Spanberger amendment to combat trafficking, smuggling in Central America passes House

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Photo Credit: W. Scott McGill/Adobe Stock

Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s bipartisan legislation — introduced alongside Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX-23) — to combat Central American trafficking and smuggling networks as part of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

Additionally, the FY2020 NDAA includes key provisions from Spanberger’s legislation to combat child pornography on government-associated networks, as well as her amendment to increase transparency in the use of military force in counterterrorism operations abroad. The defense authorization bill now moves to the U.S. Senate for a vote before heading to the President’s desk.

Specifically, Spanberger and Hurd’s Trafficking and Smuggling Intelligence Act would direct the U.S. intelligence community to prioritize efforts to combat drug trafficking, human trafficking, and human smuggling networks in the Northern Triangle countries—Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—and Mexico. Additionally, it would use the expertise of the intelligence community to understand how these criminal organizations in the region contribute to the ongoing humanitarian suffering at the U.S.-Mexico border. Spanberger and Hurd—both former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) case officers—introduced the legislation in July 2019.

“To strengthen the security of our borders and points of entry, part of our strategy must include addressing the root causes of increased migration and violent conflict in Central America. The volatility in our backyard should be a major concern as we look to protect American families and communities, and our legislation is a step toward building a tough, smart response to the reprehensible activities of cartels and traffickers in the Northern Triangle countries and Mexico,” said Spanberger. “As a former law enforcement agent and intelligence officer, I recognize that the ripple effects of these nefarious actors in their home countries can impact the safety of Americans across the border. Today, I’m proud to stand alongside Congressman Hurd—himself a fellow former intelligence officer—in advancing our bipartisan legislation. I look forward to this bill moving to the Senate, and I am encouraged that it could soon be signed into law by President Trump.”

“Human traffickers and smugglers are exacerbating the crisis at our southern border and putting innocent lives at risk. Understanding and disabling these smuggling and trafficking networks should be a national intelligence priority,” said Hurd, who spent nearly a decade as an undercover officer in the CIA and represents more of the U.S.-Mexico border than any other Member of Congress. “I am proud of the work my friend Rep. Spanberger and I put into this bipartisan effort to dismantle these dangerous smuggling networks, mitigate the border crisis and keep Americans safe. I thank my colleagues for coming together today to pass this important measure, and I’ll continue to work across the aisle over the next year to find bipartisan solutions to this crisis.”’

During a speech delivered on the floor of the U.S. House in July 2019, Spanberger spoke in support of her amendment, and she described the range of impacts Central American trafficking and smuggling activities can have on the health and safety of American communities.

Click here to watch her full remarks.

The defense authorization package also includes key provisions of a bipartisan amendment introduced by Spanberger and U.S. Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC-11) to help the Department of Defense (DoD) stop the use of its affiliated internet networks to possess or obtain child pornography.

Specifically, the End National Defense (END) Network Abuse Act would upgrade the training and technical capacity of military criminal investigative organizations to confront the misuse of DoD computers, facilities, and equipment to access and trade child pornography.

“Peer-to-peer trading of child pornography is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. And while there is a broad national consensus that we should stop these images from circulating online and heavily prosecute those who share them, investigators within our government have had insufficient resources to crack down on this scourge,” said Spanberger. “To give military criminal investigators the resources they need to prevent the future misuse of Defense Department networks, Congressman Meadows and I joined together to introduce an amendment to the NDAA that would strengthen our country’s response—and I’m proud to see our legislation pass today. These criminals should have no safe harbor on Defense Department computers or equipment—or anywhere at all.”

“It may be shocking to learn that online child sexual exploitation has reached into every corner of our society, including our military, but it’s true,” said Teresa Huizar, Executive Director of National Children’s Alliance. “The language from END Network Abuse Act included in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act ensures military investigators have the tools needed to combat this abuse on America’s military networks. More importantly, this bipartisan bill brings DoD and our nation’s Children’s Advocacy Centers even closer together as they work to help heal kids victimized by child abuse images. We are grateful to Rep. Spanberger and Rep. Meadows for their leadership in providing these critical tools to rid our nation’s military networks of abuse.”

“We should be celebrating the day our elected officials join arms with the Department of Defense to help children,” said J. Christian, CEO of the National Association to Protect Children and a retired member of the special operations community. “Representative Spanberger’s efforts will strengthen the bonds between the military and the families that serve.”

Spanberger and Meadows introduced a standalone version of this bipartisan amendment earlier this year. In the U.S. Senate, the END Network Abuse Act is led by U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

The Spanberger-supported defense authorization bill includes additional provisions that would strengthen support for U.S. servicemembers and their families, including:

  • Giving American servicemembers the pay raise they deserve. The funding authorization includes a 3.1 percent pay raise for service men and women. This increase is equal to the pay raise requested by the President in his budget blueprint released earlier this year.
  • Addressing unacceptable military housing conditions through increased oversight and accountability. The defense authorization bill would require the armed forces to establish a tenants’ bill for rights for residents in privatized military family housing. Additionally, the legislation would require the Defense Secretary to develop an assessment tool to identify and measure health and safety hazards in U.S. military housing around the world. Earlier this year, Spanberger helped introduce bipartisan legislationto increase accountability and oversight on private contractor-provided housing for military families.
  • Providing paid parental leave for federal employees. The final, bipartisan NDAA includes 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all federal employees.

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