WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, U.S Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) introduced the bipartisan Visa Transparency Anti-Trafficking Act. The bill seeks to prevent human trafficking by bringing more openness to the foreign temporary worker visa process. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Randy Weber (R-Texas), Jim Himes (D- Conn.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.).
“Across the globe, far too many people are in bondage,” Sen. Cruz said. “Human trafficking is a scourge on our country, and all of us must stand together to stop this grotesque abuse. It is nothing less than the face of evil; it completely tears down the rights of its victims, forcing them into modern-day slavery. There is zero tolerance for those who engage in the horrific practice of human trafficking. I am proud to introduce this bill alongside Senator Blumenthal to shine a light on the human trafficking abuses that occur within our nonimmigrant visa system. Transparency and information sharing will empower law enforcement and vigilant communities to better identify potential victims and rescue them from predatory employers. I am hopeful that Congress will pass this bill to hold offenders accountable and bring justice to their victims.”
“The Visa Transparency Anti-Trafficking Act will help prevent the scourge of human trafficking through comprehensive public reporting of essential visa data. Robust reporting will help civil society organizations liberate trafficking victims, law enforcement find traffickers and bring them to justice, and lawmakers ensure our worker visa programs operate as intended. It is past time to shed light on recruiters who prey on the vulnerable and employers who remain complicit in the 21st century slave trade. Congress must act immediately to protect people from lives of horror and bondage,” said Blumenthal.
Sens. Cruz, Blumenthal, and Reps. Frankel, and Deutch announced the legislation today on a conference call with trafficking survivor Shandra Woworuntu.
“I came to the U.S. through Indonesian recruitment agency who promised me 6 months’ employment at a hotel in Chicago after I paid $3000 for the recruitment fee. They obtained the paper work to get the visa. The fact is, I didn’t work in the hotel as promised. Instead, I was kidnapped, my passport was taken, the traffickers asked me to pay $30,000 and forced me to be sex slave in the underground sex business in New York, Connecticut and surrounding areas until I escaped. I believe intervention without prevention in combating human trafficking and exploitation is not a complete solution,” said Woworuntu. “We need more transparency and better data about workers who come to the U.S., and the Visa Transparency Anti Trafficking Act will be perfect to prevent temporary workers who come to the U.S. from being exploited and trafficked like me.”
Millions of foreign individuals are authorized to work in the United States every year on temporary, nonimmigrant visas. Abusive employers are bringing foreign workers to the United States with the expectation of legitimate jobs, only to coerce them into unbearable conditions, including sex slavery and domestic servitude. Federal data on these temporary work visas is not uniformly reported and not available to the public, impeding law enforcement’s efforts to crack down on this form of human trafficking. The Visa Transparency Anti-Trafficking Act provides a straightforward solution to gaps in reporting, by requiring a standardized reporting system, expanding reports to include critical information, and providing governments, advocates, and the public with the data needed to develop trafficking prevention programs.