WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and John Cornyn (R-TX) have 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.
“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,” Klobuchar said. “This bipartisan bill will help us take important steps towards finding victims and getting them the critical support they need."
Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are cosponsors of the legislation.
The 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 legislation 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 TPVA also improves coordination among federal agencies through consolidation of federal agency data reporting at the FBI and by requiring the Department of Homeland Security to submit annual assessments of the human trafficking investigations. Additionally, the legislation 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.
Klobuchar is a national leader in the fight to combat human trafficking. She and Cornyn recently introduced bipartisan legislation that strengthens and reauthorizes key programs that support survivors of human trafficking and provide resources to federal, state, and local law enforcement officials on the front lines of the fight against modern-day slavery. The Abolish Human Trafficking Act enhances and expands the Klobuchar and Cornyn-authored Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act that was signed into law in 2015. The law was modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” law, which gives incentives for all states to have a safe harbor provision to help ensure minors who are sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants, but are instead treated as victims. When a state passes a safe harbor law, it means that kids sold for sex should be steered towards child protection services, rather than being arrested, charged, or convicted under a state’s criminal laws. In addition to law enforcement provisions, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act helps victims rebuild their lives by using fines and penalties against perpetrators to improve the availability of victim services. In March 2016, Klobuchar and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Stop Trafficking on Planes (STOP) Act that would require training for certain airline industry employees to recognize and report suspected human trafficking to law enforcement. A provision based on this legislation was signed into law in July as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016.