Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Washington D.C. Nonprofit Concerned New Federal Legislation Will Harm Victims of Trafficking

From Ayuda:

May 20, 2008- This week, Ayuda sent a letter to Senate leaders asking them to reject a change approved by the House of Representatives, which would greatly expand the definition of human trafficking and divert resources away from protecting the victims intended by the original anti-trafficking legislation. The House approved this change in December, and legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate within days.

The House-passed change would authorize the Department of Justice to prosecute as trafficking any person who "persuades, induces or entices any individual to engage in prostitution…" Current law defines trafficking to include labor or commercial sex performed under force, fraud or coercion or minors engaged in commercial sex. The expanded definition of trafficking approved by the House equates each instance of adult prostitution to a form of modern-day slavery, ignoring whether the individual in question is free to leave or not.

"Every week, Ayuda opens its doors to victims of trafficking and witnesses first-hand the toll this atrocity takes on its victims and their families. We are speaking out because this change in the definition of trafficking will harm our clients," said Mauricio Vivero, Ayuda's Executive Director. He added, "We hope Congress will ensure that any reauthorization of the federal anti-trafficking statute remains true to the vision of the original law."

Ayuda's letter was sent to all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and points out several harmful consequences that will result from a change in the definition of trafficking. Most importantly, Ayuda is concerned the change will divert resources away from victims of trafficking and force the Department of Justice to use its limited anti-trafficking resources to instead prosecute prostitution cases traditionally pursued by the states. The change will also de-harmonize the United States definition of trafficking from international laws and norms.

Ayuda is D.C.'s leading source of multi-lingual legal and social assistance for low-income Latinos and foreign-born persons. Ayuda staff has provided services to over 135 survivors of trafficking and thousands of hours of technical consultation to organizations and law firms working on the issue.

More information on Ayuda


Legislation was introduced in the Senate (on May 22nd), which rejects the House-passed
definitional change. This legislation is slated for committee mark-up on Thursday morning.

Thanks to Perry Wasserman at Ayuda for the info.

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