Over the past two days, the House passed 12 bipartisan bills aimed at combating human trafficking worldwide. Most of the bills approved Monday and Tuesday passed the House in the last Congress, but didn’t get votes in the Senate. Republicans are hopeful that will change this time around.
“It is absolutely incumbent upon us to do everything within our means to protect our children from this unthinkable crime and to help those terrorized by it,” said Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), vice chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.
“This week, in an effort to combat this heinous form of modern-day slavery, the House passed twelve separate measures that will increase and prioritize our federal resources to help our law enforcement agencies identify and combat human trafficking, as well as increase the support services provided to its victims," Miller said.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines a human trafficking victim as “a person induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion.” The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates human trafficking generates $32 billion dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime.
According to the FBI, human trafficking is the fastest growing business of organized crime, and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. Each year, 300,000 American children are at risk of becoming victims.
“Human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery,” the FBI said. “Estimates place the number of its domestic and international victims in the millions, mostly females and children enslaved in the commercial sex industry for little or no money.”
One of the measures passed, The Justice For Victims Of Trafficking Act Of 2015, targets the survivors of human trafficking by creating a victim-centered grant program to train law enforcement, rescue exploited children, prosecute traffickers and restore the lives of victims.
The bill also clarifies that state prosecutors may obtain wiretaps, pursuant to a showing of probable cause, for trafficking and other child sex crimes.
“Child sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in our country and we must update our laws to combat it. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, is a targeted effort to deploy our law enforcement and social resources against the very worst offenders: those who sexually exploit children and other vulnerable victims,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).
The following are among the bills passed by the House has passed:
Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act (H.R. 285) penalizes those who knowingly sell advertising that offers certain commercial sex acts.
Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (H.R. 159) encourages states to establish safe harbor laws so that trafficked minors can seek protective services and counseling as victims, without fear of facing jail and being targeted as part of the problem.
Human Trafficking Prioritization Act (H.R. 514) prioritizes the fight against human trafficking within the Department of State according to congressional intent in the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act without increasing the size of the federal government.
Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims for Youth Trafficking Act (H.R. 468) would amend the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act to increase knowledge concerning, and improve services for, runaway and homeless youth who are victims of trafficking.
Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act (H.R. 469) would amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to enable State child protective services systems to improve the identification and assessment of child victims of sex trafficking, and for other purposes.
Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act (H.R. 398) develops evidence-based best practices for health care workers to identify and assist victims of human trafficking.
Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act (H.R. 350) directs the existing Interagency Task Force established under the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act to review federal and state activities to prevent children from becoming trafficking victims, survey academic research on the topic, and propose best practices.
Also passed by the House is legislation that would require the DHS secretary to train department personnel how to effectively deter, detect, disrupt and prevent human trafficking during the course of their primary roles and responsibilities.
The Human Trafficking Detection Act of 2015 (H.R. 460) introduced by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) would require DHS to specifically provide a human trafficking awareness-training program for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other relevant personnel.
The DHS secretary would have 180 days after the date of enactment of the bill to implement the training program.
The bill also would require appropriately trained personnel to “regularly receive current information on matters related to the detection of human trafficking, including information that becomes availableoutside of the department’s initial or periodic retraining schedule, to the extent relevant to their official duties and consistent with applicable information and privacy laws.”
The training requires:
- Methods for identifying suspected victims of human trafficking and, where appropriate, perpetrators of human trafficking;
- For appropriate personnel, methods to approach a suspected victim of human trafficking, where appropriate, in a manner that is sensitive to the suspected victim and is not likely to alert a suspected perpetrator of human trafficking;
- Training that is most appropriate for a particular location or environment in which the personnel receiving such training perform their official duties;
- Other topics determined by the secretary to be appropriate; and
- A post-training evaluation for personnel receiving the training.
“Last year, I held a committee hearing in Texas where we heard from courageous survivors of human trafficking, as well as state and local law enforcement on how we can work together to combat this horrific crime,” which “The Department of Homeland Security plays a critical role in this effort,” said House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas).
McCaul said, “I am a proud to once again co-sponsor the Human Trafficking Detection Act. This bill ensures CBP, TSA and other DHS personnel are trained on how to detect and prevent trafficking. The bill also encourages partnerships between DHS and state and local law enforcement to establish additional training programs. I thank Rep. Walker for his leadership on this bill, and I will continue to push for further measures to fight human trafficking within the United States and around the world.”
All the legislation is well-timed. President Obama proclaimed January 2015 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and January 11 was Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
“These powerful reminders that slavery endures in the United States compel us to work together to end human trafficking,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.