Human trafficking. When we hear these two words, our minds often wander to distant places or stories of fiction. Surely, children aren’t really being sold into slavery in America. Surely, women aren’t being captured and used as slaves in our very own communities. Surely, we would be naïve to think such was the case.
This is the reality: Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received 145,764 reports of trafficking in America. In 2016, 7,572 cases were reported. The majority of these victims are women and children forced into heinous acts like prostitution, child labor, and pornography. And that only includes what’s on paper.
Unfortunately for the countless victims left voiceless, there isn’t a comprehensive system in place to measure the expansive reach of human trafficking—the children being forced into labor, the women being held captive in brothels. Many victims are brainwashed, or trained to fear law enforcement—meaning they, and the perpetrators, go completely undetected—invisible to society.
This is an epidemic—a human rights crisis—that must come to an end.
Tomorrow, the House will vote on three bipartisan bills to continue its efforts to crack down on human trafficking and implement a stronger detection system in the U.S.:
- The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), reauthorizes $130 million to fund the prevention of human trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute traffickers. As Douglass’s great-great-great grandson said, this is about “human slavery”—and it should be a priority for both sides of the aisle.
- The Enhancing Detection of Human Trafficking Act, introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP), ensures the Department of Labor can effectively train its employees to spot the illegal trade of people—and respond quickly and effectively when cases are detected.
- The Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act, introduced by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), expands eligibility for Department of Justice grants jurisdiction to allow law enforcement agencies to qualify for federal funding for the development and execution of programs that fight sex trafficking.
With the passage of these three bills—in addition to the 13 bills passed earlier this summer—we’ll begin to see a more effective system that can put a stop to human trafficking. Agencies will be better funded, officials better equipped, and communities better informed to apprehend these barbaric offenders.
Tomorrow, we move one step closer to an America that is safer for our women, children, and those most at risk of falling victim to such unspeakable crimes.