Chairman Nadler Statement for Hearing on "Oversight of Federal Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking"
Washington, April 27, 2022
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security hearing on "Oversight of Federal Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking:"
“Thank you, Madam Chair, for holding this important hearing on human trafficking. Too often, we think of human trafficking as something that happens somewhere else—in other cities and in other countries, and not in our own communities. An unfortunate reality, however, is that human trafficking touches many more of our communities than we might suspect, from major cities to quiet suburbs.
“Our inability to see the harms of human trafficking allows it to persist and leaves victims vulnerable, sometimes even as they think that they have found those who will help them escape.
“It is important for us to be clear at the outset about the scope of this hearing. We are here today to discuss human trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing or soliciting of a person for the purpose of forced labor or forced commercial sex.
“This is a distinct crime from the no less serious crime of human smuggling, in which people are brought across international borders through the deliberate evasion of immigration laws. Human trafficking can and frequently does occur without crossing any borders. When human trafficking does involve border crossings, we must take care not to punish victims for their trafficker’s disregard for both criminal and immigration law.
“When we discuss human trafficking, the headlines often focus on sex trafficking and ignore the significant harms caused by labor trafficking.
“Labor trafficking occurs in the U.S. across many different industries, including domestic work, traveling sales crews, food services, agriculture, health and beauty services, construction, hospitality, landscaping, and many others.
“Further, the distinction between sex trafficking and labor trafficking is not always clear. As we will hear from the survivors and experts here today, those who are forced into sex trafficking may also find themselves forced to do labor in furtherance of their traffickers’ criminal activities. Meanwhile, those who are trafficked for labor are often in vulnerable situations that leave them at risk of sexual abuse.
“Finally, we must develop a better understanding of who is being trafficked. As we will hear from our witnesses, trafficking can victimize the young and old alike. It is not confined to one gender, race, sexual orientation, or immigration status.
“I hope we will hear today about how our laws can better serve the needs of all people who experience trafficking so that we can be sure all victims and survivors get the assistance that fits their individual needs.
“This hearing is especially important as we examine proposals to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. I hope our witnesses can help us to understand how the TVPA is helping to support the needs of victims and survivors, as well as how it can be improved.
“We must take appropriate steps to improve how our criminal justice system treats trafficking survivors, including ensuring that they are treated as victims of crime rather than as perpetrators. For example, we must consider whether there are sufficient avenues to correct past injustices, such as mechanisms to clear the records of those who were charged as criminals when they were, in fact, victims of trafficking. Such measures are essential to the restoration and healing process for victims, who should not be saddled with a criminal record as they seek to build a new life.
“I thank our witnesses for being here, especially the survivors who are here to share their personal, harrowing stories of survival, escape, and healing. I hope that we can learn from their experiences so that fewer people face what they have endured and so that we can assist the many victims and survivors not before us today.
“I look forward to their testimony and I yield back the balance of my time.”