The Trump administration reports that there are nearly 25 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, and more than 8,500 human trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline here in the U.S. last year alone. Congress passed and Pres. Trump signed four pieces of legislation recently to help end this horrible crime.
As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I co-sponsored two bills under the jurisdiction of the committee to help combat human trafficking. In December, Congress passed and the president signed both bills that renew portions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA):
- Fellow Judiciary Committee member John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced S. 1311, the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, that I co-sponsored along with a bipartisan group of 31 fellow senators. This law reauthorizes programs established by the TVPA to address the prevention and punishment of human trafficking and assist trafficking victims.
- Former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced S. 1312, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, that I co-sponsored with a bipartisan group of 26 fellow senators. This law would reauthorize TVPA programs that support victims of trafficking and assist with the identification and punishment of perpetrators, and also assist with the better collection of related crime data.
These laws complement the two other related laws that were recently enacted: S. 1862, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act which amends the TVPA to strengthen the criteria for whether countries are meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking and actions for failure to meet these standards; and H.R. 2200, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act that would take a number of additional steps, including authorizing local programs to educate about human trafficking and provide for training and other measures to respond to human trafficking.
All four of these bills were passed by overwhelmingly bipartisan votes in both the Senate and the House of Representatives and represent a significant step in the right direction for reinforcing progress being made to end human trafficking. The administration reported that in Fiscal Year 2018, federal agencies made 1,588 Human Trafficking arrests and 4,000 criminal arrests for human smuggling violations. The agencies also identified and assisted 308 victims.
Pres. Trump has identified strengthening border security as an important part of preventing human trafficking in all forms. The United States must commit the resources necessary to have the strongest border enforcement realistically possible. Preservation of the integrity of our borders is essential to immigration policy as well as our national security. I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress, the Trump administration, and appropriate stakeholders to ensure that any action taken to secure our borders is done with the best interest of the American people in mind.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is observed each Jan. 11, and Pres. Trump proclaimed January 2019 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, pledging to continue the battle to abolish modern slavery and restore the lives of those affected by human trafficking.
As the president recognized, “These crimes often remain hidden because victims are reluctant to seek help for a variety of reasons, including language barriers, fear of traffickers and law enforcement, and lack of trust. Human trafficking destroys precious lives and threatens our nation’s security, public health, and the rule of law. It is a scourge on the global community.”
We must reaffirm our efforts to bring traffickers to justice and end this suffering. These laws are a welcome advancement in our effort to stop this exploitation and ensure victims have access to the help they need.