Today, in his radio address, President Clinton will announce that he is signing into law H.R. 3244, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000. This important bipartisan legislation strengthens and improves on the nation's efforts to fight violence against women; provides important new tools and resources to combat the worldwide scourge of trafficking in persons; and helps American victims of terrorism abroad to collect court-awarded compensation. This legislation – which will help thousands of victims of violence, both here and abroad -- passed Congress with overwhelming support and was aided by the strong leadership of the First Lady. President Clinton will also call on Congress to build on its bipartisan successes, such as the Violence Against Women Act, and finish its work for the American people. Nearly one month past the end of the fiscal year, Congress has passed seven stop-gap extensions but still has not completed a budget for a fiscal year 2001. President Clinton is now granting additional extensions one day at a time to ensure that Congress stays in town and completes its business, by passing a tax bill for middle-class families, finishing a fiscally responsible budget that invests in education, and enacting other national priorities.
STRENGTHENING AND EXPANDING THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT In 1994, the President and Vice President championed the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which established new Federal criminal provisions and key grant programs that have provided over $1.6 billion to improve the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and to direct critical services to victims. Today, the President will announce that he is signing into law legislation that reauthorizes and strengthens VAWA. This legislation will reauthorize key grant programs, which assist law enforcement efforts and support victims’ services, through Fiscal Year 2005; expand the investigation and prosecution of crimes of violence against women; and continue to fund the National Domestic Violence hotline, which has already received over 530,000 calls. The reauthorization also builds on VAWA’s success in combating domestic violence by creating several new, groundbreaking initiatives. These key provisions provide critical new protections for battered immigrants, by helping them escape abuse and by holding batterers accountable; extend, for the first time in all jurisdictions, the assistance available under certain VAWA grant programs to address the high rate of dating violence; provide additional resources for Native Americans who are victims of domestic violence; help ensure that children are safe when visiting with their parents and that battered women remain safe during visitation exchanges; and enhance the enforcement of protection orders.
The legislation builds on the framework the Administration has put in place to attack the problem of trafficking in human beings – a framework that is based on a three part strategy of prosecuting traffickers, protecting and assisting trafficking victims, and preventing trafficking. The legislation creates new felony criminal offenses for trafficking in human beings and subjects any person convicted of any of these new crimes to forfeiture of his or her assets. It strengthens protection for victims of trafficking with essential services and eligibility for a broad range of Federal benefits and restitution. It also establishes a Cabinet-level interagency task force to combat and monitor trafficking. The legislation improves Federal law enforcement’s ability to identify trafficking cases and helps ensure victims can remain in the United States in order to help law enforcement in the prosecution of traffickers and receive assistance. International initiatives are strengthened through provisions that authorize the President to withhold assistance from countries that are not making significant efforts to comply with these minimum standards and expands existing reporting on the nature and extent of trafficking in other countries.
The Administration has taken several steps to combat trafficking in human beings, including an Executive Memorandum in 1998 that directed agencies to strengthen efforts to combat trafficking, the creation of a Worker Exploitation Task Force to enhance the investigation and prosecution of trafficking and other worker exploitation cases in the United States and by co-hosting a conference in Manila that was attended by more than 20 Asian and Pacific nations to develop a regional action plan to combat trafficking and protect trafficking victims. The United States proposed and recently concluded two years of negotiations on a United Nations protocol to combat trafficking in persons which, for the first time, will require countries everywhere to criminalize trafficking and will provide a framework for enhanced protection of and assistance to victims.
H.R. 3244 also contains provisions which allow victims of international terrorism and their families to receive court-awarded compensation. It reflects a compromise reached between the Administration and Congress -- a compromise which accomplishes two important goals: providing compensation for the victims of terrorism and protecting the President’s ability to act on behalf of the nation on important foreign policy and national security issues. The bill allows certain victims of international terrorism to collect compensatory damages awarded by U.S. courts against terrorist states. In the case of judgements against Cuba, the bill authorizes the President to vest Cuban assets located in the United States in order to pay court-awarded damages to victims and their families. In the case of judgements against Iran, the bill authorizes direct payments to victims with a requirement that United States seek to recover those assets through international tribunals or negotiations with Iran.
PRESIDENT URGES CONGRESS TO WORK DAY AND NIGHT TO FINISH ITS WORK FOR AMERICAN FAMILIES
Nearly one month past the end of the fiscal year, the President again will call on Congress to put progress over partisanship and complete a budget that invests in America’s priorities, particularly education, and provides responsible tax relief. He will also urge Congress to act on the rest of America’s unfinished business, such as raising the minimum wage for working families, providing an affordable prescription drug benefit for seniors, enacting a meaningful patients’ bill of rights, passing hate crimes legislation, ensuring equal pay for women and insisting on fairness for immigrants.
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