The broad anti-sex trafficking package includes a critical component authored by Klobuchar and Paulsen to make sure minors sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants, but are instead treated as victims
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) today announced that bipartisan legislation to crack down on sex trafficking and support victims has passed the House and should soon head to the president’s desk to be signed into law. The broad anti-sex trafficking package includes a critical component authored by Klobuchar and Paulsen to make sure minors sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants, but are instead treated as victims. The provision was modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” law. A recent report released by the Polaris Project, an anti-sex trafficking group, found that a majority of states lack safe harbor laws to protect victims.
The sex trafficking legislation includes the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act—Senate legislation introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and cosponsored by Klobuchar—which will help law enforcement further crack down on human traffickers, while bringing about greater restitution and justice for victims.
“In a major victory for victims of sex trafficking across the country, today the House of Representatives came together in support of our bipartisan legislation, which passed the Senate last month, to crack down on this heinous crime,” Klobuchar said. “In Minnesota, we’ve already recognized that kids sold for sex need to be treated as the victims they are, not locked up in jail. By encouraging other states to adopt Minnesota’s Safe Harbor model and giving prosecutors the tools they need to address this crime, this law will tackle sex trafficking head-on while ensuring that victims receive the support they need and deserve.”
“Critical help for victims of sex trafficking is now one step closer to being etched into law,” said Paulsen. “The cumulative action taken by Congress today stands as a landmark in the fight against this awful crime. Ultimately, this legislation is about providing hope for a better future to the countless children at risk of sexual exploitation.”
Paulsen recently spoke on the House floor in favor of the legislation. Video of Paulsen’s remarks is available here. Klobuchar spoke on the Senate floor prior to Senate passage of the legislation. Video of Klobuchar’s remarks is available here.
Klobuchar and Paulsen are national leaders in the fight to combat sex trafficking. They introduced bipartisan legislation in their respective chambers modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” law to give 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. The legislation is supported by the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Fraternal Order of Police, Shared Hope International, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and United Methodist Women.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act would help law enforcement further crack down on human traffickers in communities across the country while bringing about greater restitution and justice for victims. 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. The legislation included two funding streams: the first flows from fines collected on sex traffickers and would be used for survivor services including shelter and enforcement, but not health care, while the second would come from existing federal funds allocated for health care. The legislation passed by the Senate and the House is substantively similar, but there is a final procedural step that must be taken before it heads to the president’s desk.
Below is a summary of the “Safe Harbor” bill, which was included in the final legislation:
- Includes a provision modeled after Minnesota’s “safe harbor” laws. The provision encourages 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. This bill will give states incentives through existing federal grant programs to pass safe harbor laws.
- Creates a National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking. The National Strategy will help coordinate efforts to investigate and prevent human trafficking between federal, state, local, and tribal agencies. This will help set clear goals and focus resources to combat human trafficking. The bill will also encourage better data sharing between different law enforcement agencies.
- Allows victims of sex trafficking to participate in the Job Corps program to help them get back on their feet. This bill makes clear that victims of sex trafficking should be eligible for current job training and skills building programs to help empower them so that they have the tools they need to find a way out of the cycle.
- Helps victims pursue financial restitution. The bill will encourage better tracking of financial restitution orders so that victims can actually collect on the restitution they are due.
- Strengthens the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Right now, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline helps connect victims with services they need and passes on crime tips to law enforcement. This bill would make sure that the hotline is backed by the force of law. Although the Hotline operates with some federal authorization, this bill puts the National Human Trafficking Hotline on par with other national hotlines designed to serve victims.