Bob Goodlatte: Combating human trafficking
Many Americans don’t think of human trafficking as a problem in our country. The sale of children for sex sounds like something that could only happen in faraway places, but tragically it is happening right here in the United States every single day. Virginia is no exception. According to the FBI, sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. Sadly, this immoral and criminal industry is also a profitable one. It’s estimated that child sex trafficking in the United States alone is a $9.8 billion industry.
Together as a nation we must send the strong message that our children are not for sale. In an effort to help end this horrific crime, the House of Representatives passed a series of bipartisan bills aimed at updating our laws to combat human trafficking. Four of these bills were previously passed out of the House Judiciary Committee, including the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act and the Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act.
Few nightmares equal the terrible reality that thousands of American children held against their will awake to each day. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act is a targeted effort to deploy law enforcement and social resources against the very worst offenders: those who sexually exploit children and other vulnerable victims. Rather than simply increasing penalties, this bill directly aids the survivors of this crime. It creates a comprehensive, victim-centered grant program to train law enforcement, rescue exploited children, prosecute traffickers, and restore the lives of victims.
In order to effectively attack this problem, it is first necessary to fully understand it. The Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act launches a review that will look into federal and state trafficking prevention activities in order to identify best practices for stopping human trafficking. It also requires an inventory of existing federal anti-trafficking efforts to make sure all federal agencies and programs work together without being duplicative and that federal resources are effectively being targeted where needed. Furthermore, the bill helps to provide young victims a safe and secure path forward by ensuring that existing federal grants can be used for housing services.
The 12 bills approved by the House hold everyone involved in trafficking crimes accountable, whether they sell, buy, or market children to potential buyers. These bills ensure that exploited children are treated as victims rather than as criminals and provide much-needed resources to victims of trafficking that will help them reclaim and rebuild their lives. The bills passed by the House are far too important to be delayed, and I urge the Senate to take them up as soon as possible. As a parent, I know that there is no duty more important than protecting our children.
Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth District in Congress.
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