Forced labor is a scourge that affects millions of people worldwide and poisons global supply chains. Products harvested, mined, manufactured, or packaged by forced laborers and enslaved persons line the shelves of American stores, even though section 307 of the Tariff Act has banned the import of these products for nearly 100 years. But this prohibition has virtually never been enforced due to a massive exception known as the consumptive demand loophole. That loophole was finally closed in early 2016.
This Note evaluates U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) efforts to enforce section 307 following the closing of the consumptive demand loophole. It shows that, although there has been a slight uptick in enforcement actions, the overwhelming majority of high-risk goods continue to be freely imported into the United States; though the loophole has been closed, access to U.S. ports remains open.
This Note then argues that continued underenforcement of the forced-labor ban is driven by several factors: CBP’s decision to initiate narrow enforcement actions; significant identification issues and lack of access to information; insufficient funding; and the general nonreviewability of discretionary nonenforcement decisions. It then identifies two enforcement strategies employed by the recently enacted Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act—shifting enforcement efforts away from individual entities in favor of more sweeping orders that cover more goods and shifting the evidentiary burden onto importers—and argues that CBP should use both tools more broadly in its global enforcement efforts. Doing so will bring the agency closer to fulfilling its mandate of preventing the importation of goods made using forced labor.
* J.D., Stanford Law School, 2022. I am grateful to Karen Magid and Jamie O’Connell for their support; to Erik Jensen, Hajin Kim, Jim Leape, Dinsha Mistree, and Ambassador Beth Van Schaack, whose classes planted the seeds for this research; and to Muna Ndulo, James Silk, Diego Zambrano, and the students of the Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program for their thoughtful suggestions. All errors and opinions are my own.