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ICYMI: Rubio Questions State Department’s Enforcement Of Human Trafficking Laws

May 16, 2013 | Press Releases

Senator Marco Rubio’s letter to Secretary of State John Kerry is available online here.

Rubio Questions State Department’s Enforcement of Human Trafficking Laws
By Emily Cadei
CQ Roll Call
May 16, 2013

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is raising questions about whether the State Department is failing to enforce human trafficking provisions when it comes to foreign dignitaries on U.S. soil, in the wake of recent allegations of human slavery against a Saudi diplomat in Washington.

The high-profile incident at the Saudi diplomat’s home, in Northern Virginia, is reportedly under federal investigation, but two female Filipino domestic workers have claimed they were victims of human trafficking at the home, with the diplomat confiscating their passports and forcing them to work long hours without pay.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry obtained by CQ, Rubio noted that the problem is not a new one.

“In 2008, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered a $1 million final judgment against a Tanzanian diplomat” who “had trafficked a young woman from Tanzania and held her in forced labor for four years.”

He also documented how, in March 2010, a Tanzanian World Bank employee pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and agreed to pay back wages to a domestic worker who escaped from her home.

In the May 14 letter, Rubio noted that in its 2008 reauthorization of an anti-human-trafficking law (PL 110–457), Congress authorized Foggy Bottom to suspend certain categories of U.S. visas used for guest workers to specific diplomatic missions or international organizations that have abused or exploited non-immigrant workers in the past. And he questioned why, “in the five years since passage of this law, not a single country or mission has been suspended” from this worker visa program as a result.

Congress reauthorized the anti-trafficking law again earlier this year as part of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization (PL 113-4) enacted in March.

The Florida freshman has made trafficking, which usually involves either forced labor or the sex trade, one of his signature issues as he seeks to establish his international-affairs credentials, although the issue is not nearly as high-profile as others, such as immigration.

The U.S. government also “has the power to prosecute diplomats for engaging in modern-day slavery,” Rubio notes in his letter, trumping the diplomatic immunity most employees of foreign governments enjoy in another country. “But the Department of State appears to have requested only two waivers of immunity from diplomats’ countries of origin, one from Kuwait and one from Mauritius,” he writes.

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