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Grassley, Feinstein, Cornyn, Klobuchar, Others Introduce Legislation to Support Victims of Human Trafficking

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today introduced bipartisan legislation that will establish and reauthorize critical programs to prevent human trafficking, promote justice for survivors, provide services to victims and increase federal coordination to enhance the federal government’s response to the crisis of exploitation. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
“Victims of human trafficking are too often hidden in plain sight, in need of help, because we don’t know how to identify them or address their needs. This bill takes the urgently needed steps to support victims in their pursuit of justice and their search for normal lives. In conjunction with other bills I’ve supported and sponsored, I intend to continue fighting against the horrendous work of traffickers and find justice for victims,” Grassley said.
“Chairman Grassley and I care deeply about combatting the scourge of sex-trafficking and we’ve worked together on a bill to build on the progress made since 2015. Two key strategies to fight sex-trafficking are increasing the prosecution of buyers and reducing the prevalence of advertising that facilitates the sale of young girls on websites like Backpage. Our bill does both by requiring training of law enforcement on reducing demand and giving the Justice Department new legal tools to prevent traffickers from using Internet platforms to sell young victims. We’re going to work hard to move this bill forward,” Feinstein said.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. We have a solemn responsibility to support victims of human trafficking as they recover and to help law enforcement bring justice to the criminals who exploit them,” Cornyn said. “This bill provides important tools for school administrators to identify and support victims and helps improve coordination between federal agencies for prosecution of perpetrators of these crimes.”
“As a former prosecutor, I know how horrific sex trafficking can be—and that it’s happening in our own backyards. I also know that if victims get the help they need, they can get their life back together again and not go back into a cycle of violence. This bipartisan bill will help us take important steps towards finding victims and getting them the critical support they need," Klobuchar said.
“This legislation will play an important role in the fight against modern slavery within the United States by helping victims and giving law enforcement the tools they need to combat this brutal industry,” said Corker. “This scourge on humanity knows no borders or boundaries, and I remain committed to efforts that will help end trafficking and modern slavery worldwide.”
“Victims of human trafficking need help from their communities as they reclaim their lives,” said Rubio. “This legislation will help support survivors and provide more resources to empower and assist victims in their recovery process. I’m proud to join my colleagues in fighting against traffickers and doing everything we can to protect and support their victims.”
The legislation, Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017 (TVPA), establishes a wide range of measures to address human trafficking and the needs of victims.
Education and public information is a critical first line of defense against human trafficking. This bill will promote the availability of training for school resources officers to identify and address victims, and extend a grant program for training school personnel on recognizing and responding to human trafficking.
The legislation also allows prosecutors to enjoin conduct that violates human trafficking statutes. Further, it formally allows the U.S. Secret Service to offer investigative and forensic assistance to other law enforcement agencies to combat human trafficking.
Expanded services authorized under TVPA will include improved grant programs and education on best practices for screening and identifying trafficking victims.
The legislation improves coordination among federal agencies through consolidation of federal agency data reporting at the FBI and by requiring the Homeland Security Department to submit annual assessments of the human trafficking investigations. Additionally, the bill formally authorizes an Office of Victim Assistance within the Department of Homeland Security. The specially trained victim assistance personnel at this office play a crucial role in securing victims’ cooperation with trafficking investigations.
Full text of the legislation can be found here and a fact sheet on the legislation can be found here.
Grassley’s statement for the record introducing the legislation follows.
Prepared Statement for the Record by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
Introduction of Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017
June 7, 2017
This week, I’m introducing a bill known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017. I want to thank Senators Feinstein, Cornyn, Klobuchar, Corker and Rubio for joining as original cosponsors. I also want to thank the many organizations that support this bill and worked so closely with us on its development; they include Rights4Girls, Polaris, the ATEST Coalition, Shared Hope International, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators, and the National District Attorneys Association.
As its title implies, our legislation is aimed at combating the terrible scourge of human trafficking in the United States. To call trafficking victims’ suffering a grave violation of our most basic human rights would be an understatement.
Trafficking is a life-shattering crime that too-often goes unnoticed, despite the profound injury it inflicts on its victims and our society. Traffickers typically operate in the shadows, making it hard to identify them as well as their victims. That invisibility makes it harder still to rescue the victims and bring the perpetrators to justice.
But there are some things we do know about human trafficking, and we know them with some certainty. We know, for example, that trafficking is happening in rural areas, in cities, and in the suburbs. It’s not confined to any one area, because it’s become so profitable. It’s become a problem of national significance.
To be sure, we have made some strides in combating this terrible crime since the passage of the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act, or TVPA, over 15 years ago. The TVPA, last reauthorized in 2013, authorizes some very important programs to help victims. The bill I’m introducing this week updates and extends a number of these programs, which are under the jurisdiction of the Departments of Justice and Labor. Senator Cornyn this week is introducing a complementary bill that would reauthorize other TVPA programs, including those at the Departments of Health and Homeland Security.
This isn’t the first time we’ve collaborated on this subject. Two years ago, Senator Cornyn sponsored, and I cosponsored, another important measure, known as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. As chair of the Judiciary Committee, I made that 2015 law’s passage a top priority for our Committee and fought for its enactment. It established a new fund to help cover survivors’ services and also equipped law enforcement with new tools to fight traffickers. The services authorized under this 2015 statute are crucial to helping survivors rebuild their lives with dignity.
The bill that I’m introducing this week is a critical next step in ensuring that human trafficking is prevented, its perpetrators prosecuted, and its victims protected. This bill, drafted with bipartisan support, would require more training for investigative personnel at the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. It also extends a grant program by which school personnel can receive training to recognize and respond to signs of trafficking in our educational system.
This bill also offers increased assistance to prosecutors and law enforcement agencies in their fight against human trafficking. For instance, it authorizes the Secret Service to offer investigative and forensic assistance to other crime fighting agencies. And it updates key provisions of the Missing Children’s Assistance Act, which authorizes the important work of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Center operates a cyber tipline by which internet service providers can report child sexual abuse.
Additionally, the bill I’m introducing signals Congress’ continued support for services available to trafficking victims who cooperate with federal law enforcement in trafficking investigations. Specifically, the bill authorizes an Office of Victim Assistance within the Department of Homeland Security. This office, which is staffed with specially trained victim assistance personnel, plays a crucial role in securing victims’ cooperation with trafficking investigations.
Finally, this bill would promote the collection of more data on trafficking, and it would promote increased coordination among the federal agencies engaged in combating this crime. Meaningful partnerships at the federal level can help expand awareness, leverage expertise, and facilitate creative solutions.
In closing, I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.