US House Declares War on Human Trafficking

HOUSTON,Texas—The U.S. House of Representatives passed a series of bills on Tuesday attacking various aspects of our national problem of human trafficking. Texas is currently one of the nation’s hubs for human trafficking and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) took the lead on one of the bills passed. Breitbart Texas reached out to Congressmen Ted Poe, John Culberson (R-TX) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX) for their thoughts on the passage of these bills.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2014 (H.R. 3530) was authored by Congressman Poe, a former Texas criminal district court judge, passed the House by a vote of 409-0 with 22 members abstaining (13R, 9D). This bill addresses one of the problems law enforcement officials have said is among the most pressing problems, according to a New York Times article yesterday, arresting victims of forced prostitution rather than the customers or pimps. The Act also encourages the states to create victim social programs and protective services in addition to creating job opportunities through federal Jobs Corps programs.

Congressman Poe, responding to an inquiry from Breitbart Texas said, “Unfortunately, Texas has become a hub for human trafficking. From massage parlors to bars, human trafficking is occurring all around us in Texas. Victims and their abusers are hiding in plain sight. I am pleased that my colleagues in the House unanimously passed my legislation, the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. This legislation would implement a much needed comprehensive strategy to combat human trafficking in our state and around the nation.”

In a statement released on Tuesday, Poe explained the impact of the Act: “Today the House took necessary action to end human trafficking by passing a package of bipartisan bills to combat this heinous crime. My bill, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) addresses each of the three different groups involved in the crime of human trafficking: the trafficker, the buyer and the victim. JVTA implements a new, robust and aggressive strategy to help combat human trafficking in the United States. It targets demand by treating those who buy sex from minors and other trafficking victims like what they are: criminals. Finally, JVTA encourages a victim-centered approach to fighting human trafficking so that victims are no longer treated as criminals. The House has taken necessary steps to end modern day slavery in America; I urge both the Senate and the President to do the same.”

Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act Background:

  • Repurposes and reauthorizes a grant program to create a victim-centered model block grant to help state and local governments develop and implement comprehensive victim-centered programs to train law enforcement to rescue victims, prosecute human traffickers, and restore the lives of victims.
  • Allows state and local human trafficking taskforces to obtain wiretap warrants within their own state courts without federal approval in order to investigate crimes of child pornography, child sexual exploitation, and human trafficking.
  • Requires law enforcement to upload available photos of missing children into the National Criminal Information Center database and to notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of any child reported missing from a foster care family home or childcare institution.
  • Reduces demand for human trafficking by clarifying current law and encouraging police, prosecutors, judges, and juries to target and punish persons who purchase illicit sexual activities from trafficking victims as human traffickers, rather than petty criminals. 
  • Reduces affirmative defenses for persons who exploit children through interstate prostitution by requiring them to show by clear and convincing evidence, rather than a preponderance of the evidence (current law), that they believed the child to be an adult. 
  • Reauthorizes the Victims of Child Abuse Act to provide funding to support regional and local Child Advocacy Centers (CACs), which offer a multi-disciplinary response to child abuse.
  • Increases the obligation cap for the Justice Department’s Crime Victims Fund, financed solely by criminal fines, in order to provide services and support for victims of crime.

“Unfortunately,” Congressman Culberson said in an email to Breitbart Texas, “Houston is a hub for human trafficking. Because of our proximity to the border, multiple freeways, and large airports, Houston has become a popular place for criminals to prey on their victims. We need to do everything in our power to rescue these children and punish their abusers."

Culberson also expressed his support for the companion bill, the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act (H.R. 4225) which also passed on Tuesday by a vote of 392-19 with 20 abstentions. Eighteen Democrats and one Republican voted nay on the bill. In his statement released on Tuesday, Culberson said, “Far too often, we think of human trafficking as a far-off problem in a third-world country. We can no longer do that: these are real victims suffering real harm at the hands of real criminals—and it’s happening in our town. I’m proud to stand with the overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House as we fight back to protect our children and end this modern day slavery.”

Congressman Blake Farenthold who serves on the House Judiciary Committee with Congressman Poe responded to Breitbart Texas’s inquiry stating, “Human trafficking is not only an issue that plagues the globe, but it’s an injustice that’s happening right in our own backyard. An estimated 100,000 children are sold in the sex trade in the United States each year: disturbing not just for our country, but for our towns and communities, as well. The bipartisan measures we passed in the House will increase protections for domestic trafficking victims and strengthen the laws we have on the books to hold buyers and sellers involved in the sex trade industry accountable for their crimes.”

“We also took action to provide local law enforcement with much-needed resources to help catch traffickers,” Farenthold continued. “The response I constantly get from law enforcement in South Texas is that the allocation of resources on this issue is a ‘matter of priorities.’ I can’t think of a higher priority than going after criminals who force our own into modern-day slavery–amid an industry that’s seemingly thriving. While efforts have been focused in other regions of the world, this is a major problem occurring right under our noses, and equal efforts need to be focused here at home. We cannot ignore the fact that human trafficking is real in our country–and we have a moral obligation to work together to combat it at every level.”

Breitbart Texas reported in March about a Human Trafficking Congressional Briefing that was conducted by several members of the Texas Congressional Delegation on the topic of Human Trafficking.

During the briefing, chaired by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCall (R-TX) the members heard testimony from federal, state and local law enforcement officials on the issues related to human trafficking enforcement in Texas as well as from non-profit groups who provide services to the victims of human trafficking and sex slavery.

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