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Bush signs law to fund fight against human trafficking

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush signed into law Dec. 19 a bill authorizing more than $200 million to fight human trafficking in a renewed effort by the federal government to battle such worldwide problems as forced prostitution.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 funds efforts for the next two years to prosecute criminals and to assist victims who have been forced into labor or prostitution. The victims include both women and children.

The law is a step beyond the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. Among other additions, the new law allows victims of human trafficking to remain in the United States while rebuilding their lives.

During his speech at the United Nations in September, Bush denounced human trafficking.

“Nearly two centuries after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, and more than a century after slavery was officially ended, the trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time,” the president said.

Tommy Thompson, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, praised the new law.

“The TVPRA is a decisive step toward meeting the president’s challenge,” he said in a statement. “It provides fresh resources and initiatives to assist, in particular, the 18,000-20,000 victims of human trafficking who are trafficked into the United States every year.”

The new law empowers victims “to bring federal civil suits against traffickers for actual and punitive damages” and also includes sex trafficking as offenses under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization statute, Thompson said.

“By signing the reauthorization of the federal human trafficking program, the president is reaffirming his administration’s commitment to end the horror of human trafficking, and to ensure that the real criminals — the traffickers of innocent people — are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Thompson said.

The new law passed the House 422-1 and the Senate unanimously.

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