New legislation aimed at protecting American minors from sex traffickers that is co-authored by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-14) and Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking, passed the House of Representatives tonight.
"As prime sponsor of the historic law to combat human trafficking--the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000--and as a member of Congress who has devoted more than 15 years seeking to prevent trafficking, protect victims from exploitation and abuse and prosecute those who enslave up to life imprisonment, I rise in strong support of S. 2925," said Smith, a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and author of three anti-human trafficking laws, who took to the House floor today in support of the bill. "Human Trafficking--modern day slavery--is the third most lucrative criminal activity in the world. The ILO (International Labour Organization) estimates illicit profits of over $31 billion a year."
The bill creates rehabilitative shelters for children trafficked into sexual exploitation in the U.S., as well as to train law enforcement in finding sex trafficking victims.
"Under both presidents Bush and Obama, domestic task forces to combat human trafficking have been established in over 40 cities," Smith said. "Almost 900 American children have been rescued and much thanks is owed to the FBI, state police, and local law enforcement. Still, much more needs to be done. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Shared Hope International believe that at least 100,000 American children, perhaps tens of thousands more, mostly runaway girls of the average age of 13 years old, are exploited in the commercial sex industry each year.
"Our new legislation seeks to address the lack of shelter--the lack of a safe place to go--for domestic trafficking victims. One estimate is that there are between 50 and 100 beds for victims of domestic trafficking. As highly vulnerable victims, private detention or some other type of incarceration fails to recognize these young girls as cruelly exploited victims desperately in need of help.
"Our bill authorizes six pilot grants of $2--2.5 million in order to provide safe havens and psychological care to address trauma. The legislation also provides for law enforcement training and keys up reporting requirements so that missing children are immediately entered into the national missing children database--the latter so that law enforcement finds a missing girl before the pimps do," Smith concluded.
Smith introduced the House version of the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010, (H.R. 5575) with Maloney last summer in response to the 2009 National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, America's Prostituted Children. The report details domestic child sex trafficking, specifically commercial sexual exploitation of American children within U.S. borders.
In 2000, Smith authored the Trafficking Victims and Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA: PL 106-386), the first federal law specifically enacted to prevent victimization, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators of human trafficking. Smith's TVPA created real penalties for traffickers and authorized extensive protections for victims of trafficking, authorizing grants to shelters and rehabilitation programs in the United States primarily for foreign victims. Smith's two subsequent anti-trafficking laws (PL 108-193 and PL 109-164) increased resources primarily for crime prevention, prosecution and expanded treatment assistance for victims--however, domestic minors have yet to receive specialized care services. The law requires the U.S. State Department to issue annual trafficking reports on countries around the world. The newest report was issued June 14. Click here to view 2010 report.
The bill passed today continues to build on these provisions. S. 2925 would provide $45 million for shelter and specialized care for victims, assist law enforcement and prosecutors to identify and rescue victims and put pimps in prison, promote deterrence and prevention programs aimed at potential buyers, and require timely and accurate reporting of missing children.