Marco Rubio Wants More Funds for the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., were able to get their “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act” through Congress back in December–and now they want increased funds for it.

McGovern was able to get his bill through the U.S. House without opposition at the end of last year. Back in July, Rubio was able to get the bill through the U.S. Senate without opposition.

When he brought the bill back at the start of the year, Rubio’s office offered some of the details of the proposal which has U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oreg., as the main cosponsor.

“This bipartisan bill will ensure that goods made with Uyghur forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) do not enter the United States. Earlier this year, the State Department issued a determination that the Chinese Communist Party is committing crimes against humanity and genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” Rubio’s office noted.

Rubio rounded up more than 50 cosponsors including U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and guided the bill through the chamber on a voice vote.

“The United States is so reliant on China that we have turned a blind eye to the slave labor that makes our clothes, our solar panels, and much more,” Rubio said when the bill cleared the House in December. “That changes today. Our Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act will require businesses importing goods into the United States to prove that their supply chains are not tainted with slave labor. It is time to end our economic addiction to China.”

“The United States must send a resounding and unequivocal message against genocide and slave labor wherever these evils appear,” Merkley said. “This deal to get the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to the President’s desk is essential in that effort. It ensures that American consumers and businesses can buy goods without inadvertent complicity in China’s horrific human rights abuses. As the Chinese government tries to whitewash their genocide and claim a propaganda victory with the upcoming Olympics, it is more important than ever for us to speak out and take action.”

President Joe Biden signed the bill into law and now Rubio and other backers of the new law on Capitol Hill want it funded. This week, Rubio, McGovern, Merkley and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, all of whom lead the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), wrote leaders on the U.S. Senate and U.S. House Appropriations Committees this week on the matter.

“As you negotiate the Fiscal Year 2022 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, we write to request increased funding for Customs and Border Protection Agency activities to implement the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (PL 117-78),” the CECC leaders wrote the Appropriations leaders. “We appreciate the committees’ attention to devoting increased resources to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for forced labor enforcement which, illegal under U.S. law since 1930, is receiving greater scrutiny from both Congress and the Executive Branch.

“One area that has received especially strong attention from policymakers is the nexus of forced labor and crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese Communist Party and government in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The Biden Administration, following its predecessor, has determined that these crimes against Uyghurs and others amount to genocide,” the CECC leaders added. “Congress, on a bipartisan basis, has responded to this grave abuse by unanimously passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was signed into law on December 23, 2021. In light of the high prevalence of forced labor in the XUAR and in coercive labor transfer programs elsewhere in China, the legislation presumptively bans the import of any goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the XUAR or by certain entities identified by the administration that are engaged in labor transfer programs. This ban goes into effect on June 21, 2022. The legislation also sets out a process for the Forced Labor Prevention Task Force, led by the Department of Homeland Security, to devise and implement a strategy to prevent such goods made from forced labor from entering the United States, including a process by which importers can provide evidence that XUAR-connected products were not made with forced labor.

“During congressional consideration of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, the Biden Administration communicated to both House and Senate leaders a desire for sufficient resources to be able to implement the bill and achieve the shared objective of banning imports from the XUAR made with forced labor, including the ability to properly assess any information provided by companies to prove that the products they seek to import do not include components made with forced labor,” the CECC leaders continued.

“The House Subcommittee provided $9.2 million in its committee-approved FY2022 Homeland Security Appropriations bill and the Senate subcommittee provided $10 million in its draft to strengthen CBP’s enforcement actions and processes to prevent the importation of products made with forced labor. Given the subsequent enactment of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and the request by the Biden administration for additional resources to implement it, we respectfully request that the conference report on the FY2022 bill include an even greater amount for forced labor enforcement,” they wrote in conclusion. “We thank you for your consideration of our request.”

Kevin Derby
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