No state in America is free from the stain of human trafficking — a rampant form of slavery that seems unimaginable in this day and age. Trafficking is not a problem faced only by faraway countries. It exploits thousands of men, women, and children in the United States each year. These innocent Americans are robbed of their basic freedom to live as they choose.
Human trafficking is a persistent and evil crime. In fact, investigations and prosecutions at the federal and state levels are on the rise. The Polaris Project, which operates a national hotline for victims and those with information about trafficking, estimates there were more than 5,000 potential trafficking cases just last year.
Children and youth are particularly vulnerable to forced labor and trafficking for sex, often coerced through intimidation and violence by family members, pimps, or strangers. They are abducted in their own communities, taken from their loved ones, and sold.
The horror stories are endless. Consider the 12-year-old runaway who was kidnapped in New York City and advertised on a sex trafficking website. Or the 16 juveniles — ranging in age from 13 to 17 years old — rescued in a sex trafficking operation during this year’s Super Bowl. These children face unique challenges as victims, in need of both justice and rehabilitation.
A bill I have introduced, the “End Trafficking Act of 2014,” would close current gaps in existing laws to stop trafficking and prosecute those who perpetrate it. I believe more can be done to address the complex issues associated with trafficking, including what drives it and how victims can receive the counseling they need.