I join my colleagues today in all the good words that are being said about my friend Senator Pryor. I got to know Senator Pryor best in the commerce committee, where early on he scored a major victory for the children of this country. That was at a time we learned that toys and children's products that contained lead were being brought in from all over the world. We actually had a young child in Minnesota whose mom went out and bought a pair of Reebok tennis shoes, and with the tennis shoes came a little charm. That little child swallowed that charm, and that little child died. He did not die from choking on the charm; he died over a period of days when the lead went into his system. That is just one example. Senator Pryor was heading up the consumer subcommittee, and we took a major vote to change the standards of lead in children's products, including jewelry and toys, and it was a huge bipartisan vote, a very important bill, what was called one of the most important pieces of consumer legislation in decades. Senator Pryor got that done.
Later, while he was head of that subcommittee, we had a little girl in Minnesota named Abigail Taylor who died in a swimming pool. All she was doing was playing in a kiddie pool, and she happened to be sitting in the middle of the pool. The pool drain malfunctioned and basically sucked her insides out. She survived for a year. When Mark Pryor came to Minnesota, he met with that little girl and her dad. She later died after a surgery to try to save her life.
We worked after that to get the bill passed--named after Howard Baker's grandchild, who had also died in a similar circumstance--to make sure that all these public pool drains--from apartments to YMCAs; you name it--were checked. There has been a decrease in the number of deaths. We do not hear about them on the news like we used to, and that is because of Mark Pryor's work in the Senate subcommittee.
So I know the Taylor family--that was my proudest moment, standing back in the cloakroom and calling them. They believed after they met Mark Pryor that it would be easy to pass this bill, that we could get this done. It wasn't quite that easy. It took a few months. We had to end up putting it in the Energy bill to get it done. But being able to call Scott Taylor, who never gave up believing Congress could get something done--that is just one more example of the work Senator Pryor has done. So I thank him for that.
I am also here today to address something entirely different; that is, a bill we would like to get done before the end of the year in the Senate. It is a bill I have with Senator Cornyn, and it is called the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2013. It has 19 bipartisan cosponsors. I note the year is 2013. We have been waiting nearly 2 years to get this done. A version of the bill which is very similar to ours passed the House this summer.
Senator Cornyn and I initially wrote the bill. We worked with all the sex trafficking groups. It is a very important bill, and their No. 1 priority this year is to get it done. I thank Majority Leader Reid for his work on this, as well as Senator Leahy for helping to get the bill to the floor. We have also been working with Senators Heitkamp and Kirk, and Senator Wyden has been an incredible partner on these issues. Senator Portman has been supportive.
In the House, Congressman Paulsen called me to sponsor this bill. He took it on and, with the help of Representative Cantor and Representative McCarthy and the Speaker, was able to get that bill passed through the House. So this is one of those instances where people have come together and have been moving a very important bill.
We have support from the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Cindy McCain--the wife of Senator McCain--and I and have done a lot of work on this issue. We spoke to their national conference this year. They have endorsed this bill. This bill is supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Fraternal Order of Police, Shared Hope International, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, United Methodist Women, and the list goes on.
It is time to get this done. There is a minor error in the House bill that we need to correct, and that is why we need to pass the Senate bill. We basically made the changes that are in the House bill. We also need to pass it in the Senate because this one includes the national sex trafficking strategy.
We have Senator Cornyn working on his side of the aisle. There appear to be no objections. I will explain in a bit the amendments that passed out of Judiciary 18 to 0. That is his portion that is included in this bill. I was actually having trouble getting the bill through on its own, and so we have joined forces on this bill.
Now it appears we could have some objections on our side, which I hope will get cleared up, because people are disappointed that they cannot get other bills on. I can't help people get these other bills through. I don't have that in my power right now. The 27 million people around the world who are victims of sex trafficking cannot help get that done, nor can all of the kids whom we see in Minnesota who get taken into sex trafficking--13 years old is the average age. They cannot do anything. They cannot be pawns in a game.
It is my hope that we will be able to work this out and get this bill passed in the next day or two because then I have to get it over to the House. So I am under a major time constraint.
This is an important bill which makes clear that girls and boys who are victims of sex trafficking should not be treated as criminals. The statistics, as I said, show that more than 27 million people around the world, whether it is Boko Haram--taking those little girls from their beds in the middle of the night in Nigeria, with their parents having nothing but bicycles to try to track down the people who stole them in the middle of the woods; whether it is a young girl on the oil patch in North Dakota--a major case going on there from the U.S. attorney's office; whether it is a young girl in Minnesota--this is happening in our country today.
Over 80 percent of the victims we have in the United States are from the United States. So while we see this all over the world, we know we have our own problems in our own backyard. In terms of the increase, some of it has come because of the Internet. We love the Internet, but it has also provided ways for people to advertise for sex trafficking in ways that make it more difficult to track down. As I said, the average age of a child who is a victim of sex trafficking is 13 years old--not old enough to get a driver's license, not even old enough to go to a high school prom. We have seen problems in our own country. Eighty-three percent of sex trafficking victims in America are U.S. citizens.
Despite all those numbers, we are not here just to talk about this bill. The reason I am going to make an enormous push for it this week, to get this done, is because I don't believe young kids--mostly girls--should be pawns in a political game. We are here because of Tamara Vandermoon. She was only 12 years old--in Minnesota--when she was first sold for sex. She wasn't a teenager. She was just mad at her mom and ran away. A pimp found her and made all kinds of promises--promises that sounded pretty good to a scared kid away from home. She was taken advantage of when she was most vulnerable, before she had a chance to grow up and become an adult. That is why we are doing this bill.
