HR 1427 would fight human trafficking in hotel industrySmith Testifies at Hearing on New Trafficking Bill
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) on Thursday testified before members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, urging them to advance his legislation (HR 1427) to fight human trafficking in the hotel industry.
“Many hotels partner with law enforcement and advocacy groups and have spent considerable resources to be effective in the fight against human trafficking,” Smith said in his testimony before the Committee. “This bill aims to reward these hotels by prioritizing them for government-sponsored travelers, where practicable. In addition, this bill seeks to inspire hotel chains and franchisees that have not already implemented training to do so, if for no other reason than it is good for the bottom line.”
Smith’s bill, cosponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) would prioritize government bookings and payment for lodging of government employees at hotels with strong anti-trafficking policies in place, including those that enforce a “zero tolerance” policy on human trafficking, ensure that employees have been trained to recognize and report human trafficking cases, post in a place accessible to employees or in the employee handbook the signs of human trafficking and how to report human trafficking, and protect employees who reported human trafficking according to the hotel’s protocol.
Smith has authored five comprehensive anti-human trafficking laws, including his landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, and his Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act which was signed into law in January. That law authorized over $430 million over four years for a comprehensive whole-of-government anti-trafficking effort.
Excerpts of Smith’s testimony before the Committee are as follows:
Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, and colleagues on the committee, thank you for holding this hearing today.
Hotels have a unique connection to human trafficking as they are often the sites that traffickers use for sexual exploitation of both children and adults. In addition, hotels sometimes contract, many unwittingly, with unscrupulous contractors who are involved in labor trafficking of housekeeping staff.
However, when hotel workers at all levels are trained to properly recognize and report potential trafficking, hotels are transformed into a safe place for potential victims of exploitation.
H.R. 1427, which I introduced in February with the cosponsorship of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, ensures that hotels have an incentive to train their workers—that incentive is earning the business of U.S. government travelers.
Over the last three decades, we have seen tremendous improvement in hotels’ awareness of trafficking in their premises. Through the educational work and expertise of ECPAT International’s “The Code” project—as well as hotels seeing the trafficking problem on their own and deciding to take comprehensive action—many of the largest hotel companies have already developed their own internal training. For instance, Marriott has already trained more than 500,000 of their workers to recognize and report trafficking.
Many hotels partner with law enforcement and advocacy groups and have spent considerable resources to be effective in the fight against human trafficking.
This bill aims to reward these hotels by prioritizing them for government-sponsored travelers, where practicable.
In addition, this bill seeks to inspire hotel chains and franchisees that have not already implemented training to do so, if for no other reason than it is good for the bottom line.
U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be going to hotels that turn a blind eye to human trafficking when there are other responsible hotel options available. H.R. 1427 will ensure that the number of responsible hotel options continue to grow.
Key features of the bill include:
· Each hotel will:
o enforce a “zero tolerance” policy regarding human trafficking, as defined by federal law.
o ensure that their employees have been trained on recognition and reporting of human trafficking.
o post in a place accessible to employees or in the employee handbook the signs of human trafficking and how to report human trafficking.
o keep track of reports of human trafficking and how the information was handled.
o protect/not retaliate against employees who reported human trafficking according to the hotel protocol.
· The General Services Administration will:
o keep a list of hotels that meet these criteria for use by government travelers.
o have available sample trainings and posters with recognition and reporting information, many of which are already available through the private sector, NGOs and the Department of Homeland Security.
We are within reach of making anti-trafficking training for hotels the new industry standard. H.R. 1427 will take us over the finish line.