News: Plan to Fight Foreign Sex Trade

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Subject: News: Plan to Fight Foreign Sex Trade
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Wed Mar 17 1999 - 09:17:50 EST

Plan to Fight Foreign Sex Trade
By Anthony M. DeStefano, Staff Writer
Newsday, March 15, 1999, p. A03

      In an effort to battle the international sex traffic in immigrant
women to U.S. cities such as New York and Chicago, legislation will be
announced tomorrow [Tuesday] in the Senate that is aimed at providing
temporary asylum for the migrant victims and stopping federal assistance to
foreign governments directly involved in the trade.

    The proposal is aimed at protecting the victims, notably from Russia,
of the global sex trafficking networks that by some estimates have moved
tens of thousands of women and children yearly across international borders
for work as prostitutes.

    In a letter to his colleagues last week, Sen. Paul D. Wellstone
(D-Minn.), one of the bill's two co-sponsors, said trafficking into the
United States is a rising problem and that the proposal would increase
protections and services for women and children who find themselves in this

    "In particular, it seeks to stop the practice of speedily deporting
victims back to uncertain and potentially dangerous situations," and would
grant them a limited time to stay in the United States to seek civil and
criminal actions against traffickers, Wellstone said in his letter. The
bill was introduced late last week but is slated for a formal announcement

    Wellstone's staff has said the bill calls for giving the sex worker
immigrants three months to decide whether to take legal action against the
smugglers involved and to decide whether to ask for asylum because of the
risk they face of reprisals from traffickers if they returned to their
countries. The three-month period could be extended.

    The proposal would also amend the U.S. law on "involuntary servitude"
to include abuses suffered by trafficked immigrants who are forced to work
through non-physical coercion such as blackmail, fraud, debt bondage and
psychological pressure, tactics commonly used by traffickers against women
and children, according to Wellstone's staff.

    Wellstone is also calling for penalties against foreign governments
whose officials are directly involved or complicit in the sex trade. The
sanctions would include the withholding of police assistance to those

    While Wellstone, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Louise M.
Slaughter (D-Rochester), did not mention specific areas of the United
States affected by the international sex traffic, his spokesman, Jim
Farrell, said New York and Chicago have developed into key destination
cities for women smuggled from Russia and the Ukraine.

    The trafficking of women and children in the global sex trade has been
documented for decades, particularly in the Far East. But with the economic
collapse in the former Soviet Union, the activity is believed by law
enforcement officials to have taken on a new dimension as women, desperate
for jobs and money, have been smuggled to work abroad as bar waitresses,
dancers and prostitutes, sometimes under oppressive conditions.

    Major destinations for the Russian and Ukrainian women have been
Israel, China, Korea and Japan, according to Russian officials. But human
rights officials also say the sex traffic has moved further west,
specifically to the eastern United States.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The bill discussed above is S 600, the "International
Trafficking of Women and Children Victim Protection Act of 1999." See the
complete text by entering the bill number in the Library of Congress's
Thomas web site at:

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