RELEASE:

Wicker Votes to Approve Anti-Trafficking Bill

Miss. Senator Adds Provisions to Strengthen Statute of Limitations, Increase Access to Support for Victims

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today voted in favor of landmark legislation to combat human trafficking in the United States. The bill, “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act,” S. 178, would broaden protections for victims and hold traffickers and purchasers equally accountable for their crimes. The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 99-0.

“This measure is an important step forward in empowering the victims of a horrific crime – the buying and selling of humans for sex or labor,” Wicker said. “These efforts would strengthen the enforcement of current laws and develop effective strategies to support victims – many of whom are young women and children. America is a beacon of freedom and prosperity. The fact that traffickers still find and transit victims here is a crime in itself that deserves our full attention and swift action.”

The legislation includes a Wicker amendment that would extend the statute of limitations to allow child victims to file civil suits against perpetrators up to 10 years after they reach the age of 18. Under current law, the statute of limitations expires 10 years after the cause of action arises.

Wicker’s amendment would also create a Department of Justice database for education and outreach. The database would assist survivors, families, law enforcement, crisis hotline personnel, and advocates, providing valuable resources on counseling, housing, legal assistance, and other services.

The underlying bill also includes a provision championed by Wicker to treat trafficking victims as victims and not as criminals. The provision would establish trafficking survivors’ courts with specialized court dockets and judicial supervision that would put the well-being of victims first. Often, these juveniles are charged with a delinquency offense and detained when they need counseling and support.

Mississippi recently launched a new human trafficking task force with the expertise of officials from government, law enforcement, education, the judicial system, and social services. The task force is responsible for conducting research, reviewing Mississippi’s anti-trafficking laws, and submitting recommendations by July of this year.

4/22/15