Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement regarding today’s release of the U.S. State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report:
“Human trafficking is a grave human rights problem that we are seeing in our own communities, including throughout all of Florida, but it is also a global challenge. The United States has a moral duty to advocate for victims, highlight and hold to account the world’s worst violators, encourage and press for reform, and commend those who are on the path to combating modern day slavery.
“For many years the annual Trafficking in Persons Report was the gold standard for evaluating governments’ efforts to combat trafficking. That changed last year when it became clear that in some instances the report, specifically the tier rankings, reflected political considerations rather than a country’s actual record on the issue. Among the most glaring example
s was Cuba which was elevated last year from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List—a ranking not justified by the facts on the ground, but rather reflective of the Obama Administration’s pursuit of normalized relations with the Castro regime at any cost.
“Also questionable in this report is China’s continued placement on the Tier 2 Watch List despite press reports last year that State Department trafficking experts recommended a downgrade of China. While the internal State Department deliberations for this year’s report are not yet known, there is no indication that China’s trafficking track record has improved as evidenced by the report’s country narrative which clearly states, ‘…the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period.’ Based on all these facts, China should have been downgraded to Tier 3 in this report.
“Burma is among the countries downgraded to Tier 3 this year after four years on the Tier 2 Watch List. Despite some modest democratic gains in 2015, the military has not taken sufficient steps to end the use of child soldiers and forced labor. Thailand was upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List even though systemic and grievous labor violations in the seafood industry persist.
“While today’s report highlights human trafficking problems around the world, we must take to heart the recommendations to improve our own efforts to end this form of modern day slavery right here in the U.S. Most Americans would likely be shocked to know the extent to which human trafficking is happening in our own backyard, including in Florida. We must renew our commitment to eliminate human trafficking in all its forms, wherever and whenever it occurs.”