State Department Enforcement of Human Trafficking Laws Questioned

Senator 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; two female Filipino domestic workers have claimed they were victims of human trafficking there, with the diplomat confiscating their passports and forcing them to work long hours without pay.

Rubio noted that the problem is not a new one. In 2008, a Tanzanian diplomat trafficked a young woman from Tanzania and held her in forced labor for four years, and in 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 its 2008 reauthorization of an anti-human-trafficking law (PL 110–457), Congress authorized the suspension of 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. Rubio 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. The government also “has the power to prosecute diplomats for engaging in modern-day slavery,” Rubio notes in his letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, 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.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., Representative Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., the original sponsor of Congress’ landmark anti-human-trafficking legislation (PL 106–386), fault the State Department for not singling out countries that are failing to combat trafficking.

Learn more at Emily Cadei’s Roll Call article: Rubio Questions State Department’s Enforcement of Human Trafficking Laws.

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