Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2008

Commission on the Prevention of Human Trafficking

September 30, 2008


Dr. Karen Rotabi, VCU
Dr. Rotabi spoke on the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. She said that the 70 nations, including the United States, have signed the Convention. The United States signed it in 1994 and it was fully ratified and implemented in 2008. The priorities of the convention are first to keep the family and the child together, then to attempt domestic adoption and, if that is not possible, to determine if the child is appropriate for intercountry adoption.

Dr. Rotabi said the Convention is important because since 2000, more than 200,000 children have been adopted by United States citizens, with the top-sending countries being China, Guatemala and Russia. The Convention helps prevent theft and trickery in sending children overseas and deters "child laundering" -- the changing of the identity of children to orphans for U.S. Visa purposes.

In a case study concerning a Cambodia/Seattle connection, 700 Cambodian children were adopted by United States residents for a $3,500 "donation" each. Children were given up by their parents for about $250 and parents were led to believe that the children would have prosperous American childhoods and return at age 18. The Cambodian parents often signed documents in a nonnative language.

Guatemala is a Hague signatory and adoption of Guatemalan children by United States citizens has been suspended because of orphan/visa problems. Vietnam (a problem country) is still adopting out children because it is not a Hague signatory. Dr. Rotabi added that, unfortunately, an adoption agency that deals with Russia does not have to be accredited because Russia is not a Hague signatory but that the State Department is promoting Hague signing in other non-Hague countries.

Dr. Louise Shelly, George Mason University
Dr. Shelly reported that there is considerable sex trafficking in Virginia, and that the FBI has identified the Washington, D.C. area, including Northern Virginia, as one of the 14 major child sex-trafficking centers in the U.S. Other problems are child porn on the web, labor trafficking, mail order brides and trafficking for adoption.

In a 2005 case study, Indonesians attempted to bring women between the ages of 16 and 23 into Northern Virginia. In 2007, three trafficked servants of a Kuwaiti diplomat fled the country and sued him.

The Chinese, Indonesians, and Vietnamese are primarily responsible for international trafficking, as well as gangs such as MS-13 (in Maryland), and American pimps with American girls. Trafficking in Virginia is primarily in Northern Virginia in ethnic communities - both suburbs and exurbs.

Dr. Shelly said a helpful resource is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Delegate Rust added that a multijurisdictional gang task force is following trafficking in Northern Virginia.

One of the many problems in addressing trafficking is that migrant workers who are exploited won't cooperate with police; they are afraid and they don't know what, if any, rights they have. Dr. Shelly added that there are not enough resources to combat organized trafficking at either the state or federal level. Dr. Shelly said that trafficking cases are deep underground, requiring training to find cases; and community cooperation with landlords as apartments are used as brothels.

There are not too many migrant slave labor cases in Virginia. Dr. Shelly said that the Homeland Security Institute (a research agency affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security) might be able to provide research and guidance on trafficking. She stated that her students are energized and willing to help.

Chairman Ebbin added that the Commission should get NCMEC and other organizations involved and that grants are available.

Next Meeting

The next meeting date will be posted on the Commission’s website and the General Assembly calendar as soon as information is available.

The Hon. Adam P. Ebbin

For information, contact:
Robie Ingram and Jessica French, DLS Staff

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2008

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