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2/9/04 - HUMAN TRAFFICKING - 2004-02-05

Each year, according to the U.S. State Department, more than eight-hundred thousand people, mostly women and children, are trafficked across borders worldwide, including an estimated twenty-thousand in the U.S. The U.S. is committed to ending the suffering caused by human trafficking -- whether the victims are forced into prostitution, into slave labor, or into being child soldiers. The recent conviction and sentencing in the U.S. District Court in Hawaii of Kil Soo Lee and his co-conspirators marks the largest human-trafficking case ever prosecuted in the U.S. Lee, a Korean national, was the owner of a forced-labor factory in the territory of American Samoa. Lee and his underlings used threats, starvation, confinement, and beatings to hold more than two-hundred Vietnamese and Chinese garment workers in servitude.

In another recent case, seven Texas men were found guilty of confining and raping women brought to the U.S. from Mexico. Attorney General John Ashcroft says that, “These prosecutions represent more than just the punishment of wrongdoers”:

“These crimes extend beyond the bounds of law. They are an affront to human dignity, an assault on our nation’s core beliefs. This nation’s laws are built on the belief that every human life is precious.”

President George W. Bush has made the fight against human trafficking a U.S. priority:

“There is a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable. The victims of the sex trade see little of life before they see the very worst of life -- an underground of brutality and lonely fear.”

The U.S. is committing fifty-million dollars to funding organizations that are rescuing women and children from exploitation. The U.S. has strengthened its laws to crack down on offenders. U.S. citizens are subject to domestic abuse and exploitation laws even if their crimes are committed outside the U.S.

As President Bush put it, “The trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive.”