Combatting Human Trafficking One Step at a Time
Human trafficking is an appalling crime that impacts every region of our country, and its prevalence has been increasing. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the definition of human trafficking is “modern-day slavery” and “involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Did you know there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally? The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates this is the third-largest criminal activity in the world. This staggering statistic underscores the need for action. We must strengthen our laws to deter human trafficking, but we also must encourage vigilance to recognize the signs of human trafficking so we can free its victims.
Human trafficking can come in different forms, and I encourage you to read how to recognize key indicators of human trafficking. If you or someone know needs help, or you would like to submit a tip, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline which is open 24/7 at 1-888-373-7888.
Human trafficking can seem far removed, but the reality is it’s happening in our own backyard – even in East Tennessee. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, in Tennessee alone, there were 108 cases of human trafficking reported in 2016, and 336 calls on the national hotline. The need to detect, prevent and combat this problem is vital, and this week the House of Representatives is taking action to aid the victims of human trafficking; empower law enforcement officers working to crack down on human traffickers; and strengthen the protections for at-risk communities.
That’s why, this week, the House of Representatives passed several bills to help fight human trafficking in our country. The first bill, H.R. 2200, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, reauthorizes and improves the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The legislation authorizes grants to local schools to train school resource officers to identify potential human trafficking victims; incentivizes airlines and hotels to become more vigilant in spotting human trafficking; and includes numerous provisions to help the Justice Department and law enforcement fight and more effectively prosecute human trafficking.
H.R. 2664, the Enhancing Detection of Human Trafficking Act – introduced by Representative Tim Walberg – directs Department of Labor to train its personnel to effectively detect and assist law enforcement officers in preventing human trafficking during the course of their responsibilities. A common misconception of human trafficking is that it only involves sex crimes, but many trafficking victims are forced into involuntary servitude and Department of Labor employees can be on the front lines in spotting these victims.
Finally, the House passed H.R. 2480, the Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act, a bill to allow for the use of the money provided through the Byrne-JAG program to combat human trafficking; including programs to reduce the demand for trafficked persons. These bills come on the heels of several bills the House passed in May targeting child sex offenders and combating child pornography, enhancing penalties and providing additional resources to protect children from harm.
I am proud of the important work that Congress is doing to protect the most vulnerable in our county and ensure justice will be served. This problem can’t be solved overnight, but by taking one step at a time we can work toward eradicating it for good.
As always, feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.