The scourge of human trafficking remains one of the most horrific crimes that plagues our world. This epidemic is growing at a staggering rate, even in the United States.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation.
Millions of children, women, and men are trafficked every year around the world, including here in the U.S. It’s estimated there are more than 20 million victims worldwide; more slaves exist today than at any time in human history.
Those most at risk of victimization are the vulnerable – illegal immigrants, the poor, and children. Victims rarely come forward, mainly out of fear of the traffickers and even of law enforcement. Sadly, this is the only way of life many victims now know, and they may even view their traffickers as their only means of survival.
Human trafficking victims are frequently lured by traffickers under false promises of real jobs and better lives, and then are forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude, or other types of forced labor.
Traffickers frequently employ mental and physical abuse to control their victims, as well as debt bondage, social isolation, withholding of identification documents, and threats against the victims' families.
The House is taking action
The week of May 18, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider 5 bipartisan bills to bring us closer to ending the human trafficking epidemic in the U.S. and abroad.
The following 5 bills are only the start of our efforts.
We must be vigilant and do everything we can to end human trafficking.
Problem: Lack of resources and law enforcement tools
The fight against the scourge of modern day slavery is made more difficult by a lack of resources to help rescue victims and laws to ably track down their exploiters and prosecute every criminal responsible for modern-day slavery.
Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act
This comprehensive domestic anti-human trafficking bill reallocates existing grants for human trafficking deterrence and victims’ support and provides additional law enforcement tools to enable authorities to prosecute all those involved in human trafficking.
Problem: Sex trafficking of youth in foster care
Recent news accounts have revealed that a disturbing number of children who are victimized by sex traffickers in the U.S. are in the foster care system. All too frequently, these children fall through societal cracks and are lost in the shuffle, with inadequate protections for their safety.
Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act
Requires states to take steps to identify, prevent, and address sex trafficking of youth in foster care. It also would improve the lives of youth in foster care by ensuring they have more normal opportunities and experiences, while also providing them with tools they need to become successful adults.
Problem: Trafficking victims are charged as criminals
As understanding of human trafficking evolves, so does the treatment of victims. Under many current state laws, victims are still charged as criminals.
Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act
Encourages states to adopt safe harbor laws that treat trafficked minors as victims and provide an avenue for victims to leave their situations with access to protective services, counseling, and skill building rather than entering the legal system and being incarcerated.
Problem: Online advertising
The Internet has allowed sex traffickers to greatly expand their businesses by attracting “customers” through online advertising. Online classified services, such as Backpage.com, have drawn increasing scrutiny as it has become clear that these sites facilitate the sexual exploitation of children. Attorneys General from 47 states have asked Congress to update the law so that those who facilitate the trafficking of children through online advertising can be held accountable.
Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act
Makes it a federal crime to knowingly advertise for the commercial sex exploitation of minors and trafficking victims.
Problem: Sex tourism
With frightening prevalence, American sex offenders travel abroad to buy sex-trafficked children in what is commonly known as "sex tourism."
International Megan's Law
Ensures that a destination country is aware when an American sex offender who has previously abused a child is traveling to that country and encourages reciprocal notification to protect American children from abuse by foreign sex offenders.