January 2015 is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In a proclamation commemorating the month, President Obama explained:
Stained from a history of slavery and shaped by ancestors brought to this country in chains, today, America shines as a beacon of hope to people everywhere who cherish liberty and opportunity. Still, our society remains imperfect, and our Nation has more work to do to uphold these values.
Sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world, according to the FBI. In 2013, nearly 5,000 cases of human trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Today, as many as 300,000 American youth are at risk of becoming a victim of sex trafficking. 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 authorized services to victims of trafficking and was most recently reauthorized in 2013. (Source: House Judiciary Committee)
Last year, the Dept. of Homeland Security re-launched their Blue Campaign, which works in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations to combat human trafficking. To report suspected human trafficking, call 1-866-347-2423. Or to get help from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).
Human Trafficking Prevention in Congress
This week, the House will be voting on a series of bills related to human trafficking prevention. These bills all have bipartisan support in the House. Here's a look at their proposals:
- Human Trafficking Prioritization Act (HR 514): To prioritize the fight against human trafficking within the Department of State according to congressional intent in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 without increasing the size of the Federal Government.
- International Megan's Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking (HR 515): "A serious attempt to mitigate child sex tourism by noticing countries of destination concerning the travel plans of convicted pedophiles. And to protect American children, the bill encourages the President to use bilateral agreements and assistance to establish reciprocal notification so that we will know when convicted child-sex offenders are coming here," according a floor statement by the sponsor in 2014. "In 1994, a young girl in my home town and district was lured into the home of a convicted pedophile who lived across the street from her home. Megan Kanka, seven, was raped and murdered. No one, including Megan Kanka's parents, knew that their neighbor had been convicted and jailed for child sexual assault. The combination of concern for children and outrage towards those who abuse led to enactment of Megan's Laws -- public sex offender registries -- in every state in the country."
- Human Trafficking Prevention Act (HR 357): "Requires additional training for Department of State officials related to human trafficking," according to the bill sponsor.
- Improving Response to Child Sex Trafficking (HR 246): To improve the response to victims of child sex trafficking.
- Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act (HR 398): "Trains healthcare workers to recognize the hallmark signs of human trafficking, thus allowing professionals to intervene on a patients' behalf. This legislation trains healthcare workers to recognize the hallmark signs of human trafficking, thus allowing professionals to intervene. This legislation requires the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award a grant to a medical or nursing school within each of the 10 administrative regions to develop best practices for health care professionals. These best practices will allow for them to recognize, respond, and intervene on behalf of human trafficking victims," according to the bill sponsor.
- Human Trafficking Detection Act (HR 460): To direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to train Department of Homeland Security personnel how to effectively deter, detect, disrupt, and prevent human trafficking during the course of their primary roles and responsibilities.
- Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act (HR 398): To provide for the development and dissemination of evidence-based best practices for health care professionals to recognize victims of a severe form of trafficking and respond to such individuals appropriately.
- Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act (HR 350): "Launches a review that will look into federal and state trafficking prevention activities in order to identify best practices to stop human trafficking; requires an inventory of existing federal anti-trafficking efforts to make sure all federal agencies and programs work together and that federal resources are being targeted where needed; and improves existing Department of Justice grants, ensuring that the grants also support shelters for survivors, according to the House Judiciary Committee.
- Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (HR 159): "Provides incentives to states to adopt safe harbor laws that treat trafficked children as victims, rather than as criminals or delinquents. The bill also provides an avenue for victims to access job skills training so that they can begin to rebuild their lives," according to the House Judiciary Committee.
- Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (HR 181): "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," according to the House Judiciary Committee.
- Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act (HR 285): "To criminalize those who knowingly advertise or profit from advertisements that offer the commercial exploitation of children and trafficking victims," according to the House Judiciary Committee.
- Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims for Youth Trafficking Act (HR 468): Would "improve support provided specifically to runaway and homeless youth who are victims of sex trafficking," according to the House Education and Workforce Committee. Enable the Secretary of Health and Human Services to apply existing grant resources to train relevant staff on the effects of human trafficking in runaway and homeless youth victims, and for developing state-wide strategies to serve such youth. Allow the secretary to utilize the Street Outreach Program to provide street-based services for runaway and homeless youth who are victims of trafficking.
- Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act (HR 469): Would "improve practices within state child welfare systems to identify and document sex trafficking victims," according to the House Education and Workforce Committee. Direct states to have procedures to identify and assess reports involving children who are victims of sex trafficking, and train child protective services workers on how to do so. Require states to identify services that address the needs of children who are victims of sex trafficking.
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