership of the Members on this floor. I hope that our colleagues are listening to us. The gentlewoman from Illinois (Ms. Schakowsky) and myself offered an amendment, or legislation, dealing with battered immigrant women, which is not a directly pointed point, but it does deal with the abuse of women. So we know that overall in these issues dealing with sexual abuse or physical abuse, it is most necessary to have some kind of relief. The capping that is going on with respect to the victims of trafficking is egregious, and it is important that we should not cap the numbers to avoid helping people. What happens is with this motion, it answers the need, because it eliminates the arbitrary 5,000 annual cap so we can provide these as to all victims who have been forced into involuntary servitude and sexual trafficking.
Mr. Speaker, needless to say, we can document today with stories that recount for us that sexual trafficking or trafficking of human beings for sexual activities continues today. When we traveled to Southeast Asia and Bangladesh and India and Pakistan, there were women there who told us they were victims of it.
It has happened to us, there were children who were able to relay the story of what happens, and sometimes these people are able to make their way to a refuge in the United States, and that is why the Catholic Conference, the National Organization for Women Legal Defense and Education Fund, and The National Immigration Law Center see the merit in this motion to instruct, that the cap is dangerous, the cap is devastating, and in some sense, Mr. Speaker, it is inhuman.
It is extremely important that we begin to look at this problem as a real-life, 21st century problem; and the act itself combats trafficking with a three-tier approach. It has prevention, prosecution, and enforcement against the traffickers, but we must find a way to protect the victims.
This motion to instruct says the victims are important. The capping is wrong. Let us remove the arbitrary cap. Let us make sure that we provide visas to all of those in need. This is reasonable, Mr. Speaker. It addresses the current problem. I hope my colleagues will see the good sense of it, and that they will vote for it. Mr. Speaker, trafficking in human beings is a form of modern-day slavery. At its core, the international trade in women and children is about abduction, coercion, violence, and exploitation in the most reprehensible ways.
Trafficking victims suffer extreme physical and mental abuses, including rape, torture, starvation, imprisonment, death threats, and physical brutality. Women and children trafficked into the sex industry and exposed to deadly diseases, including HIV and AIDS. Victims trafficked into domestic servitude, bonded sweatshop labor and other industries are subject to violence and sometimes literally worked to death.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 1999 combats trafficking with a three-tier approach. It provides for prevention, prosecution and enforcement against the traffickers, and assistance to the victims of trafficking. We can and should provide assistance to the victims of trafficking.
However, the bill unnecessarily caps at 5,000 per year the number of victims who can receive a nonimmigrant visa and caps at 5,000 per year the number of victims which can become permanent residents.
This is unfortunate because estimates of victims entering the United States are greater than 5,000, and we should not cut off protection.
This Motion To Instruct is supported by the Catholic Conference and the National Organization for Women Legal Conference and the
National Organization for Women's Legal Defense And Education Fund. I urge Members to support this Motion to Instruct.
Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Walden of Oregon). Without objection, the previous question is ordered on the motion.
There was no objection.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion to instruct offered by the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Watt).
The motion was agreed to.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Without objection, the Chair appoints the following conferees: Messrs. Gilman, Goodling, Smith of New Jersey, Hyde, Smith of Texas, Mrs. Johnson of Connecticut; and Messrs. Gejdenson, Lantos, Conyers, and Cardin.
There was no objection.