Bipartisan, bicameral legislation would establish penalties for criminals creating, fueling substance abuse to control victims 

Law enforcement organizations, victim advocates endorsed the bill

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) joined Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) and U.S. Representatives John Ratcliffe (R-TX-4) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY-4) to introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation to crack down on drug-facilitated human trafficking. The Protecting Rights of Those Exploited by Coercive Trafficking (PROTECT) Act would specifically address the use of drugs to facilitate human trafficking and protect vulnerable victims of trafficking.

Human traffickers often introduce or exploit drug addiction to control or force victims into prostitution or forced labor. This compounds the trauma experienced by human trafficking victims and undermines recovery efforts for individuals suffering from addiction.

“As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand how horrific human trafficking can be,” Klobuchar said. “Traffickers who use drugs and substance abuse to control their victims should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and the bipartisan PROTECT Act will help law enforcement hold these criminals accountable, while protecting victims from prosecution.”

“Traffickers will stop at nothing to exploit victims for their own personal gain,” Brown said. “The PROTECT Act will provide enhanced measures for law enforcement officers who are working every day to bring these heinous criminals to justice. I’m grateful to my colleagues for their efforts as we introduce this important legislation.”  

“Creating and preying on the addictions of children is just one of the many despicable tools traffickers use to control their victims,” Cornyn said. “The PROTECT Act would clarify that using drugs to force individuals into sex or labor trafficking demands a greater criminal penalty.”

“Too often, drugs are used to coerce victims of human trafficking,” Portman said. “This bipartisan legislation would better equip law enforcement to bring human traffickers to justice.”

“We should do everything in our power to bring human traffickers to justice, particularly those who use drugs to control their victims,” Tillis said. “I am proud to join this bipartisan legislation that will strengthen the penalties for these criminals and help ensure human traffickers are held accountable for their atrocious crimes.”

“Living in the greatest country in the world, it’s an unfortunate reality that there are still basic human rights abuses, like human trafficking, that take place in our society,” Ratcliffe said. “We have an obligation to do everything in our power to address and correct these abuses – an obligation I took seriously as a federal prosecutor and do now as a lawmaker.  I’m proud be joining a bipartisan group of my colleagues to continue this fight in Congress. The PROTECT Act cracks down on dangerous human traffickers who manipulate their victims through drug abuse and addiction by working to ensure they’re held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Coercing individuals into sex work or other forced labor through the use of drugs is a despicable crime, and anyone who's worked in law enforcement knows it happens in America every day,” Rice said. “The bipartisan PROTECT Act will protect victims from unfair prosecution and empower law enforcement to crack down on traffickers with the serious punishments they deserve.”

The PROTECT Act would amend existing human trafficking law to specify that the use of drugs or illegal substances to cause a person to engage in a commercial sex act or forced labor constitutes a form of coercion. The PROTECT Act also contains a provision to protect trafficking victims from prosecution, recognizing that victims are often forced to commit crimes by virtue of their own victimization.

The bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by a number of law enforcement organizations and human trafficking victim advocacy groups including: the Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriff’s Association, National District Attorney’s Association, Polaris Project, Shared Hope International, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Truckers against Trafficking. 

A one-pager on the bill can be found here