The House of Representatives today approved several pieces of bipartisan legislation to combat the growing problem of human trafficking. Three of these bills were recently approved by the House Judiciary Committee on April 30, 2014.
The House unanimously approved by a vote of 408-0 the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (H.R. 3530), a comprehensive anti-human trafficking bill authored by Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas). This bill boosts support and protection for domestic human trafficking victims by increasing and streamlining law enforcement resources, enhancing victims’ services, and strengthening our laws to ensure that both buyers and sellers engaged in sex trafficking are held accountable for their crimes.
The House also approved by voice vote the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (H.R. 3610), sponsored by Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.). This bill provides incentives to states to adopt safe harbor laws that treat trafficked minors as victims, rather than as criminals or delinquents. The bill also provides an avenue for victims to access job skill training so that they can begin to rebuild their lives. Additionally, the House passed by a vote of 392-19 the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act (H.R. 4225), authored by Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), to criminalize those who knowingly advertise or profit from advertisements that offer the commercial exploitation of minors and trafficking victims.
“Most people think that human trafficking only happens in other countries, but this crime is not confined to brothels in Bangkok or Eastern Europe. It can happen anywhere, and it’s happening right here in America every single day. Sex traffickers and their buyers dehumanize their victims, treating them not as human beings created in the image of God, but instead as objects to be used for their own profit or pleasure. And sadly, when children are trafficked, not only are they robbed of their innocence and childhood, but they also are often treated as criminals rather than as victims in need of special care.
“Today’s approval of several anti-human trafficking bills in the House of Representatives ensures that we have the tools needed to hold perpetrators who sell, buy, or market children to potential buyers accountable for their heinous crimes. These bills also ensure that exploited children are treated as victims rather than as criminals and provide much-needed resources to victims of sex trafficking that will help them reclaim and rebuild their lives. I thank my colleagues Representatives Poe, Paulsen, and Wagner for their efforts to end human trafficking and urge the Senate to take up these crucial bills without delay.”
Earlier today, Chairman Goodlatte participated in a press conference with House leaders and several Members of Congress to discuss the anti-human trafficking bills approved by the House. Photos from today’s event can be found here.
Background: According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. One organization estimates that child sex trafficking in the U.S. is a $9.8 billion industry. However, since these crimes usually occur outside of the public eye, it is difficult to estimate the number of minor victims of sex trafficking. One study estimates that over 290,000 American youth are at risk of becoming a victim of sex trafficking. Additionally, from 2004 through 2008, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force experienced an increase of more than 900 percent in the number of minor sex trafficking complaints.
While the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking has often been carried out by state and local law enforcement, the enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000 made child sex trafficking in interstate commerce a federal crime. The TVPA is the primary legislative vehicle authorizing services to victims of trafficking and was most recently reauthorized in 2013.