Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta has proposed cutting Department of Labor (DOL) funding for sex trafficking victims by nearly 80%.
The funding would be cut from DOL’s International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB), which would see its budget slashed from $68 million to just $18.5 million in fiscal year 2020, according to The Guardian. According to ILAB’s website, the office is charged with carrying out DOL’s duties overseas. One of the sections on its website is entitled “Child Labor, Forced Labor & Human Trafficking.” ILAB boasts that its efforts “have rescued and provided education to close to 2 million children and supported nearly 170,000 families to meet basic needs without relying on child labor.”
“ILAB’s efforts to eliminate hazardous and exploitative labor practices also respond to concerns of U.S. consumers that the imported products they buy should be made in a way that is consistent with their values,” the website reads.
Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts) said the funding cuts were “reckless” and “amoral.” Loyola-Los Angeles law professor Kathleen Kim said the funding cuts are “bound to expose children to more risk of sexual trafficking.”
“This is now a pattern,” Clark told The Guardian. “Like so many in this administration, Mr. Acosta chooses the powerful and wealthy over the vulnerable and victims of sexual assault and it is time that he finds another line of work.”
“An 80% reduction at ILAB will undoubtedly eliminate many of the US government’s anti-human trafficking efforts that have been critical in encouraging action by law enforcement,” Kim said.
Democrats have called on Acosta to resign as Labor Secretary in the wake of the newly unsealed indictment accusing billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein of sex trafficking. In 2008, when he was serving as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Acosta allowed Epstein to plead guilty to prostitution charges. In return, Epstein only had to serve a 13-month jail sentence.
Part of the plea agreement allowed Epstein to work in a private office away from prison for 12 hours a day, six days a week, while spending the rest of his sentence in a private wing of the prison, away from other inmates. A federal judge found that Acosta violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by negotiating the deal with Epstein without first consulting with Epstein’s alleged victims.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.