This bill is actually based on a model we have in about a dozen States right now, including Minnesota, that basically says to the States: We would like to incentivize you to use this model which is to help the victims of these sex crimes, which is to help them with services, and which is to not prosecute them as criminals because the only way we are really going to be able to go after the johns, the way we are going to be able to go after the people who lead these kinds of rings is if we are willing to give these victims the help they need to turn their lives around but also to get them to testify.
It has worked very well in our State. In Ramsey County alone, we have had several prosecutions, including a 40-year sentence this last year against a guy who was running a major sex trafficking ring. If you don't think this is going on in towns such as St. Paul, MN, then you need to look in your own communities because it is going on.
One of the main goals in the bill is to make sure kids sold for sex are not treated as criminals. According to a report from Polaris, 15 States across the country already have these State safe harbor laws and another 12 States are starting to make progress in the right direction. So we are not starting from scratch. It is not some crazy idea that someone tried in one State and it wasn't working. We know this works.
The Cornyn and Klobuchar bill will give incentives to States when they apply for Federal grants, and they are going to be able to apply for Federal grants after they have a safe harbor bill in place. Our bill would also create a national strategy to combat human trafficking. Our national strategy will encourage cooperation and coordination among all the agencies that work on this problem--Federal, State, tribal, and local. It is a nationwide problem. I can tell you that these pimps and people running the rings do not care about local boundaries or county boundaries or State boundaries, and we need to be as sophisticated as they are when it comes to tackling this problem.
We also need to be giving sex trafficking victims the right support, such as job training and skills building. The bill allows victims of sex trafficking to participate in the Job Corps program to help them get back on their feet.
I am also pleased to include a provision Senators Whitehouse and Sessions have been working on to clarify the authority of the U.S. Marshals Service to assist local law enforcement agencies in locating missing children.
As I said, I have been working closely with Senator Cornyn on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, and this is also a bill with Senator Wyden which is included in this package.
When you look at this bill, you have to think of the safe harbor provision, the provisions I just mentioned that make it easier for people who are victims of sex trafficking, for kids to be able to participate in job training; then you look at the provision from Senators Whitehouse and Sessions regarding the U.S. Marshals; and the last part is the work with Senator Cornyn and Senator Wyden on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which is included in this bill. It increases the fees and fines of perpetrators and should bring in nearly $30 million each year to pay for victim services. We know we have a lot of need in the States right now because this is a relatively new problem in terms of being on the increase. So shelters could apply for these grants from this fund. We think this is a very good provision, and I thank Senator Wyden and Senator Cornyn for working on it.
I would also add that this is a provision that went through on an 18-to-0 vote as an amendment, so we know there was support out of the Judiciary Committee for this part of the bill.
As a former prosecutor, I know how important this victim-centered approach can be. Sex trafficking victims are often afraid to talk to law enforcement. It makes sense. They are not sure they are going to help them. Are they going to give them shelter? Are they going to help them turn their lives around and give them a place to sleep? If they don't have this kind of trust, they go back to the pimp and go back to the guy who was giving them money and giving them a place to sleep and probably giving them drugs. If we focus on identifying those victims even though they may not tell us they are being trafficked, then it will help them to come forward, get help, and also to testify against the trafficker, leading to more convictions.
We need to address the needs of the victim and make sure they have the support they need--housing, education, legal issues--to help break this cycle of violence and abuse. We have a great new shelter that opened up in St. Paul this year, and I was proud to be there with Cindy McCain and 180 Degrees--that is what it is called--at Brittany's Place in St. Paul. It provides special services for victims of sex trafficking to help them turn their lives around.
We also need to use the tools available to go after such traffickers. If we cannot get them on the sex trafficking charges, we need to look at money laundering charges or enterprise corruption charges or other charges. While they are not directly related to trafficking, they target traffickers nonetheless. That will be important for law enforcement, and it is the reason State prosecutors are now partnering more with Federal prosecutors.
We need to go after trafficking facilitators. These are people who know what is going on, but they are closing their eyes to it or actually letting it happen. There are some incredible businesses that have gotten out front on this issue. For example, Marilyn Carlson Nelson of Radisson Hotels in Minnesota has done training. There are a number of other hotel chains across our country that are working on this issue. Airlines--Delta, American Airlines, and others--have been doing work in this area, and it is actually exciting because we have businesses willing to say: We are on the frontline. We see when something is going on in our hotel or on our plane, and we are willing to train our employees so they know when to report an incident to law enforcement and stop things from happening on the frontline. This is happening right now in our country.
We passed a similar bill in the House, and we all know we have to make some minor corrections on the Senate side. This is the bill that Senator Cornyn and I originally introduced. We have added some good provisions from Senators Whitehouse and Sessions, as well as Senator Wyden and Senator Cornyn, and that is what this package is. It is the kind of legislation we should pass.
Again, the victims of these sex trafficking crimes are not the ones who can figure out how we negotiate in the Senate. There are States that have not yet done anything. They may open their eyes if they know they may get a grant if they change their laws a bit and find the best practices and what is working across the country. We should be focused on those victims and not what is going on here. I am supportive of a lot of these bills that people on our side of the aisle want out of the Judiciary Committee, but they are not in my control. What is in my control is this bill.
I have garnered Republican support and passed a version of it in the House, and all I am asking from my colleagues is to be able to go forward with this bill. It would be sad indeed if we were not able to get this bill through because of Democratic objection.
I plan to ask unanimous consent on this bill. If we are not able to work something out, I will keep at it until this session closes. This bill is named the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2013. I think 2 years is enough time. Two years is enough. A young girl's life was ruined at age 18. We can get this bill done.
I thank the Presiding Officer and yield the floor.