Sen. Menendez on Human Trafficking Report Politicization

Sen. Menendez on Human Trafficking Report Politicization

WASHINGTON DC – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) issued the following statement in reaction to the tier-ranking upgrade of Malaysia and Cuba in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report published by the State Department today.

“I am profoundly disappointed by this year’s TIP report. The Administration has turned its back on the victims of trafficking, turned a blind eye to the facts, and ignored the calls from Congress, leading human rights advocates, and Malaysian government officials to preserve the integrity of this important report. They have elevated politics over the most basic principles of human rights.

"Upgrades for Malaysia and Cuba are a clear politicization of the report, and a stamp of approval for countries who have failed to take the basic actions to merit this upgrade. In Malaysia, members of the Parliament, the legal profession, and human rights activists have urged the United States to support their efforts and to maintain the Tier 3 ranking they tell us Malaysia deserves. Today, we have failed them.

“In Cuba, adults and children are subjected to sex trafficking and the government continues perpetrating abusive practices of forced labor, coercing tens of thousands of its own doctors and medical professionals to serve abroad under conditions that violate international norms.  As the State Department’s own report recognizes that there has been no progress on forced labor in Cuba, any upgrade of the country’s ranking challenges common sense.

"I intend to use all of the tools at my disposal – from hearings to legislation to investigations – to challenge these upgrades.  The United States’ commitment and credibility in fighting the scourge of modern day slavery is on the line.  We need to make clear that the TIP report must not be subject to political manipulation."

Senator Menendez has led the fight in Congress to avoid trade with human traffickers and the politicization of the Trafficking in Persons report, authoring an amendment to the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation that for the first time prohibits expedited “fast track” congressional consideration for any trade deal including a country ranked Tier 3.  Malaysia is among 12 countries entering the final round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The Menendez amendment passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Obama on June 29th.

Earlier this month, Menendez was also joined by 18 of his Senate colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing deep concerns following press reports of a possible unwarranted ranking upgrade for Malaysia.