Hearing Brings Modern-Day Slavery to Light, ACLU Urges State Department to Play Its Role in Stopping It

October 18, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Modern-day slavery exists in the shadows, but it is alive and well, said witnesses today at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The American Civil Liberties Union is urging Congress to add new safeguards that prevent the abuse, exploitation and trafficking of domestic employees by foreign diplomats and to remove the shield of diplomatic immunity that prevents these victims from holding the diplomats accountable.

Although diplomats sign employment contracts agreeing to treat their workers justly, pay them fairly and give them necessary time off, in reality no laws bind them to their promises. The ACLU urges Congress address the plight of these domestic workers in the TVPA by including legislative language that:

  • Provides the workers with information about their employment rights and resources if they are abused
  • Requires usage of a comprehensive and binding employment contract that outlines the terms and conditions of the employment relationship including salary, expectations, vacation, accommodations, etc.
  • Requires periodic, mandatory check-ins with the domestic workers
  • Provides that immunity is waived if the diplomat breaches the contract

The following can be attributed to ACLU Legislative Counsel Vania Leveille:

“These domestic workers, predominantly women, came to America to make an honest living and to provide for themselves and their families, and instead they found themselves enslaved. This problem has existed for years and it’s time that our government stopped ignoring the anguish these women suffer. Diplomatic immunity was never intended to allow trafficking with impunity. We need legislation that will eradicate this form of human trafficking, and we need the United States to tell the rest of the world that slavery is unacceptable, no matter who is doing it. Congress must ensure that no class of traffickers is exempted from punishment and no class of victims remains unprotected.”

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