ACLU Applauds Passage of Human Trafficking Legislation
Urges President to Sign Bill Providing New Protections to Domestic Workers Abused and Trafficked by Foreign Diplomats in the
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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union applauds last night’s passage of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which, if signed by President Bush, would take great strides towards preventing the abuse, exploitation and trafficking of domestic workers employed by foreign diplomats in the United States.
Although this problem has been well documented, lawmakers had until now ignored the State Department’s unwitting facilitation of the trafficking, exploitation and enslavement of poor women of color from around the world. The State Department has issued special nonimmigrant employment visas – over 2,000 every year – so that ambassadors, foreign diplomats, consular officers and employees of international organizations, such as the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund, can bring their nannies and other household workers into the
“Last night was a victory in the fight against exploitation and enslavement of vulnerable women in the workplace,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The legislation is an important start in our government’s effort to protect workers from diplomats who act with impunity and disregard for our laws. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress and the State Department to ensure that diplomats are held accountable.”
“This is a significant achievement and fitting that it occurred on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Vania Leveille, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “It would not have been possible without the enduring commitment and strong leadership of Representative Howard Berman, the late Representative Tom Lantos, Representative John Conyers, Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Sam Brownback, and Vice President-elect Joe Biden. We thank them and their congressional staff members for tireless work on behalf of women who came to this country from places like
The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 is an important first step. Acknowledging the particular vulnerability of these workers, the law contains specific provisions to enhance their protection and sanction their employers for exploiting the situation. It ensures that domestic workers are made aware of their rights in this country directly by consular officers who will be trained on
“If precautions like those required by this new legislation had been in place years ago, our clients might not have been exploited and endured psychological and physical abuse for months at the hands of a Kuwaiti diplomat and his family,” said Araceli Martinez-Olguin, an attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.
The ACLU represents Kumari Sabbithi, Joaquina Quadros and Tina Fernandes, three Indian women who were employed as domestic workers by Major Waleed Al Saleh and his wife Maysaa Al Omar in
For more information on the issue of human trafficking by diplomats, visit /womensrights/employ/domesticworkers.html
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