Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today gave the following statement on the House floor in support of the Put Trafficking Victims First Act (H.R. 2473).

Chairman Goodlatte: Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Today, Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 2473, the Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2017, and urge my colleagues to do the same.

Human trafficking has plagued communities and neighborhoods across America.  Victims have endured horrific trauma, violence, and re-occurring abuse.  As a result, there is a tremendous need for expanded victim services, improved data on the prevalence and trends of human trafficking, and effective mechanisms to identify and rescue trafficking victims.

H.R. 2473 takes reasonable steps to increase victim services, while improving upon the tools already available to combat human trafficking.  The bill directs the Attorney General to provide a report on the effectiveness of State safe harbor laws in order to ensure these laws are based upon a survivor-centered approach.  In addition to the report, the bill instructs States to recognize coping mechanisms and the symptoms of trauma as local law enforcement interacts with victims of human trafficking.

Furthermore, the legislation provides for increased training and technical assistance for State and Federal agencies, prosecutors, and law enforcement, on how to take a victim-centered approach to preventing human trafficking. This provision promotes evidence-based training in order to improve the physical and mental health services provided to victims.

The bill’s focus on supporting victims continues as H.R. 2473 instructs the National Institute of Justice to establish detailed methodologies to review the modern trends and detail the prevalence of human trafficking throughout the United States.  The survey will not only assess how victims of trafficking are accessing services, but, in addition, help estimate the prevalence of human trafficking in the United States.

Moreover, H.R. 2473 will provide assistance to trafficking victims seeking restitution – many of whom still face many obstacles in federal court.  The bill directs the Attorney General to report on efforts to increase mandatory restitution for victims, by providing Congress with data involving the number of Federal cases related to human trafficking in which restitution was ordered as well as the participation rate of victims in trafficking criminal proceedings.

Finally, the bill expresses the sense of Congress that States should implement trauma-informed, victim-centered care for all trafficking victims.

Mr. Speaker, Congress’s intent is clear. Protecting victims from the heinous crime of human trafficking is of utmost concern. I commend Ms. Wagner for introducing this important legislation and I urge my colleagues to support it.

I reserve the balance of my time.

For more on the House Judiciary Committee’s work to protect children, click here.