On October 21, 2020, Cohen Milstein, the Human Trafficking Legal Centers, and Open Society Policy Center submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of senior members of Congress, as Amici Curiae, in support of respondents in Nestle USA, Inc. v John Doe I, et al. (No. 19-416) and Cargill, Inc. v. Doe I, et al. (No. 19-453).
The amicus brief can be accessed here.
Over the last two decades, with virtually unanimous support, Congress has made extraordinary efforts to combat human trafficking and forced labor worldwide. Amici have all been engaged in this effort through committee work, legislation, advocacy, and other measures.
Because Petitioners’ briefs fail to recognize Congress’ efforts, Amici submit this brief. We wish to ensure, to the extent it is relevant to the Court’s deliberations, that the Court has before it a history of Congress’ efforts: through the last four presidential administrations and on a bipartisan basis, Congress has pursued an aggressive, multifaceted strategy to eliminate the worldwide scourge of this modern-day slavery. That strategy includes the enactment of a comprehensive statutory scheme, codified primarily in Chapter 77, Title 18 (Peonage, Slavery, and Trafficking in Persons), that provides victims with the ability to bring a civil suit in the United States against the direct perpetrators, aiders and abettors, and those who benefit from participation in ventures that have engaged in human trafficking, forced labor, and other violations, whether committed in the United States or abroad.
As the People’s elected representatives, Amici have an interest in ensuring that the Court is informed about the policy choices Congress has made to fight human trafficking. Human trafficking is one of the most significant human-rights challenges of the 21st Century. Combating it—wherever on the globe it occurs—is among Congress’s highest foreign-relations priorities.
Summary of Argument
Eradicating the scourge of human trafficking, forced child labor, and all forms of modern-day slavery is a bipartisan congressional priority of grave importance. Since the 1990s, Congress has consistently sought to eradicate this affront to human dignity. As Congress has learned through two decades of investigation and legislation, human trafficking is an international problem. Any attempts to address it must involve strong American leadership. To this end, Congress has pursued proactive and expansive measures to combat human trafficking, including measures to eradicate forced labor abroad and to hold American persons—both individuals and corporations—accountable for participation in these despicable practices.
Petitioners and their amici argue that the Court must defer to the policy choices of Congress and the Executive Branch, but they fail to acknowledge the policy choices already made through Congress’ landmark law addressing these violations.
Two decades ago, Congress enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act1 of 2000, which we have repeatedly expanded and strengthened through successive reauthorizations. Among other provisions, as reauthorized, the TVPRA imposes criminal liability on individuals, corporations, and other legal persons who knowingly benefit from participating in ventures that use forced labor as well as on those who aid and abet these practices. The TVPRA also provides victims of human trafficking and forced labor a private cause of action coextensive with its criminal provisions. It applies extraterritorially as long as a defendant is an American citizen or resident, or is present in the United States. In addition, the TVPRA directs the State Department to identify and rank countries that fail to sufficiently combat trafficking and forced labor within their borders. Likewise, the Department of Labor is directed to publish a list of goods made by child labor and to identify the countries where those goods are produced.
Petitioners and their amici give scant attention to the TVPRA, focusing instead on the Torture Victims Protection Act. To the extent Petitioners and their amici mention the TVPRA, they do little justice to its scope. Nor do they acknowledge Congress’ determination to provide victims a civil remedy against the chain of persons responsible for human trafficking, from the labor recruiter to those who profit from forced labor. The Ninth Circuit’s decision to permit jurisdiction over the claims of the children from Mali who allege2 they were trafficked into forced labor on Ivoirian cocoa plantations does not second guess Congress’ foreign policy choices because Congress has similarly extended jurisdiction over such civil claims in the TVPRA.
We do not, of course, opine on the merits of the allegations against the individual defendants or on the adequacy or strength of those allegations.