Sen. Marco Rubio is questioning the State Department’s enforcement of human-trafficking provisions for foreign dignitaries following allegations of slavery at the home of a Saudi diplomat in Washington.
Law-enforcement officials reportedly are investigating the incident in which two Filipina domestic workers allegedly were forced to work long hours without pay after the diplomat confiscated their passports.
In a May 14 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry obtained by Roll Call
, Rubio pointed out that Congress, in its 2008 reauthorization of a 2000 anti-human trafficking law, authorized the department to suspend certain categories of U.S. visas used for guest workers at specific diplomatic missions or international organizations that have abused or exploited such workers in the past.
The Florida Republican questioned why, "in the five years since passage of this law, not a single country or mission has been suspended" from this worker-visa program, according to Roll Call.
Rubio documented two other cases of human trafficking in recent years, writing, "In 2008, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered a $1 million final judgment against a Tanzanian diplomat" who "had trafficked a young woman from Tanzania and held her in forced labor for four years."
He also pointed to a March 10 incident in which a Tanzanian World Bank employee pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and agreed to pay back wages to a domestic worker who escaped from her home.
Rubio noted in the letter that the government "has the power to prosecute diplomats for engaging in modern-day slavery" but that the State Department "appears to have requested only two waivers of immunity from diplomats’ countries of origin, one from Kuwait and one from Mauritius."
The State Department is scheduled to release its annual report on human trafficking in June.
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