The Abolish Human Trafficking Act, bipartisan legislation sponsored by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), passed the Senate yesterday. The legislation strengthens and reauthorizes key programs that support survivors of human trafficking and provides resources to law enforcement officials on the front lines of the fight against modern-day slavery.
“Human trafficking has had devastating effects on communities in Texas and across the country,” Sen. Cornyn said. “The fight against modern-day slavery requires our full effort, and this bill will equip our law enforcement with the tools they need and ensure victims have access to recovery resources. I hope the House will quickly follow suit so the President can sign the Abolish Human Trafficking Act into law.”
“Last Congress, I worked with Senator Cornyn to get our Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act signed into law. Together we’ve worked to curb trafficking in Minnesota and around the country, but there’s still more to be done,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “Today’s vote brings us one step closer to strengthening and reauthorizing critical programs that help support survivors and improve the tools available to federal, state, and local law enforcement.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), along with Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dean Heller (R-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), joined as original cosponsors of the legislation. 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 agencies are 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 the 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. 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.
Major Supporting Organizations: More than 50 victims’ rights and law enforcement organizations support the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, including: Shared Hope International, Rights 4 Girls, Fraternal Order of Police, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National District Attorney’s Association, National Association to PROTECT Children, and Coalition Against Trafficking Women.