The same man who helped orchestrate Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart plea deal in 2008 has, as President Trump’s (now former)secretary of labor, pushed to drastically cut funding for the federal agency that fights child sex trafficking, according to The Guardian.
Former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta proposed an 80 percent decrease in funding for the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) for fiscal year 2020, which would drop ILAB from $68 million last year to $18.5 million.
ILAB is tasked with “countering human trafficking, child labor and forced labor across the US and around the world. Its mission is “to promote a fair global playing field for workers” and it is seen as a crucial leader in efforts to crack down on the sex trafficking of minors.”
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) decried the move as “reckless” and “amoral,” telling The Guardian: “This is now a pattern. Like so many in this administration Mr Acosta chooses the powerful and wealthy over the vulnerable and victims of sexual assault and it is time that he finds another line of work.”
In 2008, Acosta, then a U.S. attorney in South Florida, negotiated a plea deal for Epstein — who faced child sex trafficking charges — that saw the wealthy financier serve just 13 months in prison. During that time, Epstein was allowed to leave his cell six days a week to go to work.
Advocates for victims of human trafficking, along with many lawmakers, believe Acosta should step down from his role in the Trump administration.
Kathleen Kim, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who co-authored California’s law on human trafficking, said Acosta’s plans would “expose children to more risk of sexual trafficking.”
She added: “An 80% reduction at ILAB will undoubtedly eliminate many of the US government’s anti-human trafficking efforts that have been critical in encouraging action by law enforcement.”
However, the cuts are unlikely to pass in the House, which is responsible for approving government spending plans.
“Congress ultimately makes the decisions about how money is spent and appropriated,” said Clark. “We will prevail and the bureau will not be shuttered if we can get this item through Congress.”