Mr. President, I come to the senate floor to ask my colleagues and thank them for their support for what's the first amendment, Klobuchar number 296. I understand it is going to be by voice vote, but it is something that I have worked on for a long time. I know everyone has put a lot of effort in this bill. Certainly Senator Cornyn and I have. And we are really pleased that it's moving forward and want to thank all of our colleagues for their work. This afternoon I know we'll be considering a number of important amendments, and as I mentioned, one is the safe harbor legislation.

I think we have 26 cosponsors on the bill, and let's first get to why we're doing this bill. The United Nations considers human trafficking to be one of the three largest criminal enterprises in the world. The first is illegal trafficking of drugs, the second is illegal trafficking of guns, and the third is illegal trafficking of humans. And it is not just something, as we know, that's happening in faraway lands. It happens in our own backyard. It happens to 12-year-olds in my own state. Senator Heitkamp, who is here with us, knows it happens in the oil patches of North Dakota. That is why this bill, this amendment number 296, which passed as a bill unanimously through the Judiciary Committee, is so important. It is about treating the youth, the children that are victims of these crimes, as victims because that is what they are.

In many states around the country right now, these kids can still be prosecuted. In a state like mine, the state of Minnesota, we have in place a safe harbor law that is very effective. It gives the children the services that they need, whether it is through protection, whether it is housing, whether it is getting the kind of medical care that they need, that is what our bill does. On the other hand, if you just prosecute these kids, do you actually think they're going to turn against the person running the sex ring, are they going to turn against the pimp? No, they're going to go right back into the hands of the person that they were with, the perpetrator, to begin with.

And in our state we've had a lot of success with this. We have one of the longest sentences ever -- 40 years against someone who was running a sex ring, because we give help to the victims of the crime. There are 26 colleagues who have cosponsored the bill. It has been an honor to work with Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, with Cindy McCain, wife of Senator McCain, Senator Heitkamp, and Cindy McCain and I went down to Mexico to talk to them about going after these cases.

And the amendment has the support of the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Fraternal Order of Police, Shared Hope International, and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. As I said, this amendment creates an incentive for states across the country to enact safe harbor laws. Fifteen States already have these laws; another 12 states are making progress in that direction. The House already passed a similar bill under the leadership of Eric Paulson, one of the congressmen from Minnesota.

Secondly, in addition to creating these incentives for these states to enact the safe harbor laws, the bill also creates a national strategy to combat human trafficking. The national strategy will encourage cooperation and coordination among all the agencies who work on this problem, federal, state, tribal, and local, and that is a major part of the bill, and we're excited -- that wasn't in the House bill. We think it's very important. The bill also gives sex trafficking victims the right support they need. It qualifies them for job-training programs. The bill allows victims to participate in the job corps program, to help them get back on their feet. And I was also pleased -- Senator Cornyn and I -- he is the lead Republican on this amendment -- we were pleased to include a provision that Senators Whitehouse and Sessions have been working on to clarify the authority of the U.S. marshal service to assist local law enforcement agencies in locating missing children.

So that’s what the amendment does:  Incentives for the safe harbor laws that we've already been seeing in 15 states, national sex trafficking strategies since we've seen an increase in these kinds of crimes, qualifying victims for job-training programs and then finally the provision to make it easier for the U.S. Marshal Service to assist local law enforcement that was passed by Senator Whitehouse and Senator Sessions. That was included in this amendment, came through the committee.

I just want to end by telling what you this is about. It is about a 12-year-old girl in Rochester who got a text. The text said she was invited to a party. The text said meet me in a parking lot. Then she got thrown in a car, brought up to the Twin Cities, raped by a man, sold on Craigslist, sold for sex. Raped by two other men. Finally, the guy that did this -- weeks later they were able to find him. He has been prosecuted -- he's being prosecuted federally. That's what this is about. These are serious crimes. The average age of a victim is 12 years old: not old enough to even go to a high school prom, not old enough to get their driver’s license. Again, I want to thank Senator Cornyn for his work. We have worked together on this bill. This has been a lot of work for the last month but I am so pleased that we are advancing this important package of bills. I see the Senator from Maine is also here, who has been such a leader in this area. Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.