FN Thanks 52 Senators Who Co-Sponsored TVPRA (S. 1301)

The Freedom Network policy committee was hard at work last week visiting members of the Senate, urging them to co-sponsor the Trafficking Victims Protection Reathorization Act (specifically the Senate version, S. 1301). The bill was due for reauthorization last year and despite strong leadership from Senator Leahy (D-VT) who was leading the charge for reauthorization, this is the first time the law has been allowed to expire. While important political topics like budgets and elections have taken up most of the airspace in Congress, it is still critically important for advocates and activists ensure that our elected leaders take action on behalf of survivors of trafficking by reauthorizing this bill.

Drawing from our members’ experiences working with all types of survivors in all types of industries, during our visits we shared with Senate staffers the critical need for reauthorization from the direct service perspective. Not only does a reauthorization ensure that Appropriations can be sufficient to meet needs of survivors, but it also reinforces our government’s stance that trafficking needs to be addressed at the Federal level. Through prevention programs, effective protection for survivors, and stronger prosecution that gives law enforcement the tools and legitimacy they need to pursue justice for survivors, the TVPA is the most important piece of legislation we have to fight human trafficking in the US. Furthermore, while many new State “trafficking” bills are being introduced, many of them do not cover all forms of human trafficking and/or lack sufficient social services components.

We are proud to report that there are currently 52 Co-Sponsors for S. 1301, and we believe there will be more to come! In the last week alone, we have confirmed 3 more co-sponsors, and the bill has received bi-partisan support. For a full list of co-sponsors, see this list on THOMAS. Here is the list in alphabetical order along with the date the Senator signed on:

Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] – 9/22/2011
Sen Ayotte, Kelly [NH] – 6/7/2012
Sen Begich, Mark [AK] – 6/29/2012
Sen Bennet, Michael F. [CO] – 10/31/2011
Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] – 9/10/2012
Sen Blumenthal, Richard [CT] – 12/5/2011
Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] – 6/29/2011
Sen Brown, Scott P. [MA] – 6/29/2011
Sen Brown, Sherrod [OH] – 9/15/2011
Sen Burr, Richard [NC] – 9/15/2011
Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] – 3/7/2012
Sen Cardin, Benjamin L. [MD] – 6/29/2011
Sen Casey, Robert P., Jr. [PA] – 10/17/2011
Sen Chambliss, Saxby [GA] – 11/7/2011
Sen Cochran, Thad [MS] – 7/19/2011
Sen Collins, Susan M. [ME] – 9/10/2012
Sen Conrad, Kent [ND] – 9/20/2012
Sen Coons, Christopher A. [DE] – 9/20/2011
Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] – 10/13/2011
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] – 7/7/2011
Sen Franken, Al [MN] – 10/17/2011
Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] – 7/20/2011
Sen Hagan, Kay [NC] – 10/12/2011
Sen Harkin, Tom [IA] – 9/13/2012
Sen Heller, Dean [NV] – 10/4/2011
Sen Hutchison, Kay Bailey [TX] – 6/27/2012
Sen Isakson, Johnny [GA] – 10/11/2011
Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] – 6/29/2011
Sen Kirk, Mark Steven [IL] – 9/20/2012
Sen Klobuchar, Amy [MN] – 10/11/2011
Sen Landrieu, Mary L. [LA] – 9/12/2011
Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] – 1/24/2012
Sen Lieberman, Joseph I. [CT] – 3/19/2012
Sen Menendez, Robert [NJ] – 3/7/2012
Sen Merkley, Jeff [OR] – 10/18/2011
Sen Mikulski, Barbara A. [MD] – 10/3/2011
Sen Murkowski, Lisa [AK] – 9/21/2012
Sen Murray, Patty [WA] – 3/8/2012
Sen Nelson, Bill [FL] – 10/13/2011
Sen Portman, Rob [OH] – 10/17/2011
Sen Pryor, Mark L. [AR] – 3/27/2012
Sen Reed, Jack [RI] – 4/26/2012
Sen Rubio, Marco [FL] – 7/14/2011
Sen Sanders, Bernard [VT] – 3/5/2012
Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] – 9/13/2011
Sen Shaheen, Jeanne [NH] – 6/6/2012
Sen Stabenow, Debbie [MI] – 10/13/2011
Sen Tester, Jon [MT] – 11/2/2011
Sen Udall, Mark [CO] – 9/26/2011
Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [RI] – 4/26/2012
Sen Wicker, Roger F. [MS] – 5/10/2012
Sen Wyden, Ron [OR] – 6/29/2011

Is your Senator on the list? We encourage you to call and thank them!

Don’t see your Senator? Please call and ask them to join their fellow Senators and co-sponsor S. 1301!

It is important to remain active on this issue, even if it does not come to a vote this year, as the momentum gained now will not be lost. 



Good News in Trafficked Filipina Teachers Case

On August 27th, the court in Tanedo v. East Baton Rouge Parish School Bd. (C.D. Cal.) issued a solid decision for the most part denying a summary judgment motion filed by two of the recruiter defendants. The plaintiffs, teachers recruited in the Philippines to work at school districts in Louisiana on H-1B visas, allege that the defendants, including the recruiter defendants, violated the TVPA, the RICO, and CA state law. Last December, the court certified a class for the TVPA, RICO trafficking, and state law claims (with the exception of state law fraud).

Read more background on this precedent-setting human trafficking case here

In May 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford set a historic precedent by granting class action status to a human trafficking lawsuit involving these 350 Filipino teachers In reaching his decision, the Court concluded that it is sufficient that a defendant’s misconduct has created a situation where ceasing labor would cause a plaintiff serious harm. Further, human trafficking also involves violations of other laws, including labor and immigration codes and laws against kidnaping, slavery, false imprisonment, assault, battery, pandering, fraud, and extortion. In other words, the TVPA not only protects victims from the most heinous human trafficking crimes, but also various additional types of fraud and extortion leading to forced labor. And in this case, the complaint alleges that psychological coercion such as seizing immigrants’ passports to restrict their ability to flee, threats to fire Plaintiffs, sue them, allow their visas to expire, or deport them over various issues that generally concerned complaints about living conditions and pay.

Among other things, the plaintiff teachers allege that they were drawn into the recruiter defendants’ fraudulent scheme to force payment of previously undisclosed exorbitant recruitment fees after the teachers had already paid the recruiters substantial fees that would not be returned. Once in the U.S., the teachers felt compelled to work to repay their substantial debts and to make required kickbacks to the recruiters. The recruiter defendants threatened deportation and legal action against the Plaintiffs and other class members – and in fact brought legal action against some – if they protested the fee arrangements.

In their summary judgment motion, the defendants argued, among other things, that before the 2008 TVPA reauthorization, “serious harm” in Sec. 1589 did not include financial harm (the 2008 reauthorization defined serious harm to include financial harm). The court strongly disagreed with this position. Drawing on Dann and Calimlim – both cases in which the trafficking occurred before the 2008 reauthorization – and the congressional record from the initial passage of the TVPA, the court concluded that the broad array of harms contemplated by “serious harm” included financial harm.

The case is scheduled for a jury trial starting on October 2.

Congratulations go to Jim Knoepp, Sam Brooke, and Michelle Lapointe of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Dennis Auerbach and Candice Plotkin of Covington & Burling, and Dan McNeil of the American Federation of Teachers for their brilliant work developing this case, putting together the summary judgment opposition, and now preparing for trial.