Friday, June 03, 2016
Billy Long: I will fight tirelessly to stop human trafficking
Most everyone has heard of human trafficking by now whether in the movies or on TV shows, or have seen reports of terrorist groups like Boko Haram kidnapping young girls and threatening to sell them into slavery. But the reality that Americans and people worldwide must confront is that human trafficking isn’t just a fictional plot line or terrorist related practice, it’s a worldwide travesty.
Experts estimate that more than 20 million people are victims of human trafficking – slaves forced into industries for sex, labor, and other purposes – at any given time. The State Department estimates that as many as 800 thousand victims set foot on American soil annually, of which approximately half are under the age of 18, 80 percent are female, and 70 percent will be sold into underground sex industries.
In Missouri, St. Louis has recently been named one of the top 20 American cities for human trafficking by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Department of Health and Human Services notes that our state’s most guilty industries for enabling this trafficking are agriculture, health & beauty services, adult sex establishments, and the travel sales industry.
This sad reality is only compounded by the Department of Justice’s alarming estimate that as many as 300 thousand American children are at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex – especially given that the average age of a sex slave entering prostitution in America is between the ages of 12 and 14.
It’s hard to fathom the torment and grief someone would suffer if their son, daughter, or family member were to disappear as a trafficking victim, and know that leaders at every level of government must do everything in their power to protect them.
Recently in the House of Representatives, my colleagues and I worked together to do just that and passed a package of legislation to crack down on human traffickers by strengthening protections for children, and boosting resources for law enforcers and victim support specialists.
This package included many provisions, including encouragement for states to establish their own safe harbor laws so that trafficked minors can seek protective services and counseling without fear being targeted as part of the problem and facing jail time. It made advertising for commercial sex with the use of minors a federal crime and expanded protections for children in foster care so that they have the tools to develop into successful adults without fear of abduction. Furthermore, one passed provision will increase communication between America and other nations regarding sex offenders’ travel and allows the Secretary of State to restrict passports of those who were convicted of sex crimes in other countries.
These policies were the culmination of a broad bipartisan push to rein in this horrific practice, but are just one part of a larger effort to stamp it out altogether. If you, or someone you know, is a victim of human trafficking for labor, sex, or otherwise, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. I will continue fighting tirelessly in Congress to end human trafficking and make this modern day slavery a relic of the past.