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Testing reveals cotton sourced from forced labor in China available for purchase in U.S.

Rebecca Barnabi
(© BCFC – stock.adobe.com)

A new report from Reuters shows that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s current contract isotopic testing company has delivered positive results for cotton sourced from forced labor in Xinjiang.

However, CBP has tested only 86 samples at an expense of $1.3 million.

U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia sent a letter calling on Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to take action to strengthen U.S. CBP’s ability to detect imported cotton that is sourced from forced labor using isotopic testing technology. The letter requests information about the agency’s current limited usage and high cost of testing and outlines the benefits of scaling up this tool to enforce the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA).

Wexton particularly is concerned about the fast-fashion giant Shein, which reportedly just filed for a U.S. IPO.

“With the obvious benefits provided by isotopic testing, it would comport well for DHS to significantly scale up its use of this tool in its UFLPA enforcement plan for the next six months as a test program. Stamping out forced labor supply chains is a moral and legal imperative, and DHS is the tip of the spear of U.S. efforts to root out forced labor and punish violators. I appreciate the challenges associated with this responsibility and stand ready to ensure that DHS can make measurable progress toward achieving the goals of the UFLPA,” Wexton wrote.

She requests a report detailing why isotopic testing has been underutilized in UFLPA enforcement, a review of the rates CPB is paying for testing and potential other competitive testing providers, and the existing degree of isotopic expertise and training among the DHS and CBP workforce.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.