Bipartisan legislation cracks down on the use of drugs to facilitate human trafficking and protects vulnerable victims of trafficking

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to crack down on addiction-driven 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. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

“As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the horrors of human trafficking,” Klobuchar said. “The PROTECT Act gives law enforcement the tools to help ensure that traffickers who use drugs and substance use to control their victims are held accountable. Our bipartisan legislation also protects victims by recognizing that they are not criminals, their abusers are.”

“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.”

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. The PROTECT Act would combat this by:

  • Amending 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; and
  • Including a provision in the bill to protect trafficking victims from prosecution, recognizing that victims are often forced to commit crimes by virtue of their own victimization.

Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to protect victims of human trafficking. In December 2018, Klobuchar and Cornyn’s Abolish Human Trafficking Act was signed into law. The bipartisan legislation strengthens and reauthorizes key programs supporting survivors of human trafficking and provides resources to law enforcement officials working to combat modern-day slavery. In April 2018, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) was signed into law and included the Klobuchar-backed Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) to help stop online sex trafficking and provide justice for victims. SESTA clarifies Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act so that websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking are held accountable for their crimes. In January 2018, Klobuchar and Senator John Thune (R-SD) had two bipartisan bills to combat human trafficking in the transportation sector signed into law—the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act and the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act.

In 2016, Klobuchar and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Stop Trafficking on Planes (STOP) Act to 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 as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016. In 2015, Klobuchar and Cornyn’s Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was signed into law. That legislation increased the resources and tools available for combatting human trafficking in the United States. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act better equips American law enforcement agencies to fight this crime, while helping victims rebuild their lives by using fines and penalties against their exploiters to fund restorative services and compensation.