Smith, Bass Unveil Bill to Reauthorize Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking
Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), lead co-Sponsor Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37), and 7 other co-Sponsors today introduced the bipartisan Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2017 named after the famous American abolitionist on the eve of the 200th anniversary of his birth. This piece of legislation will reauthorize $130 million in funding for the prevention of human trafficking, protection of victims and prosecution of traffickers.
“It is an honor to commemorate Frederick Douglass with this legislation, highlighting his unending dedication to the prevention and eradication of slavery,” said Smith, author of the landmark law—Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). “When I first introduced the TVPA in 1998, it offered a bold new strategy that included sheltering, asylum and other protections for the victims; long jail sentences and asset confiscation for the traffickers and tough sanctions for governments that failed to meet minimum standards in the new global effort to combat trafficking of women and children. For almost 20 years, our landmark U.S. legislation has truly made a difference and has become the model for the world. It is critical that we continue United States leadership in efforts to end human trafficking both domestically and abroad.” Click Here to Read Smith’s Full Statement.
“The child welfare to sex trafficking pipeline must stop,” said Bass. “The majority of trafficking victims are abused and neglected girls in the foster care system. One of my major concerns remains the lack of safe and stable housing for this underserved population of youth. Escaping is not an option without access to safe housing equipped to meet the special needs of victimized youth. Too many young girls end up homeless and falling prey to a cycle of trafficking and exploitation. Mislabeling them as runaways, juveniles or simply homeless fails to acknowledge their trauma as victims within the child welfare system. Because they are victims under the care of the government and have fallen through the cracks, we have failed them. Eliminating pathways to child sex trafficking inevitably requires the elimination of youth homelessness. Our government has an urgent responsibility to shut down pathways for child sex trafficking and to invest in critical housing needs for vulnerable girls and foster youth.”
The original co-Sponsors include Rep. Ed Royce (CA-39), Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee (TX-18), Rep. Susan Brooks (IN-05), Rep. Lois Frankel (FL-21), Rep. Ann Wagner (MO-02), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and Rep. Ted Poe (TX-02).
“I am delighted to be an original cosponsor of the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act,” said Wagner. “The TVPA makes momentous steps toward combatting trafficking at home and abroad, and it reiterates congressional expectations that the Department of Justice prosecute buyers of trafficking victims. These horrific crimes happen because predators are able to purchase innocent women and children in a supply-and-demand market. Prosecuting these buyers and undercutting demand are imperative to putting an end to this form of modern-day slavery and should be one of the top priorities of Federal law enforcement.”
“Human trafficking is an issue that really hits home for us in Los Angeles,” said Cárdenas. “In 2004, when I was a city councilman, I became aware of 12 women were forced to work as prostitutes in a South Los Angeles brothel to pay off debts for being smuggled. That was a wake-up call for me. We can, and should, be doing more to prevent human trafficking. I’m proud to join Congressman Smith to introduce this legislation and move the needle forward on this crucial issue.”
“Today, more than any time in the past, the possibility exists of a world without the commercial exploitation of people thanks to an evolving emphasis on primary prevention,” said Ken Morris, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and co-founder of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative. “Slavery has plagued humankind for hundreds of generations, perhaps, since the beginning of civilization. We can reverse the progress of slavery by fortifying individuals and the social structures around them through the application of knowledge. The introduction of this bill, with its commitment to prevention, is a modest but deeply transformational moment in how we respond to human trafficking. The prevention education era is here.”
Among other key provisions, this bill:
· Directs grant money for the education of vulnerable children to avoid traffickers;
· Incentivizes hotels to train their employees to identify potential trafficking victims;
· Requires pilots and flight attendants to have airline industry-specific anti-trafficking training;
· Enhances and funds Department of Labor reporting to Customs and Border Patrol and businesses on foreign products and components likely tainted with human trafficking, helping to keep these products out of the U.S.—and profits out of the hands of traffickers;
· Educates procurement officers in U.S. government agencies to apply all U.S. law and regulations preventing purchases of goods made with trafficking or services from contractors who participate in human trafficking;
· Encourages more accurate reporting and tier ranking in the U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report, which is used to guide better policy and accountability at home and abroad; and
· Empowers trafficking survivors to educate government on better, more effective anti-trafficking policies.