(Rep. Erik Paulsen) - Among the many important issues that are debated in Washington D.C.
, one of the most critical is the issue of human trafficking. Tragically, this detestable practice forces people – most often girls between the ages of 12 and 14 – into slavery and prostitution. Tens of thousands of trafficking victims are kept in the shadows, taught to fear law enforcement and slowly stripped of their dignity through intimidation and violence. It’s a national crisis and, simply put, one of the most important human rights issues of our time.
Human trafficking bears extra significance and urgency in Minnesota. This summer, a federal investigation identified one of the largest human trafficking rings in the country right here in the Twin Cities. And this February, Minnesota will host the Super Bowl, an event that is annually a top target for human traffickers worldwide. We must be prepared.
The good news is Congress has already taken major steps in the fight to end human trafficking. Working together, Republicans and Democrats created new measures to provide more resources to law enforcement, increase training and awareness in our communities, and shine much-needed light into the very dark world of human trafficking.
This effort was jump-started this summer, when Congress passed a dozen bipartisan initiatives during our first “Combating Trafficking and Child Protection Week.”
We then expanded those efforts with three major pieces of legislation to crack down on traffickers and strengthen detection systems nationwide.
First, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act, appropriately named after one of our nation’s most prominent abolitionists, provides $130 million to fund the prevention of human trafficking, go after traffickers nationwide and, equally important, protects victims of these heinous crimes.
The second bill, the Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act, allows law enforcement agencies to qualify for federal funding for the development and execution of programs that fight sex trafficking.
Third, the Enhancing Detection of Human Trafficking Act authorizes a comprehensive training program to better prepare Department of Labor employees to spot human trafficking, as well as to respond quickly when trafficking is suspected.
These initiatives are important, and I am confident they will have a significant impact on human trafficking in the months and years ahead.
At the same time, it is incumbent upon all of us to work together battle this scourge each and every day.
I’m honored to work in a bipartisan manner with fellow Minnesotans who are deeply committed to continuing this fight, including authoring a new “Safe Harbor” law with Sen. Amy Klobuchar that protects trafficking victims from prosecution in crimes they were forced into, as well as meeting with local faith leaders here in the Third District that area battling this issue on the ground level.
Together, I believe we can – and must – seek to not only reduce the frequency of human trafficking, but to end it once and for all. It will surely be a long, challenging battle, but any lesser goal would be a disservice to the brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and mothers and fathers who are victimized in this modern day form of slavery.