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Human trafficking is an extensive problem worldwide. Even though many of these crimes occur outside of the public eye, the impacts are very real. According to the FBI, sex trafficking is the fastest growing business of organized crime and the third largest criminal enterprise in the world. The Department of Justice has noted that it is more profitable for a trafficker to prostitute a child than to commit other crimes such as dealing in drugs. That is because drugs can only be sold once, whereas minor children can be, and are, prostituted multiple times a day. While Congress has strengthened our laws to combat human trafficking, there is still work to do to put an end to these heinous crimes.
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. One organization estimates that child sex trafficking in the U.S. is a $9.8 billion industry. It is also estimated that over 290,000 American youth are at risk of becoming a victim of sex trafficking. The growing prevalence of technology and the Internet in our society has also spurred exploitation. Criminals frequently use websites to advertise, schedule, or purchase encounters with children.
In an effort to further strengthen our current laws, the House Judiciary Committee approved three bills to help combat the growing problem of human trafficking in the United States and provide needed services to victims. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (H.R. 3530) 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 Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (H.R. 3610) 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. The third bill, the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act (H.R. 4225), criminalizes those who knowingly advertise or profit from advertisements that offer the commercial exploitation of minors and trafficking victims.
It goes without saying that no child should be subjected to this horrifying and inhumane violence. Sadly, it happens across the country every single day. As a father myself, I understand the need for legislation that will hold everyone involved in these crimes accountable, whether they sell, buy, or market these crimes to potential buyers. All three of these bills were approved by the House Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support, and I urge the House to take these measures up as soon as possible.