Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2017 (H.R. 2473).
Chairman Goodlatte: Human trafficking has permeated communities and neighborhoods across America. It is currently one of the most profitable crimes in the world—after the drug trade—and its victims have endured horrific trauma, violence, and abuse. This is why it is particularly egregious that victims of trafficking across the United States continue to be overlooked and underserved.
There is a tremendous need domestically for improved victim services, trauma-informed support, better data on the prevalence and trends of human trafficking, and effective mechanisms to identify and rescue trafficking victims.
H.R. 2473, the Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2017, introduced by Congresswoman Ann Wagner, is an important step toward addressing these critical needs. This legislation will help provide stakeholders—from law enforcement to prosecutors to service providers to government officials—with the guidance and information they need to better serve victims of trafficking.
One important place to start is in the courtroom, where victims can benefit greatly from victim-centered approaches oriented toward victim recovery. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act provided mandatory restitution mechanisms for victims of trafficking, but there are still many obstacles in federal courtrooms that prevent victims from accessing this restitution. H.R. 2473 will thus direct the Attorney General to report on efforts to increase mandatory restitution, to improve victim-centered practices in criminal proceedings, and to understand how access to appropriate victim services can encourage victims to participate in the criminal process.
In addition, H.R. 2473 will advance U.S. responsiveness to trafficking victims by improving data collection. The bill instructs the National Institute of Justice to develop robust, comprehensive methodologies to determine the prevalence and trends of human trafficking in the United States, and evaluate the effectiveness of policies and procedures to identify victims and address their needs.
Importantly, the Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2017 will direct the Attorney General to provide training and technical assistance to government agencies, prosecutors, and law enforcement on how to implement victim-centered approaches to investigating, prosecuting, and preventing human trafficking. The bill promotes evidence-based, trauma-informed care and physical and mental health services for victims and ensures that all victims have access to services.
Moreover, the bill encourages law enforcement officers and prosecutors across the country to make every attempt to determine whether an individual’s participation in trafficking is free from force, fraud, or coercion before arresting or prosecuting them.
Lastly, the Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2017 expresses the sense of Congress that States across the nation should implement trauma-informed, victim-centered care for trafficking victims. All victims of trafficking should be afforded the same justice, dignity, and respect that other victims of crime receive. The bill likewise encourages states to develop vacatur provisions that would ensure victims of trafficking aren’t criminalized for offenses that were direct results of being trafficked.
I would like to thank Congresswoman Ann Wagner, the sponsor of this important legislation, for her commitment and tireless efforts on behalf of trafficking victims. As we look forward to a day when the United States is no longer plagued by the horrific crime of human trafficking, I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.