Washington, D.C -- Alaskan Congressman Don Young this week supported a package of bipartisan bills aimed at protecting victims from global predators involved in the illegal trade and trafficking of people. The series of anti-human trafficking bills, which passed the House with overwhelming support, work to protect victims of human trafficking, pursue and hold buyers and sellers accountable for taking part in exploitation, and improve upon existing law enforcement operations.
"For too long, human trafficking has plagued this nation from behind the shadow of social and economic troubles," said Congressman Don Young. "The House's action this week is an effort to hold everyone accountable that takes part in these heinous crimes, no matter how they're involved; selling, buying, or advertising to potential clients. In Alaska, we face our own unique problems in addressing the exploitation of women and children. Studies have shown that American Indian and Alaska Native women are more likely to be victims of human trafficking. My hope is that these small efforts can help prevent the many evils in this world from robbing our children of their innocence and childhood."
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), human trafficking is a $32 billion annual industry worldwide, second only to drug trafficking. DHS reports that the average age of a girl entering into the commercial sex trade is 12 to 14 years-old. The Department of Justice estimates that as many as 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked for the commercial sex industry in the United States each year.
The five anti-trafficking bills passed by the House this week are:
H.R. 3530, Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (Introduced by Representative Ted Poe)
The bill allows the Justice Department to provide grants to develop or expand efforts to deter domestic child trafficking. Grants would be awarded through the Crime Victims Fund, which provides grants to states and local law enforcement agencies for aiding crime victims and their families. The bill also would modify federal criminal statutes to facilitate wiretapping in trafficking and child pornography investigations.
H.R. 3610, Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (Introduced by Representative Erik Paulsen)
The bill encourages states to enact "safe harbor" laws that would treat minors involved in trafficking and commercial sex as victims, rather than criminals. Preferential consideration will be provided for certain federal grants if a state enacts a law that meets the bill's criteria.
H.R. 4058, Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act (Introduced by Representative Dave Reichert)
This bill requires that states plan for foster care and adoption assistance to demonstrate that the state has developed policies and procedures for identifying and screening children who the state has reasonable cause to believe are victims of sex trafficking or a severe form of trafficking in persons, or are at risk of being such victims.
H.R. 4225, Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act (Introduced by Representative Ann Wagner)
This bill would prohibit ads containing offers for commercial sex acts with a child, or with an adult involved through force or fraud. The bill would make it a criminal offense to knowingly commit or benefit from sex trafficking through advertisements, which would affect websites that offer adult services or media and advertising companies that may benefit from such ads.
H.R. 4573, International Megan's Law (Introduced by Representative Chris Smith)
This bill seeks to prevent sex trafficking by providing advance notice of any travel by a registered child sex offender outside the United States, and requesting the same from foreign governments for those seeking to enter the U.S.
In addition to the anti-trafficking bills passed in the House this week, Congressman Young supported the passage of H. Res. 573 to condemn the actions of Boko Haram, the military terror organization responsible for the abduction of nearly 300 female students in the northeastern provinces of Nigeria.
"I stand with the global community in condemning Boko Haram, not only for their actions against hundreds of innocent schoolgirls, but for the violence they have spread in terrorist attacks across Nigeria on schools, mosques, churches, and villages," said Congressman Don Young.
The resolution expressed a strong support for the people of Nigeria, including the parents and families of the girls abducted by Boko Haram. H.Res 573 calls for the immediate and safe return of these girls, condemns Boko Haram for its attacks on civilians, and encourages the Nigerian government to strengthen its efforts to protect children pursuing educational opportunities and to hold violent attackers accountable for their actions.