TIP report

Foreign Relations Leaders Still Question Human Trafficking Report

Corker, left, and Cardin met Thursday with State Department officials and the full Foreign Relations Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The State Department still has some explaining to do after a closed briefing Thursday with Senate Foreign Relations Committee members over allegations that a report vital to several administration initiatives was watered down for political purposes.  

Committee members have cried politics since July when the annual Trafficking in Persons report was released. After Thursday's briefing, senators called for more transparency in the process that saw Malaysia and Cuba upgraded from the lowest ranking in terms of human-trafficking conditions. “My concerns were not alleviated in any way,” Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said. “I don’t think there is anybody who was there that didn’t feel even more firmly that politics played a major role in determining some of the upgrades in the TIP report.”  

Rubio Demands Documentation for 'Political' Human Trafficking Report

Rubio remains the administration's biggest critic on Cuba. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Marco Rubio Thursday morning called the State Department's upgrade of Cuba's human trafficking status an "embarrassment," and requested documentation into the decision that senators on both sides of the aisle have called political.  

The Florida Republican, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, urged Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter to reconsider the upgrade from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List, because "Over the past year, Cuba has done almost nothing to combat human trafficking." "In fact, while the 2015 trafficking report claims there were improvements in certain areas, Cuba still has not even bothered to create a single law that identifies labor trafficking as a crime," Rubio wrote. "Additionally, the progress which was identified in convicting sex trafficking cases was minimal, an improvement of 3 cases in 2013. I appreciate every trafficker who faces the proper justice but I would not call an increase of 3 cases a major improvement and a major factor for an upgrade in tier ranking."