Buchanan, Hastings Introduce Bill to Combat Human Trafficking
WASHINGTON – The co-chairmen of the Florida congressional delegation, Reps. Vern Buchanan and Alcee Hastings, today introduced legislation to combat human trafficking by educating students about the rapidly spreading crime. Children account for more than half of all trafficking victims.
“Human trafficking is a vile and monstrous crime against women and children,” Buchanan said. “Educating students and teachers about the warning signs is critical to addressing the problem. This is especially important in hot spots for human trafficking like Florida. I look forward to working with Congressman Hastings and organizations like the Selah Way Foundation to end this modern day slavery.”
Congressman Hastings said, “While awareness about human trafficking and exploitation has increased, prevention efforts are lacking. To protect our children, it is imperative that we educate students, teachers, and school personnel to recognize the dangers of trafficking and exploitation, not just to protect children from traffickers, but also to prevent potential traffickers and abusers from exploiting others in the future.”
Specifically, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act would create a grant program within the Office of Trafficking in Persons, under the Department of Health and Human Services, to provide training for students, teachers and other school personnel on the warning signs of human trafficking. These grants would be issued by non-profit organizations that have shown expertise in creating and teaching human trafficking and exploitation prevention curricula. The bill also prioritizes funding for non-profits serving geographic areas with the highest prevalence of human trafficking.
While there is little precise information and statistics on trafficking due to its covert and illegal nature, it is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of victims currently working in exploitative conditions in the sex, beauty or hospitality industries. In 2018, Florida had the third-highest number of human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The bill would authorize $75 million in funding for the program over a five-year period. The legislation also includes requirements for data collection on the impacts of the program, including the number of human trafficking survivors and exploited children identified.
The bill is endorsed by several human trafficking prevention groups, including the Selah Way Foundation based in Sarasota.
Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good, founder of Selah Freedom/Selah Way, said, “Congressman Buchanan has been a champion for our organization in the state of Florida and now using his platform to implement the much needed Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2019.” She added, “Education is key to recognizing the signs of human trafficking and exploitation. The implementation of curricula for training educators, school personnel and students will surely be a giant leap in helping to eradicate this horrific abuse in America.”
Reported cases of human trafficking jumped 25 percent nationally last year, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Children account for more than half the cases of human trafficking, a crime in which the victim is abducted or recruited for sexual exploitation.
According to a December 2016 report by the Florida’s Department of Children and Families, the Suncoast region had the second-most human trafficking reports of any region in the state. The number of cases reported statewide jumped more than 20 percent last year.
Human trafficking also can involve illegal organ harvesting and forced labor.
In 2017, Buchanan and Hastings hosted a Florida delegation meeting focused on the growing problem of human trafficking within the state.