President Obama’s Executive Order strengthening protections against human trafficking of persons employed by federal contractors is modeled after bipartisan legislation introduced by Northern Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May, Connolly’s office reported yesterday.
“The Executive Order is an important step toward ending the abhorrent and unacceptable practice of exploitation of foreign nationals employed by some U.S. contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in some U.S. embassies in the Middle East,” Connolly said. “The trafficking of these workers violates our American values and cannot be tolerated.” Connolly is the ranking member of the House Oversight subcommittee that deals with contracting and procurement issues. He joined Subcommittee Chairman James Lankford (R-Ok.) in introducing the human trafficking bill (H.R. 4259) in March. Their legislation passed the House as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. A companion bill is awaiting floor action in the Senate. “Although most U.S. contractors are honorable and responsible, our subcommittee held hearings that revealed human trafficking by contractors and subcontractors working for the Department of State, USAID, and other federal agencies,” Connolly said. “These practices include seizing workers’ passports to trap them at a work site, lying about compensation, engaging in sexual abuse, and generally keeping workers in a state of indentured servitude.”
Connolly commended President Obama for the Executive Order. “The President is absolutely correct in stating that the fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time. These unsavory acts by some contractors and subcontractors amount to modern day slavery,” Connolly said. “These workers are promised good jobs with good wages and comfortable living conditions only to find a terribly different reality when they arrive to begin their jobs.”