Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved three bills to combat the growing problem of human trafficking in the United States. The Committee first approved by voice vote the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (H.R. 3530), a comprehensive anti-human trafficking bill authored by Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas). This bill 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.
The Committee also approved by voice vote the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (H.R. 3610), sponsored by Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.). This bill provides incentives to states to adopt safe harbor laws that treat trafficked minors as victims, rather than as criminals or delinquents. The bill also provides an avenue for victims to access job skill training so that they can begin to rebuild their lives. Additionally, the Committee passed by a vote of 24-3 the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act (H.R. 4225), authored by Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), to criminalize those who knowingly advertise or profit from advertisements that offer the commercial exploitation of minors and trafficking victims.
Below are statements from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), and Representatives Ted Poe, Erik Paulsen, and Ann Wagner praising today’s Committee approval of these three bills.
Chairman Goodlatte: “Sex traffickers and their buyers dehumanize their victims, treating them not as human beings created in the image of God, but instead as objects to be used for their own profit or pleasure. And sadly, when children are trafficked, not only are they robbed of their innocence and childhood, but they also are often treated as criminals rather than as victims in need of special care.
“While we have strengthened our laws to combat human trafficking, we still have work to do to put an end to these heinous crimes. I am pleased that the House Judiciary Committee today approved several crucial pieces of legislation that hold everyone involved in these crimes accountable, whether they sell, buy, or market these crimes to potential buyers. These bills also ensure that exploited children are treated as victims rather than as criminals and provide much-needed resources to victims of sex trafficking that will help them reclaim and rebuild their lives. I thank my colleagues, Representatives Ted Poe, Erik Paulsen, and Ann Wagner, for working on these important bills and urge the House to take these measures up as soon as possible.”
Rep. Poe: “There are three different groups in the crime of human trafficking. The buyer, the trafficker, and the victim. This legislation addresses all three. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act implements a new, robust and aggressive strategy to help combat human trafficking in the United States. It targets demand by treating people who buy other people like what they are: criminals. Finally, it increases support for and protection of those who have suffered: the victims. Congress must take the lead and ensure that victims of human trafficking are no longer treated as criminals. We must end this modern day slavery that occurs in our own backyards.”
Rep. Paulsen: “Best practices prove that safe harbor laws work. By incentivizing states to pass their own safe harbor legislation, we can ensure that minors are protected and that more resources are dedicated to arresting and prosecuting the real criminals. Instead of turning a blind eye to sex trafficking, we need to provide an avenue for victims to escape and get the services they require. It is time to put an end to sex trafficking.”
Rep. Wagner: “Today the American people are one step closer to ending the horrors of sex trafficking. I would like to sincerely thank Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner for all their efforts in support of the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act. The SAVE Act will amend the criminal code and give prosecutors the tools they need to investigate and prosecute those who knowingly advertise sex slavery. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance this life saving legislation, and ensure that any advertisement used for the sexual exploitation and enslavement of innocent victims be shut down.”
Crime Subcommittee Chairman Sensenbrenner: “As a nation that prides itself on human dignity, widespread human trafficking is utterly unacceptable. As a society, we should protect our most vulnerable. The sexual exploitation of children and coerced adults must be stopped, and those involved must be punished. As chairman of the Crime Subcommittee and the Over-Criminalization Task Force, I take this issue very seriously and look forward to enacting real reforms that thwart human trafficking in this country.”
Background: According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. One organization estimates that child sex trafficking in the U.S. is a $9.8 billion industry. However, since these crimes usually occur outside of the public eye, it is difficult to estimate the number of minor victims of sex trafficking. One study estimates that over 290,000 American youth are at risk of becoming a victim of sex trafficking. Additionally, from 2004 through 2008, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force experienced an increase of more than 900 percent in the number of minor sex trafficking complaints.
While the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking has often been carried out by state and local law enforcement, 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 is the primary legislative vehicle authorizing services to victims of trafficking and was most recently reauthorized in 2013.