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Subcommittee Chair Bishop: “The Department Needs to Take a More Proactive Approach to Enforcing the UFLPA”

October 19, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability Chairman Dan Bishop (R-NC) delivered the following opening statement in a hearing to evaluate the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) abuse of the Uyghur people, particularly through forced labor.
Watch the full hearing here.

Watch Chairman Bishop’s Opening Statement for the Hearing Entitled, “Exploitation and Enforcement: Examining the DHS’ Efforts to Counter Uyghur Forced Labor” 

As prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon, and welcome to this hearing of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability, titled, “Exploitation and Enforcement: Evaluating the Department of Homeland Security’s Efforts to Counter Uyghur Forced Labor.” Today’s hearing will look at the Department’s ongoing efforts to enforce the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). Enforcing the UFLPA carries with it not only U.S. economic and competitive interests, but also a moral issue to prevent forced labor. 

For the better part of the past decade, the Chinese Communist Party has waged a ruthless and inhumane campaign of repression and genocide against the Uyghur minority population in the Xinjiang region of western China, sending more than one million people to internment camps and severely restricting basic liberties through religious persecution, forced sterilization, and other human rights abuses. The Chinese government operates an extensive system of forced labor to produce key manufacturing products, including electronics and textiles. Research has shown that the products of this forced labor system are deeply embedded in global supply chains. For example, this one region is responsible for over 85 percent of China’s cotton production and around 20 percent of the global cotton supply.

Nearly two years ago, Republicans and Democrats in Congress worked together and passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. This law recognized the reality that any imports produced in Xinjiang or by entities with close ties to forced labor in the region should be presumed to be made with forced labor and banned from entry until proven otherwise. The Department of Homeland Security enforces the UFLPA through U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s inspections of cargo entering the United States and through the Department’s leadership of the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force (FLETF). The FLETF is responsible for publishing a list of entities that the U.S. government determines to be complicit in the CCP’s system of forced labor in Xinjiang. The UFLPA is a significant bipartisan measure to counter the CCP’s unjust and predatory exploitation of forced labor. But, a law is only as good as its enforcement.

Sixteen months after the UFLPA went into effect, the evidence shows that goods made with forced labor in Xinjiang continue to enter the U.S. homeland. Earlier this year, CBP conducted isotopic testing on clothing samples and found that 15 percent of the items tested positive for cotton from Xinjiang. Meanwhile, even though 2022 U.S. textile and apparel imports totaled 

$153.2 billion, under UFLPA, CBP only detained less than one thousand shipments worth $39 million from June 2022 to the present in the textile and apparel sector, and of those detentions only 8 million dollars’ worth were denied entry.

The Department needs to take a more proactive approach to enforcing the UFLPA. For starters, the Department has been slow to expand the UFLPA Entity List, adding only seven entities to the list in the past year. Additionally, CBP should significantly expand its use of isotopic testing and other supply chain tracing technologies to identify cotton sourced from Xinjiang. 

Small, low-value de minimis shipments also pose a growing obstacle to CBP’s enforcement capabilities, undermining CBP’s ability to interdict not just goods made with Uyghur forced labor but also narcotics such as fentanyl. Shippers of de minimis goods face less CBP scrutiny and can ship directly to consumers. More than 60 percent of de minimis shipments come from China, including from direct-to-consumer clothing retailers that face scrutiny over their supply chains’ risk of using forced labor in Xinjiang. De minimis shipments have doubled in the past five years alone, rising from 500 million in FY 2019 to over 1 billion in the past year. 

Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller admitted just last month that the record volume of de minimis shipments makes quote –  “screening these shipments and ferreting out contraband incredibly challenging.” With such a flood of less scrutinized shipments arriving at U.S. ports of entry every day, the openings for banned imports and smuggled drugs to slip through CBP inspection are plentiful.

The exploitation of Uyghur forced labor enriches Chinese industry at the expense of American manufacturers and workers. The domestic textile industry is critical for supplying equipment and clothing to our military and hospitals. Rigorous enforcement of the UFLPA counters China’s predatory trade practices and supports American manufacturers while keeping the CCP’s forced labor system in Xinjiang from profiting off access to the U.S. market.

This is an important issue that warrants congressional attention as we carry out our responsibility to ensure that the laws passed by Congress enjoy robust and effective enforcement by federal agencies. I want to thank our witnesses for being here today, and I look forward to hearing their testimony.