WASHINGTON –U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today introduced the Abolish Human Trafficking Act which strengthens and reauthorizes key programs that support survivors of human trafficking and provide resources to federal, state, and local law enforcement officials on the front lines of the fight against modern-day slavery. Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dean Heller (R-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), March Rubio (R-FL), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) originally cosponsored the legislation.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. We have a solemn responsibility to support victims of human trafficking as they recover and to help law enforcement bring justice to the criminals who exploit them,” Sen. Cornyn said. “This bill ensures that both victims and law enforcement officials will continue to get the resources they need to end commercial exploitation in America.”
“Over the past year, we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of survivors calling for support and cases reported to the National Trafficking Hotline. This is truly a national problem, and that’s why I’ve made it a priority to address this issue in the Senate,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “Our bipartisan legislation equips law enforcement with the resources to crack down on this crime and provides victims with the support they need to get back on their feet.”
“The exploitation of fellow human beings must not be tolerated in our society. This bill takes important steps in the fight against human trafficking through additional law enforcement, prevention and victim assistance. It’s one of many bills I’ve supported or sponsored in an ongoing effort to stop human traffickers in their tracks,” Sen. Grassley said.
“Sex-trafficking victims experience the worst of humanity, and we have a moral imperative to do all we can to stop it. The bill we are introducing today to combat sex-trafficking bill builds on the progress we made in the 2015 legislation by improving training for prosecutors so they’re better equipped to hold traffickers and buyers accountable and achieve justice for victims,” said Sen. Feinstein. “Just last week I met with law enforcement officials and anti-trafficking advocates in Fresno to discuss how to improve our efforts against trafficking. One area of consensus was the need for more training and resources to increase awareness of this heinous crime so law enforcement, community groups and medical professionals are better equipped to respond. This bill will do just that.”
“This legislation will play an important role in the fight against modern slavery within the United States by helping victims and giving law enforcement the tools they need to combat this brutal industry,” said Sen. Corker. “This scourge on humanity knows no borders or boundaries, and I remain committed to efforts that will help end trafficking and modern slavery worldwide.”
“We’ve seen the devastating effects that human trafficking has on communities in Ohio and across the country,” said Sen. Brown. “We must do more to protect Ohioans from the most heinous of crimes and to provide justice, restitution, and healing for trafficking survivors.”
“The scourge of human trafficking exists right here in our own backyards, and we must continue to fight against it,” said Sen. Heller. “I am proud to support the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, which supports victims of human trafficking and empowers law enforcement to combat this heinous crime.”
“Eliminating sex trafficking in America requires everybody – law enforcement, health care providers, social workers, foster parents, judges, teachers, neighbors and members of Congress to lock arms in common cause,” Sen. Wyden said. “I am proud to continue working with my fellow senators on both sides of the aisle to take steps to address the scourge of sex trafficking and provide important help to prevent this horrendous crime and assist its victims.”
Sens. Cornyn and Klobuchar were the authors of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, a 2015 law that increased the resources and tools available for combatting human trafficking in the United States. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act ensures that American law enforcement is equipped to fight this crime, while helping victims rebuild their lives by using fines and penalties against their exploiters to fund restorative services and compensation. The Abolish Human Trafficking Act enhances and expands the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.
Background on the Abolish Human Trafficking Act:
Funding for Victims’ Services and Law Enforcement: The Abolish Human Trafficking Act extends the life of the Department of Justice Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund, which is financed through fines on convicted human traffickers and sexual predators and through an annual allotment from the Community Health Centers Fund and was used to provide nearly $5 million to victims’ services last year. Additionally, the legislation clarifies that federal law enforcement may impose liens on the property of criminals who fail to pay required fines to the Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund and allows Child Advocacy Centers to use resources from the Fund to provide services to human trafficking victims. Finally, the legislation reauthorizes key Trafficking Victims Protection Act programs that are used to fund restorative services for victims and law enforcement anti-trafficking operations
Empowering and Restoring Victims’ Lives: The Abolish Human Trafficking Act permanently authorizes the Human Trafficking Advisory Council, through which human trafficking survivors formulate annual recommendations to combat and prevent this crime to the Federal Government. The legislation also requires mandatory restitution for victims of commercial sexual exploitation offenses.
Fighting Human Traffickers: The Abolish Human Trafficking Act gives law enforcement additional tools and resources to target criminal street gangs involved in organized human trafficking and sexual exploitation. By enhancing statutory maximum penalties for several human trafficking offenses, the legislation ensures the penalties remain an adequate tool for prosecutors. The bill also expands the authority of state and local governments to seek wiretap warrants in sexual exploitation and prostitution cases and establishes Human Trafficking Coordinators at every U.S. Attorney’s Office and at the Department of Justice. In order to help curb foreign offenders and internal human trafficking, the legislation clarifies that persons who travel overseas with a motivating purpose of engaging in illicit sex tourism can be federally prosecuted for their offense.
Increasing Awareness and Prevention: The Abolish Human Trafficking Act requires Department of Homeland Security to develop specialized screening protocols for implementation across federal, state, and local law enforcement anti-trafficking task forces to ensure agencies nationwide are trained to recognize victims and refer them to services instead of arresting or prosecuting them. Additionally, the legislation directs the Department of Health and Human Services to continue a pilot program to provide training to health care providers on human trafficking. The bill makes a number of improvements to data collection and reporting so that agencies can better utilize information. The legislation ensures that regular reporting on the number of human trafficking crimes is separated from reports on the particular form of the offense for the use of the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program and requires the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to provide an annual report on the use of data received from the national human trafficking hotline. Lastly, the Abolish Human Trafficking Act requires National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a landmark study on the long-term physical and psychological effects of the commercial sex trade.
Breaking the Cycle of Sexual Exploitation: The Abolish Human Trafficking Act ends government partnerships with the commercial sex industry and improves the national strategy to combat human trafficking by utilizing demand reduction techniques.
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.