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Menendez Statement on State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement in reaction to the publication of the 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report by the U.S. State Department.

"The Trafficking in Persons report is a crucial part of the United States’ commitment to advancing the fight to end the scourge of modern day slavery.   While this year’s report shows some improvement over past years in its assessment of global human trafficking, I am discouraged to see the State Department missed the mark in evaluating certain countries that continue to fail to fully combat this global crime. The United States credibility in documenting and confronting this scourge rests on the integrity of this report.

"TIP rankings must be based on an objective assessment of the minimum standards in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a country’s efforts to meet them, and the impact that government actions are having on improving the lives of trafficking victims. Sadly, this year’s rankings of Bahrain, Uzbekistan, Qatar, and others are simply unjustifiable given the facts on the ground. Having led the effort in Congress to ensure that the TIP report accurately reflects the reality of modern slavery, I also have serious concerns that this year’s ranking of our own country fails to take into account the administration’s cruel policy of denying human trafficking survivors access to visas. This policy falls dramatically short of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) legal requirement for all countries to make increasing efforts to combat human trafficking.

"The Trump Administration’s chaotic and opaque process for restricting anti-trafficking and humanitarian assistance to countries ranked Tier 3 is also alarming. This broken process resulted in months-long delays in critical services for vulnerable people, including trafficking victims. As I have repeatedly warned, the Administration should not repeat past mistakes by using the TVPA to try to cut off assistance to the most vulnerable communities in the world. Congress intended TVPA sanctions to spur non-compliant governments into action – not as a means to reduce foreign assistance for those who need it most.

“Finally, reports that Secretary Pompeo decided to block the inclusion of Saudi Arabia on the State Department's list of countries that recruit child soldiers only add insult to injury. The hard-working, committed State Department's policy experts whose findings demonstrate how the Saudi-led coalition uses underage fighters in Yemen deserve an honest reflection of American values in this report.

"I urge the Department to continue to work with me to implement the provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2019 and ensure that the tier ranking process is no longer subject to political manipulation or inconsistent analysis. Only then can we ensure that the TIP Report is an effective tool to encourage governments to make strides against human trafficking."